Jack Lemmon’s 20 Greatest Roles, Ranked

Kenneth Branagh directs this stylized adaptation of William Shakespeare’s 16th century play. “Hamlet” is, of course, a cinematic retelling of the story of the titular prince of Denmark, who returns home to find his father murdered and war threatening to destroy his country. Worse still, her mother is about to marry her uncle, the man responsible for her father’s death.

Combining Shakespearean folios, this is the first full-length film version of the play. Dame Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie and Charlton Heston complete Branagh’s Prince Hamlet. As for Lemmon, he makes an appearance as Marcellus, a soldier from Elsinore Castle who alerts Horatio to the ghost of King Hamlet; he is present when the prince first encounters the spirit. Although a minor role, it is a pivotal scene that sets the stage for the rest of the story.

In an interview for the Chicago Tribune, Branagh commented on the casting of Jack Lemmon: “Marcellus has a nice early run for a simple guy, and I wanted someone who could have that sense of the ordinary, someone whose the presence would be startling and make the audience sit up and take notice.” Naturally, Jack Lemmon delivers.

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