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The Montagues and the Capulets, two powerful families of Verona, hate each other. Romeo, son of Montague, crashes a Capulet party, and there meets Juliet, daughter of Capulet. They fall passionately in love. Since their families would disapprove, they marry in secret. Romeo gets in a fight with Tybalt, nephew of Lady Capulet, and kills him. He is banished from Verona. Capulet, not knowing that his daughter is already married, proceeds with his plans to marry Juliet to Paris, a prince. This puts Juliet in quite a spot, so she goes to the sympathetic Friar Laurence, who married her to Romeo. He suggests a daring plan to extricate her from her fix. Tragedy ensues. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Scenes of combat that will stir your pulse...tender haunting romance that will stay ever fresh in your memory...spectacular beauty that will set a feast for your eyes...in the greatest melodramatic romance of all time...presented as it has never been before...the final glorious flower of motion picture achievement.
For years, I put off watching this version of Shakespeare's classic love story, knowing that all the main players were about thirty years too old for their roles. Finally, when the film came on late on night, I decided to take a look, because I do admire the work of so many of the players.
Provided you can put aside the problems of the ages of the actors, the result is a very pleasant surprise. The biggest surprise for me was the performance of Norma Shearer - I've always liked her work, but considered her rather lightweight for Shakespeare. Not so - she delivered her lines with a great feel for the style and pace, and was as delightful and open a Juliet as one could wish. Her age became irrelevant; this was a young girl new to love, completely swept off her feet and ready to surrender all - for the first time.
Leslie Howard was also comfortable with the Shakespearean dialogue, if slightly lacking the boyish passion we rightly expect to see. He was more the slightly older suitor, taken by surprise with the fresh appeal of his Juliet, but ready to cast aside previous attachments to pursue and win her. His lovely voice delivered the lines with ease and fluency.
John Barrymore's Mercutio was much more the ageing playboy than the dashing young blade, but his sure touch with the dialogue showed clearly why he was considered the preeminent Shakespearean actor of his day in America. His delivery of the "Queen Mab" speech was a delight. His body was way too old, but his spirit lacked nothing.
Flora Robson came near to stealing most of her scenes, as she so often did, and Basil Rathbone was fully at home in the role of Tybalt; fine performances from these two, as we would expect from their backgrounds.
It was, to my mind, rather over-produced, with the actors in danger of being lost in the expansive sets, but remembering that had these actors been performing on stage, we wouldn't bat an eyelid at their ages, they provide us with an engrossing experience and deliver a play that even the experts couldn't fault.
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