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Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Actors: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore, Edna May Oliver, Basil Rathbone
Director: George Cukor
Genres: Drama
NR     2007     2hr 5min

Shakespeare's classic tale of love and youth ruined by a family feud. The Montagues and the Capulets, two powerful families of Verona, hate each other. Romeo, a Montague, crashes a Capulet party, and there meets Juliet. Th...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore, Edna May Oliver, Basil Rathbone
Director: George Cukor
Creators: William H. Daniels, Margaret Booth, Irving Thalberg, Talbot Jennings, William Shakespeare
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Classics
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/14/2007
Original Release Date: 09/03/1936
Theatrical Release Date: 09/03/1936
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 5min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese

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Movie Reviews

Better Than You'd Think
Sandy McLendon | Atlanta, GA USA | 01/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It's amazing how often the legendary Irving Thalberg was allowed to make M.G.M. "prestige pictures" that produced awed reviews and spotty box-office receipts. It's even more amazing how often he required his wife, actress Norma Shearer, to star in them, to the eventual detriment of her career. As good as Shearer was, she acquired a reputation as a star of stately, dull movies made to please no one but her husband.The notable exception to Thalberg's run of worthy Shearer failures was "Romeo and Juliet". Although it conformed to the norm by not making much money, it was a very fine film, far better than most filmed Shakespeare.Norma was 36 when the movie was shot, and it was feared she was a bit old for the part. The problem was tackled by hiring an even older Romeo, 43-year-old Leslie Howard. The supporting cast was the best in the business- John Barrymore as Mercutio, Basil Rathbone as Tybalt, Edna May Oliver as the Nurse, Reginald Denny as Benvolio, and Violet Kemble-Cooper as Lady Capulet. George Cukor was tapped as director, and Agnes de Mille choreographed the period dance that is the highlight of the lovers' first meeting.Production values were extraordinary, even for a Shearer movie. The creamily lit photography flattered the stars, and the props and sets were magnificent. The exterior set for the balcony scene took up all of M.G.M's Stage Sixteen, then the largest soundstage in the world; there was so much real vegetation that the building began producing its own weather. The costumes were a bit over-the-top; those for the supporting cast are highly theatrical, and the star wardrobe is intended to flatter at the expense of authenticity (Shearer's hairstyle is that of a boy of the period, not a young woman). All the lavishness in the world would not have mattered if the cast and crew hadn't delivered, but they did. Under the tutelage of Constance Collier, Shearer turned in a touchingly tender Juliet, actually getting the best contemporary reviews of any cast member. Howard's Romeo was a bit perfunctory, but still managed a nice sense of mischief in the early scenes. Basil Rathbone's prideful Tybalt was the part he was born to play, and Oliver's Nurse crammed the maximum of bawdiness and fun into a part badly cut to comply with the demands of the censors. The surprise casting- and performance- of the film was Andy Devine as Peter, the Nurse's servant. It should have been wildly incongruous, but Devine's raspy voice and simple demeanour were perfect for the part.Two scenes stand out in the memory. One is the stately pavane being danced when Romeo first spies Juliet. Shearer's timing and subtlety serve her well here; she interacts with her nominal dancing partner, Paris, and with Romeo on the sidelines, keeping time to the dance and losing it, sending messages of love with her eyes while her body attempts vainly to maintain an appearance of propriety.The other is Barrymore's turn as Mercutio; it's said he was drunk during much of the filming, and that the take of his biggest scene used in the final cut was the only usable one. None of Barrymore's problems show on film; his hooting, larky performance is a miracle of comic timing and not to be missed.The film has its small problems; no one was able to lick the story's inherent lack of action at the end, and the vitality of the film lapses into talkiness in a few later stretches. There is a lapse of judgement in one place where Romeo and Juliet kiss; the otherwise original music switches to Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet", dragging the scene into cliche. And director Cukor later bemoaned the lack of "garlic and the Mediterranean" in the film's look and feel. It's still something very rare on film: Shakespeare that is well and respectfully adapted for the screen, accessible to any viewer, and beautifully played. Of all the versions of "Romeo and Juliet" on film, this is the one that tells the story best."
The beauty of the language
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 03/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"this is a lavish, wonderful production, with a cast that is so comfortable with the language. They bring out the beauty of the words, and clarity to their meaning.Norma Shearer, despite being more than twice Juliet's age, plays her exquisitely...I find her to be the loveliest and most graceful of the screen Juliets I've seen.
Leslie Howard, who was 42 at the time, is splendid. With his perfect musical voice and enunciation, he's a joy to watch and listen to...what a pity that he didn't film more Shakespeare...a Howard "Hamlet" (which he had a huge success with on Broadway), would have certainly been a film treasure.
Also great is John Barrymore's flamboyant Mercutio, and Edna May Oliver is my all-time favorite Nurse.Though I think the imaginitive and slightly bizarre Baz Luhmann/Leonardo DiCaprio version is fabulous and a must-see (as is the fight scene in the Zeffirelli production !) what makes this George Cukor version so special is the poetry of the language...if you want to hear the words spoken as I'm sure Shakespeare intended, give this film a try."
The Age of the Cast Undercuts the Production
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 10/22/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This version of Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET was very famous in its day, and a number of critics that I greatly admire continue to praise it even now. But I must sound a dissenting note: although it has its charms, I personally found the film somewhat difficult to sit through due to the age of the cast. On the stage, Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers are usually played by mature actors in full command of both Shakespearean language and their own art, and the physical distance between the stage and the audience allows the cast to create the illusion of youth. But the camera is merciless, particularly in close up, and this film production presents us with the middle-aged Leslie Howard, Norma Shearer, John Barrymore, and Basil Rathbone in roles that would be better served on the screen by much younger players.To give the cast its due, several of the stars fought tooth and nail against making the film--most notably Leslie Howard, who even went so far as give press interviews stating that he was much too old to play Romeo in a screen production. When forced into the production by contractual obligation, Howard and his counterparts gave it their all, but sad to say the camera did not lie: they were indeed too old. Although some viewers are able to suspend disbelief to accept the stars in such youthful roles, I myself could not. I found it occasionally absurd, but more often embarassing, with the famous balcony a case in point. All of this might be forgiven if the stars actually generated any sense of passion, but they do not--and it is really here that their ages tell, for instead of the white-hot passions of youth that lead to disaster we have instead a gentle love story with an unhappy ending. Still, the film really is pretty to look at--it has an engraved quality in its glossy black and white--and if you close your eyes, you can enjoy the 'grand manner' readings, which is a great deal more than one can say for most cinematic Shakespearean interpretations. There is also Edna May Oliver's performance, and she is excellent in the role of Juliet's babbling nurse.Fans of this film's stars will no doubt wish to add it to their library, and those interested in seeing how Hollywood approached Shakespeare in the 1930s will enjoy seeing it at least once--but I would hesitate to recommend this film to any one outside that circle. Most viewers will be happier with the later Franco Zefferilli version."
Opulent Production
J. de Baun | Atlanta, GA | 08/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Visually - this is one of the best looking black and white period films I've ever seen. The photography, costumes and sets are spectacular. Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard are too old for their roles and were not Shakespearean actors, but are better than most Hollywood actors in classical parts. It was common during this era for older actors to play these roles on stage. John Barrymore stands out from the rest. I've only seen this on VHS, but the DVD transfer should be sharp and clear."