Hollow crowns


During my recent Shakespeare orgy I watched this series, comprising Richard II, Henry IV 1 & 2, and Henry V (all rather truncated).  Jeremy Irons as Henry IV had great fun with his death scenes, and there were jolly turns from old Shakespearian warhorses like Patrick Stewart.

But of course it has all been done before.  Once upon a time, long long ago, the BBC boldly went, and stitched together all the history plays from Richard II to Richard III in a massive series called An Age of Kings (1960).  In those days there were only two buttons on the telly, so everyone watched everything.  It stuck, somehow, even on a child, although I couldn’t remember the details.  Eventually the dvds became available, and I forked out.

There were longeurs, but also many cherishable moments – Sean Connery as Hotspur (good start to a career as action hero), an almost-infant Judi Dench as Princess Katherine of France, Robert Hardy as Prince Hal/H V for example.  Frank Windsor had several roles and kept cropping up with a different hat, his beards coming and going as required, always looking and sounding exactly like Inspector Watt.  It’s not usual to burst into hoots of vulgar merriment when Brackenbury comes on, but I really couldn’t help it.

And the music:  the music over the opening credits was as familiar as if I’d heard it yesterday, instead of fifty years ago.  It made the hair on my neck creep.


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