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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
If you wish to brush up your Shakespeare and start quoting him now, this is most definitely not the film for you. It runs only 65 minutes. Considering that the stage play takes at least two hours to perform (without counting any interval between acts) and that at least half the movie's running time is taken up either with extended horseplay or extraneous scene-setting, there is very little of Shakespeare in the film at all, but a great deal of Mr Fairbanks and a fair amount of Mrs Fairbanks.
Despite playing the title role (and her first-place billing), Pickford is often upstaged and displaced by Fairbanks. His usual larger-than-life performance seems too heartily self-promoting when dialogue is added to his customary self-focusing, and ceaseless posturing, and seemingly endless displays of swaggering acrobatics. True, the role does call for these qualities, but Fairbanks obviously doesn't believe in either half-measures or subtleties.
Although she seems to sense that her real-life husband is intent on putting her in the shade, Mary Pickford fights back gamely. Unfortunately, although she has the will, she simply doesn't possess the dramatic equipment to do this. Her voice seems weak. It lacks power, authority and cadence. As a dramatic actress, she comes across as an amateur. A good amateur, mind you. But as a pro, definitely not. She has no tricks, no charisma, no presence. What's more, her make-up is poor. Her white, unlined face completely lacks character. She seems to be playing the ghost of Lady Macbeth, rather a live, lively, spiritedly shrewish Kate.
The other players don't help much either. Geoffrey Wardwell is as weak as water. Dorothy Jordan is hardly in the movie at all. Clyde Cook and Joseph Cawthorn hog the camera mercilessly.
Oddly, the movie is at its best when director Taylor fills the screen with sets and crowd extras rather than his main players. Art director William Cameron Menzies has designed some really eye-catching medieval exteriors which Karl Struss has photographed with an expert eye.
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