johnlink ranks ROMEO AND JULIET (1936)

I’ll always hold this play in high regard. I’ve played Romeo twice, and directed the show once. I know it pretty well, but have always found the movie versions too silly and mutated (Dicaprio) or too bland (Zeffirelli). TCM had this 1936 version on, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.


I watched ROMEO AND JULIET (1936) on 9.10.10. It was my first viewing of the film.

I’m not familiar enough with John Barrymore, other than knowing he was an actor and Drew’s grandfather. After seeing his Mercutio, I’d be happy to seek out more of his work. He plays a great Mercutio, grandly capturing the eccentricity of the character. Basil Rathbone’s Tybalt is also of high quality.

Those were the two actors I was familiar with going in, but across the board the acting (I think much because of the direction) is very solid. The great thing about knowing the source material so well, is that it is fun to see what is cut, what is kept, and what is transported to a different spot. I liked the cut which this film chose, and it came in at a reasonable two hours. The problem every R&J faces, really, is that after 3.1, it really slows down. It’s hard to keep up the fun and momentum in the first half when the second is so deliberate and morose. But the acting in this film was strong enough to keep it moving.

The swordfights are a little weak. Rathbone, of course, is fine. But the Paris/Romeo fight is pretty brutal (as in bad) and the opening brawl is more comedic than intense.

I was really impressed with Norma Shearer‘s Juliet. In an era where women were typically directed to bat their eyes and look pretty, and in a role where it is easy to fall into that, she does a great job keeping the intensity up, especially after the death of Tybalt.

Really, this would be my go to version of this film at this point. Others may be more accessible for some because of the modernity issue, but I think this is a solid, traditional telling of ROMEO AND JULIET.



I have to deduct a point, sadly, for the weak fight choreography. It could, and should, add to a film like this, not detract.



~ by johnlink00 on September 10, 2010.

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