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In sixteenth century Padua, Hortensio loves Bianca, the youngest daughter of Baptista. But Baptista will not allow the two to get married until his eldest daughter, the extremely headstrong Katherine, is betrothed. This task seems impossible because of Katherine's shrewish demeanor. They believe their prayers have been answered with the arrival from Verona of the lusty Petruchio, whose father has just passed, leaving him to travel the world and marry. Having not yet met her, Petruchio agrees to court Katherine when he is told of her beauty and wit. Petruchio is even more excited at the prospect of marrying this wildcat of a woman after meeting her. Katherine will have none of it, even if it means her sister's spinsterhood, but has no choice but to marry him. Beyond the fact of the marriage itself, Katherine is even more irked by Petruchio's less than conventional behavior at the ceremony and post ceremony bridal feast. Each starts to play what they consider sly games of oneupsmanship ... Written by
Far From Perfect, But Enjoyable as Light Entertainment
While it's far from perfect either as a movie or as an adaptation of Shakespeare, this version of "The Taming of the Shrew" is enjoyable as light entertainment. It also offers a rare chance for silent film fans to see Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks together, in a sound feature no less. Fairbanks has a role much more suited to him than does Pickford, but it's still good to see them together.
Petruchio really is quite a suitable role for Fairbanks, and his buoyant confidence works well. His portrayal seems to be pretty close to the kind of character that Shakespeare intended. The role of Katherine doesn't give Pickford a chance to use her greatest strengths. She does project good energy, and has plenty of charm when it is called for, but at times her portrayal doesn't seem to fit the original conception of the character, and the role definitely did not give Mary the chance to display her wide range of talents with more subtle material.
The story is a rather loose, jaunty adaptation of the original, and there would be little point in making detailed comparisons. As a movie, most of it works all right aside from the occasional instances of awkwardly-paced dialogue and the like that are characteristic of so many films of the early sound era. Fairbanks does help make some of these moments less noticeable with his obvious good humor. There are certainly a number of obvious ways in which it could have been better, and it's fair to point them out. Yet it still has enough of the classic story, plus enough of its own energy, to make it worth seeing as long as you know what to expect.
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