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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Romeo And Juliet (1936)

In Verona, two powerful clans have a long standing feud between them. But when the son (Leslie Howard) of the Montagues and the daughter (Norma Shearer) of the Capulets fall in love, the fierce opposition to their romance will lead to tragedy for both families. MGM pulled out all the stops, sparing nothing for this lavish production of Shakespeare's beloved tale of ill fated young lovers. Oliver Messel, one of the great stage designers of all time, was the consultant on the production design and the costumes. A Shakespeare scholar was flown in from Harvard to be on the set and none other than Agnes De Mille herself choreographed the ball sequence. Visually, it's impressive but ..... the performances do the picture in. Putting aside the fact that most of the actors are about 15 to 20 years older than the characters they're playing, Howard and Shearer are egregiously miscast. There's no passion to Howard's Romeo, he says the line "I am fortune's fool" with all the feeling of ordering a burger. Shearer's acting (with a capital A) is affected and one cringes watching her act all girly and indicating. Also miscast is John Barrymore as Mercutio but he brings a much needed vitality to the proceedings. George Cukor directed this "prestigious" film but I don't know whether to blame him or Irving Thalberg. With Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, Andy Devine, Reginald Denny, Ian Wolfe and in the film's best performance, Edna May Oliver as Juliet's old nurse.

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