Monday, July 26, 2010

ORSON WELLES as Shakespeare's FALSTAFF, Dean Martin Show 1968

A wonderful and rare moment in a variety television show. Orson Welles reciting the "sheeri-sack" speech from Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part Two" from Act Four of the great Elizabethan history play.

As a young writer/director, Welles redacted five of Shakespeare's plays--two featuring the mischief-making reprobate Sir John Falstaff--into a late 1930's Broadway production called "Five Kings".

After playing all of Shakespeare's great tragic characters--save "Hamlet"--either on stage, screen or television in between, he played the "fat knight" himself in his own favorite film "Chimes at Midnight" (1964). Here he is four years later on his friend Dean Martin's program, recreating a brief bit of his original theatrical genius for millions of viewers.


  1. I remember watching this. I loved Dean Martin!

  2. Wow...really a good demonstration of the actor's craft, watching him transform so thoroughly and then perform so well...very cool...

  3. I agree--"Dino" was a very engaging entertainer Jacquie.

  4. It is cool Shedrick. Welles was not only a great actor, among others things, he was an amazing showman, as this whole introduction to the speech proves.

  5. I have seen some not so good performances of his. This on the other hand was a master craftsman at work.

  6. I really enjoyed this clip, doug. What a make over. Thank you for loading the video.

    I might add, I do not like Dean Martin.:-)

  7. Welles did his share of movies and programs that misfired in some way, Jim.

    That's not to detract from his best work, of which this six-minute presentation has to rank with the better portion. Glad you enjoyed this.

  8. It was a terrific make-over and quite a departure for a variety show as I mentioned above.

    My mother was a huge Dean Martin fan; we watched his show when I was a kid every Thursday night.

    But I should add--what a dull world this would be if everybody liked "Dino".

    There are a few popular singer-actor types I could live without myself, but I've save that for another blog. :-)

  9. Excellent clip Doug, most impressive display of the dramatic arts.

    I think the connections between Shakespeare's Falstaff and the Lollard martyr Sir John Oldcastle is very interesting too Doug.

    I liked Dean Martin up the age of about 12 I think and then I went right off him, how odd!

  10. I heartily agree. I remember first seeing Welles as a kid about this time on various television chat shows, AA. (Before I really knew who he was--I gathered at first he was a magician who did a bit of acting!) That ability he had to hold an audience spellbound just with his voice impressed me.

    I didn't know that much about Sir John Oldcastle fellow, other than he was a friend of the future Henry V but not a reprobate or a wit (as far as we know). Shakespeare went out of his way in the second part of "Henry IV" to point out that "Oldcastle is not the man".

    According to Isaac Asimov's indispensable (to me, at least) "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare" it appears the Lollards were followers of John Wycliffe and were considered proto-Protestants. Your fellow Warwick-shire man found himself running afoul of the Cobham family--descendants of the Oldcastle family that were big shots when this play was written. The original Lord Cobham (Oldcastle) tried to lead a rebellion, failed, escaped to the wilds of Wales for four years, got captured, and would up burned alive in 1417 for his troubles.

    Henry V and his dad seem to like "slow-roasting" heretics--a very peculiar hobby in my uncultured view, and one that might threaten the flow of engaging debate about matters of Scripture. Thanks by the way, AA, for inspiring my looking into the history of this matter.

    William of Stratford didn't want to tick anyone off who was considered a martyr so he changed the name to match another friend of Prince Hal (Sir John Fastolfe) who was accused of cowardice in a campaign in France. But of course Falstaff is Shakespeare's own creation and I've always found his dissident views on statecraft, warfare and authority in general quite inspiring. He, like his author, is for all time.

    This site dutifully notes a second thumbs down on Dean Martin. Well as I wrote to Cassandra, it would be a boring world it we all liked one performer.

    I have to admit that "Dino" made some appallingly bad movies, especially Westerns, although given a good part he could deliver better than many of his better-rated contemporaries.

  11. THANK YOU for hosting this clip. The copyright tyrants disappeared this from YouTube recently. I was afraid I'd never find it again.

  12. My pleasure Chris. Glad you could track it down.