Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Chimes at Midnight (1965) (aka Falstaff)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Chimes at Midnight (1965, Sp./Switz.) (aka Falstaff or Campanadas a Medianoche)

In Orson Welles' last classic masterpiece, his personal favorite film:

  • the portrayal of William Shakespeare's recurring character: the charismatic, corpulent thief/drunken scoundrel/adventurer Sir John/Jack Falstaff (Orson Welles), who frequented the Boar's Head Tavern for carousing and various criminal activities; Falstaff had a father-son relationship with heir-to-the-throne Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), the Prince of Wales, whose real disapproving father was King Henry IV (John Gielgud) (who had just succeeded King Richard II to the monarchy/throne)
  • the great scene of the 1403 Battle of Shrewsbury between King Henry IV and Henry "Hotspur" Percy (Norman Rodway); the sequence began with knights being lifted by pulley onto horseback; inappropriately-heavy armored, tubby-shaped Falstaff hid in the bushes and waded through the muddy battlefield while other armored men were swinging heavy weapons and slaughtering each other during the futile and tragic struggle; Falstaff meekly watched and cheered from the side throughout most of the conflict; the cowardly Falstaff feigned his own death, and then opened up his helmet's visor and declared: "The better part of valor is discretion"
  • during the Battle, Prince Hal sword-dueled Percy to the death; as Percy died, Prince Hal spoke: "For worms, brave Percy; fare thee well, great heart!"; afterwards, Falstaff falsely took credit for killing Percy, telling King Henry IV: "I swear I killed him"
  • following the death of King Henry IV, Prince Hal was to be coronated as the new King Henry V (he was named Henry V, succeeding his father King Henry IV); Falstaff attended the coronation ceremony and fully expected to receive praise from his friend and associate ex-Prince Hal, but he was wronged and disowned when Hal decided to reform his ways: ("I have turned away from my former self"); the new King Henry V betrayed and banished Falstaff (who fell to his knees) during the coronation ceremony: (Falstaff: "My King! My Jove! I speak to thee my heart!" King: "I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers! How ill white hairs become a fool and jester! I have long dream’d of such a kind of man, So surfeit-swell’d, so old and so profane. But, being awaked, I do despise my dream. Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace. Leave gormandizing, now the grave doth gape for thee thrice wider than for other men. Reply not to me with a fool-born jest. Presume not that I am the thing I was. For God doth know, so shall the world perceive, that I have turned away my former self. So will I those that kept me company. When thou dost hear I am as I have been, approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast. The tutor and the feeder of my riots. Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death, as I have done the rest of my misleaders, not to come near our person by ten mile")
  • in the ending, Falstaff returned that evening to the Boar's Head Tavern and died from a "broken heart"; his body was displayed in a oversized wooden coffin set up on a sled in the middle of the yard: (Pistol (Michael Aldridge) noted: "The King has killed his heart"); Bardolph (Patrick Bedford) added: "Would I were with him, wheresome'er he is, either in heaven or in hell."

Sir John/Jack Falstaff (Orson Welles)

Falstaff's Heavily-Armored Participation in the Battle of Shrewsbury

Falstaff Betrayed and Banished by Prince Hal/King Henry V

Falstaff in Coffin


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