Orson Welles

Chimes at Midnight

Chimes at Midnight

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.

Film Info

  • Orson Welles
  • Spain
  • 1966
  • 116 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.66:1
  • English
  • Spine #830

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring film scholar James Naremore, author of The Magic World of Orson Welles
  • New interview with actor Keith Baxter
  • New interview with director Orson Welles’s daughter Beatrice Welles, who appeared in the film at age nine
  • New interview with actor and Welles biographer Simon Callow
  • New interview with film historian Joseph McBride, author of What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?
  • Interview with Welles while at work editing the film, from a 1965 episode of The Merv Griffin Show
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Michael Anderegg
    New cover by Sterling Hundley

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring film scholar James Naremore, author of The Magic World of Orson Welles
  • New interview with actor Keith Baxter
  • New interview with director Orson Welles’s daughter Beatrice Welles, who appeared in the film at age nine
  • New interview with actor and Welles biographer Simon Callow
  • New interview with film historian Joseph McBride, author of What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?
  • Interview with Welles while at work editing the film, from a 1965 episode of The Merv Griffin Show
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Michael Anderegg
    New cover by Sterling Hundley
Chimes at Midnight
Cast
Orson Welles
John Falstaff
Keith Baxter
Prince Hal
Jeanne Moreau
Doll Tearsheet
Margaret Rutherford
Mistress Quickly
John Gielgud
King Henry IV
Norman Rodway
Sir Henry “Hotspur” Percy
Marina Vlady
Lady Kate Percy
Walter Chiari
Justice Silence
Michael Aldridge
Pistol
Tony Beckley
Poins
Alan Webb
Justice Shallow
José Nieto
Earl of Northumberland
Fernando Rey
Earl of Worcester
Beatrice Welles
The young page
Ralph Richardson
Narrator
Credits
Director
Orson Welles
Executive producer
Alessandro Tasca
Photography
Edmond Richard
Music
Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
Editor
Fritz Mueller
Art director
José Antonio de la Guerra

From The Current

Chimes at Midnight: Falstaff Roars
Chimes at Midnight: Falstaff Roars

Balancing epic scale with lyrical intimacy, Orson Welles inflects the spirit of Shakespeare’s history plays with his own zest for cinematic invention.

By Michael Anderegg

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Remembering Jeanne Moreau
Remembering Jeanne Moreau

In honor of one of the great leading ladies of French cinema, who passed away earlier this week, the Criterion Channel features ten of her most memorable performances.

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Matías Piñeiro on Reimagining the Rhythms of Shakespeare
Matías Piñeiro on Reimagining the Rhythms of Shakespeare

Before the New York Film Festival premiere of Hermia and Helena, his 2016 riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Argentine director stopped by to discuss the Bard and the movies that shaped him as a filmmaker.

By Hillary Weston

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The Fog of Welles: A Trip to Chinchón
The Fog of Welles: A Trip to Chinchón

During a research mission to Spain, Criterion web producer/researcher Valeria Rotella takes a day trip to the medieval desert town of Chinchón, where Orson Welles is rumored to have shot Chimes at Midnight and The Immortal Story.

By Valeria Rotella

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Talking Welles With the Great Jeanne Moreau

Flashbacks

Talking Welles With the Great Jeanne Moreau

During a 2006 meeting with the author, French New Wave icon Jeanne Moreau reminisced about working with Orson Welles, Louis Malle, and François Truffaut, and her turn to acting as a means of eluding the “destiny of a regular girl.”

By Peter Cowie

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Keith Baxter on Orson Welles and Chimes at Midnight

Kitchen Conversations

Keith Baxter on Orson Welles and Chimes at Midnight

Back in January, veteran actor Keith Baxter stopped by the Criterion offices for lunch and regaled us with memories of his experience working with Orson Welles.

By Hillary Weston

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Keith Baxter’s Memories of Chimes at Midnight
Keith Baxter’s Memories of Chimes at Midnight

We were proud to announce earlier this week that Orson Welles’s legendary masterpiece Chimes at Midnight will be joining the collection come August. Back in January—while the Shakespearean epic was enjoying a theatrical run at Film Forum and we w…

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Explore

Jeanne Moreau

Actor

With her mix of sultry glamour and no-nonsense wit, Jeanne Moreau has been the embodiment of intelligent French moviestardom for six decades. The Paris-born daughter of a Folies Bergère dancer and a restaurateur, Moreau started out as a stage actress at the Comédie-Française before earning supporting roles in B pictures and crime dramas in the fifties—the most often recalled now being Jacques Becker’s captivating 1954 heist thriller Touchez pas au grisbi, with Jean Gabin. Soon enough, thanks to the discerning eye of Louis Malle, Moreau was thrust into the spotlight—even if, in her breakthrough in Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows, it was the lack of a spotlight that made her stand out: Moreau’s star-making nighttime stroll through Paris was lit only by the windows along the Champs-Élysées. This unorthodox choice was a harbinger of the more casual shooting style that would define the coming French New Wave, of which Moreau would be a figurehead. Following her lead performance in Malle’s groundbreakingly explicit romance The Lovers, she provided cameos in François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Jean-Luc Godard’s A Woman Is a Woman, solidifying her status as an icon. Of course, it was Truffaut’s masterpiece Jules and Jim that cemented her place in the annals of film: her performance as the alternately coquettish and commanding Catherine made her a brainy sex symbol for the ages. In her varied and long career, Moreau has worked with such legendary auteurs as Luis Buñuel, Michelangelo Antonioni, Orson Welles (who once called her “the greatest actress in the world”), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and she continues to work today, in films by some of contemporary cinema’s most revered names, such as Amos Gitai, Tsai Ming-liang, and François Ozon.