Directed by Orson Welles • 1966 • Spain, Switzerland
Starring Orson Welles, Keith Baxter, Jeanne Moreau
The crowning achievement of Orson Welles’s extraordinary cinematic career, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT was the culmination of the filmmaker’s lifelong obsession with Shakespeare’s ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff. Usually a comic supporting figure, Falstaff—the loyal, often soused friend of King Henry IV’s wayward son Prince Hal—here becomes the focus: a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero played by Welles with looming, lumbering grace. Integrating elements from both “Henry IV” plays as well as “Richard II,” “Henry V,” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Welles created a gritty and unorthodox Shakespeare film as a lament, he said, “for the death of Merrie England.” Poetic, philosophical, and visceral—with a kinetic centerpiece battle sequence that rivals anything in the director’s body of work—CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT is as monumental as the figure at its heart.
Beatrice Welles was nine years old when her father, Orson Welles, made CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. In this January 2016 interview, she recalls the atmosphere on set and her reluctance to play Falstaff’s young page.
Simon Callow played Falstaff to Keith Baxter’s King Henry IV in a 1998 production of Orson Welles’s stage version of CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. He has also published three volumes of a Welles biography. In this May 2016 interview, Callow discusses Welles’s nimble adaptation of several Shakespeare plays ...