Chimes at Midnight

Chimes at Midnight
U.S. theatrical release poster
Directed byOrson Welles
Produced by
Screenplay byOrson Welles
Based on
Narrated byRalph Richardson
Music byAngelo Francesco Lavagnino
CinematographyEdmond Richard
Edited byFrederick Muller
  • Internacional Films Española
  • Alpine Productions
Distributed byPeppercorn-Wormser Film Enterprises (United States)
Release date
  • December 22, 1965 (1965-12-22) (Spain)
  • November 17, 1966 (1966-11-17) (Switzerland)
Running time
119 minutes
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
Box office516,762 admissions (France)[1]

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) (Spanish: Campanadas a medianoche), is a 1965 period comedy-drama film directed by and starring Orson Welles. The Spanish-Swiss[2] co-production was released in the United States as Chimes at Midnight and in most of Europe as Falstaff. The film's plot centres on William Shakespeare's recurring character Sir John Falstaff and the father-son relationship he has with Prince Hal, who must choose between loyalty to his father, King Henry IV, or Falstaff.

Welles said that the core of the film's story was "the betrayal of friendship." It stars Welles as Falstaff, Keith Baxter as Prince Hal, John Gielgud as Henry IV, Jeanne Moreau as Doll Tearsheet and Margaret Rutherford as Mistress Quickly. The script contains text from five of Shakespeare's plays; primarily Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, but also Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Ralph Richardson's narration is taken from the works of chronicler Raphael Holinshed.

Welles had previously produced a Broadway stage adaptation of nine Shakespeare plays called Five Kings in 1939. In 1960, he revived this project in Ireland as Chimes at Midnight, which was his final on-stage performance. Neither of these plays was successful, but Welles considered portraying Falstaff to be his life's ambition and turned the project into a film. In order to get initial financing, Welles lied to producer Emiliano Piedra about intending to make a version of Treasure Island, and keeping the film funded during its production was a constant struggle. Welles shot Chimes at Midnight throughout Spain between 1964 and 1965; it premiered at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival, winning two awards there.

Initially dismissed by most film critics, Chimes at Midnight is now regarded as one of Welles' highest achievements, and Welles himself called it his best work. Welles felt a strong connection to the character of Falstaff and called him "Shakespeare's greatest creation". Some film scholars and Welles' collaborators have made comparisons between Falstaff and Welles, while others see a resemblance between Falstaff and Welles' father. Disputes over the ownership of Chimes at Midnight made it difficult to view the film legally until recently. It was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray in 2015. A new restoration by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection was screened at the Film Forum in New York January 1–12, 2016. The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD on August 30, 2016.[3]

  1. ^ Orson Welles box office information in France at Box Office Story
  2. ^ Lyons 1989, pp. 290.
  3. ^ "Chimes at Midnight". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved May 17, 2016.