Joe MacBeth

Joe MacBeth is a 1955 British–American crime drama, directed by Ken Hughes and starring Paul Douglas, Ruth Roman and Bonar Colleano.[1] It is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth, set in a 1930s American criminal underworld. The film's plot closely follows that of Shakespeare's original play.[2]

Joe MacBeth
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Hughes
Produced byM.J. Frankovich
George Maynard (executive producer)
Written byKen Hughes
Philip Yordan
Based onthe play Macbeth
by William Shakespeare
StarringPaul Douglas
Ruth Roman
Bonar Colleano
Music byTrevor Duncan
CinematographyBasil Emmott
Edited byPeter Rolfe Johnson
Film Locations
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 18 October 1955 (1955-10-18) (UK)
  • February 1956 (1956-02) (USA)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

A similar adaptation, Men of Respect, was released in 1990, starring John Turturro, Rod Steiger and Dennis Farina.


Hit man Joe MacBeth goes directly from the assassination of crime boss Duke's second-in-command Tommy to his own wedding, where bride Lily scolds him for being two hours late.

Duke rewards him with a mansion by a lake. A fortune teller persuades Lily, however, that Joe's destiny is to be the leader, not a follower. Lily is ruthlessly ambitious. After he personally eliminates Duke's gluttonous rival, Big Dutch, at a restaurant, Lily continues to goad Joe into going after his own boss.

After eliminating his crime ally Banky and alienating Banky's son Lennie, an evening at the lakeside mansion ends with Duke inviting the lovely Lily to go for a swim. Once in the water, though, Duke is stabbed in the back by Joe and left to die. Lily dives in to make sure.

Although he expresses outrage that someone has murdered their boss, Joe is not believed by Lennie, who suspects the truth. Joe begins to be haunted by nightmares and visions. One night, when he believes Lennie's men have come to kill him, Joe takes a machine gun and opens fire at a moving curtain. Lily falls dead. Joe's own violent end is about to follow.



  1. "BFI | Film & TV Database | JOE MACBETH (1954)". 16 April 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  2. Jackson pp. 310–311


  • Jackson, Russell. The Cambridge companion to Shakespeare on film. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
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