08-Douglas Campbell

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Macbeth - Three Filmed Lessons in the Humanities (1964)

This Edition

Published1964 First editionYes
FormatSaddle-stitched brochure (281 x 218mm) Edition1964
PublisherEncyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corp Printing
ISBN Printed by
Series No of pages20


Viewer's guide and teacher notes for a 3-part film about Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, commissioned by the Massachusetts Commission on the Humanities in 1964, with an introduction, suggestions on using the films, highlights, topics for study and discussion, biographical notes, production notes, and the film texts. Benjamin Creme was asked by his old friend Douglas Campbell to design the sets for the film, the credits for which appear on p.[11] of this booklet under 'The Production Staff.' The nine stills from the films that are used as illustrations in this booklet provide some glimpses of the sets.

According to his biography on the Modern British Artists/Mark Barrow Fine Art website Benjamin Creme's first major outing into the theatrical world came when famed director Tyrone Guthrie "commissioned Creme to do the sets for his production of Carmen," which was staged at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London in 1949 (i.e. when he was around 26). In 1964 Benjamin Creme designed the set for this educational film that US film director John Barnes (d.2000) and UK-born actor/director Douglas Campbell (1922-2009) made at Merton Park Studios (UK) for Encyclopaedia Britannica Films' 'Humanities' series, for use in secondary schools. The 16mm film, with the title Macbeth -- A Director's Interpretation, consists of three half-hour parts, entitled Macbeth I: The Politics of Power, Macbeth II: The Themes of Macbeth, and Macbeth III: The Secret'st Man (1964).
    Benjamin Creme has known Douglas Campbell since their days in art school together. They later shared a flat in Glasgow in the early 1940s as young upcoming artists, and Campbell modelled for Creme's painting 'Portrait of an Actor (Douglas Campbell)' (1944).
    In Part II, when Macduff, who is in exile in England, hears of the murder of his wife and children, a large mural or mock tapestry is used to depict the change of scene, which shows the distinct characteristics of Benjamin Creme's style of painting.

Geoff Alexander, of the Academic Film Archive of North America, documents from John Barnes' private correspondence that the production of this film raised significant controversy in the higher echelons of Encyclopaedia Britannica, with EB president Maurice Mitchell writing to EB Films president Charles Benton in June 1964: "... I think the film was self-consciously photographed and edited, filled with optical tricks and self-indulgences that belong on commercial television with beer sponsorship and not in a highly professional series like EBF's Series." Alexander himself, however, hails the artistic co-operation between Barnes and Campbell as "one of the more fortuitous meetings ever to take place in the concept stage of the making of an educational film", while Barnes' films, he says, "stand as the highest example of the art of the education film".
    Another indication that the films were well ahead of their time is the fact that even in her 1995 edition of the Teacher's Guide to the Signet Classic Edition of William Shakespeare's Macbeth author Linda Underwood (on p.14) praises the films as: "An excellent series of three filmed lessons with interpretations and commentaries by actor/director Douglas Campbell..."

In 'The Theatrical Point of View,' on p.[19] of this booklet, Douglas Campbell writes: "It is not our intention to dictate, but to illuminate, so you may risk more in striving to discover and understand the self. 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing' when clung to as an absolute. Knowledge can lead to greater knowledge only when it is used as a compass for exploring the unknown."

This viewer's guide was re-published in 1967 with another picture of the Weird Sisters from the same scene. The first edition is dated on the back page; the second edition is dated on the third page.


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