The genius of Ian Holm

22nd June 2020

John Wyver writes: It was sad to learn on Friday of the death at the age of 88 of the great actor Ian Holm. Among the many tributes and obituaries are ones by Michael Billington and Ryan Gilbey for the Guardian, Mel Gussow for The New York Times, Michael Brooke for Sight & Sound, and Anthony Lane for The New Yorker, which includes apposite clips from Alien (1979) and Chariots of Fire (1981).

I cherish especially his work with Peter Hall for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1960s, and most particularly his Gloucester / Richard III in The Wars of the Roses trilogy. Hall and John Barton adapted the Henry VI plays and Richard III into three dramas that were first seen in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1963, and revived the following year before being recorded for BBC Television and broadcast at Easter 1965.

For many years the television versions languished unseen, but Illuminations is immensely proud to have released The Wars of the Roses on DVD and for download – and the details of how to purchase it are here. I have also written extensively about the series, including on this blog and in my book Screening the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Critical History, which is published in paperback on Thursday.

Here’s a brief moment from the series, demonstrating the charismatic clarity and immediacy and intelligence and sheer joy of Ian Holm’s performance. This is taken from the third part of the trilogy, from Richard III act 1, scene 2, at the conclusion of the scene in which Richard seduces the grieving Lady Anne (played by Janet Suzman).

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