Edit
Romeo and Juliet (1936) Poster

Trivia

The role of Romeo was originally offered to John Gielgud, who had just had a triumph in a stage production of the play in London in which he alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with Laurence Olivier. Gielgud not only turned the part down (thinking that Shakespeare couldn't effectively be presented on screen), but was so disgusted by the finished film that he walked out of the theater after watching only fifteen minutes of it.
9 of 9 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Barrymore got actor William Powell the first big break of his career, so it is understandable that when Irving Thalberg and MGM wanted to replace Barymore, who was playing Mercutio, Powell declined to do it out of loyalty.
9 of 9 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
This was the last film producer Irving Thalberg personally produced before his death. The film's Los Angeles premiere took place at the Carthay Circle Theater on September 14, 1936, the night of Thalberg's death. Frank Whitbeck, the radio announcer for the broadcast of the premiere, decided not to interview the stars of the movie on the air. The actors were so grief-stricken that Whitbeck was afraid they would break down crying, so he simply announced their names as they arrived.
5 of 5 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
John Barrymore had been drinking heavily during filming, and studio chief Irving Thalberg insisted that he live in Kelley's Rest House for the rest of the shooting and had studio security stand watch over him. Despite these precautions, Barrymore was able to procure drink and was drunk in several scenes including the garden and Queen Mab sequences. At the end of the latter, when the company applauded, the actor responded with, "F... the applause... who's got a drink?"
5 of 5 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The role of Mercutio was the only Shakespearean role that John Barrymore ever played complete onscreen. His only other screen appearances in Shakespearean roles were in a screen test for a never made film version of "Hamlet", a soliloquy as Richard III in The Show of Shows (1929), and a role in Playmates (1941) as a hammy Shakespearean actor.
4 of 4 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The film contains the only on-screen sword fight that expert swordsman Basil Rathbone won in his entire film career.
4 of 4 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
An autographed copy of the script adaptation, containing the signatures of 27 cast and crew members (including Rathbone, Howard and Shearer) was donated to the University of Idaho library by Talbot Jennings in 1939.
4 of 4 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
According to syndicated film news columnist Eileen Percy, Leslie Howard made it a point to have his own blond hair in the film, rather than dye his hair or wear a dark wig to give him a more Italian appearance. The MGM research department confirmed that there were "not only blonds but many redheads to be found in Verona" at the time: "Romeo, far from being the dark Latin type, was in all probably a Lombard, with blond hair and blue eyes".
4 of 4 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The role of Romeo was turned down by Robert Donat.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Basil Rathbone played Tybalt in this film even though he had triumphed in the role of Romeo on Broadway in 1934, opposite the Juliet of Katharine Cornell.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Because she wanted to play the Nurse in this film, Edna May Oliver turned down Universal's offer to reprise her stage role of Parthy Ann Hawks in the 1936 film version of Show Boat (1936). The Nurse turned out to be Oliver's only Shakespearean role.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), Norma Shearer plays Juliet in a comedy skit, with then-screen idol John Gilbert as Romeo. In the skit, they are being "directed" by Lionel Barrymore. After performing the famous "balcony scene" together, they get a "phone call" from "The Boss" (i.e. producer Irving Thalberg, Norma's husband), who tells them to jazz up the language in the scene, and try to make it more appealing to modern audiences. Shearer and Gilbert try a version of the balcony scene using 1920's slang (i.e. "Julie, baby, I'm ga-ga over you!"), but quickly agree that you can't improve the original language of Shakespeare.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
One minor complaint about this film version, according to many fans of the play, would be that Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer were physically too old to portray teenage lovers. At the time of this film's release, Howard was 43 years old; Shearer was 34 years old.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
John Barrymore's costume during his dueling scene was originally worn by him in Don Juan (1926).
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In an interview in 1970, George Cukor admitted that this was the one film of his that he would have liked to do over again.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The film's literary consultant was Professor William Strunk Jr., co-author of the famous treatise on the English language, Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style." Producer Irving Thalberg hired Strunk to work with the screenwriters to make sure that the Hollywood adaption of Shakespeare's play stayed true and respectful to its original source. Thalberg told Strunk, "Your job is to protect Shakespeare from us."
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
William Randolph Hearst campaigned heavily for Marion Davies (Hearst's mistress) to star as Juliet. However, MGM thought Davies would be miscast and should only stick to comedies.
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Leslie Howard wore one of his costumes from this film for the opening sequence of It's Love I'm After (1937).
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Different reports exist as to whether or not this film was a box office success, but four different Shakespeare films had been made between 1929 and 1936, and after 1936, no further Shakespeare films were made in English until 1944.
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
George Cukor was Irving Thalberg's choice of director from the outset, mainly for his ability to elicit strong performances from his actresses. Above all else, Thalberg wanted the film to be a showcase for his wife, Norma Shearer.
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Basil Rathbone earned the first of his two Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film, but lost the Oscar to Walter Brennan. He would do again two years later when he was nominated for If I Were King (1938).
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The shoot lasted over six months with the budget going over $2 million. This made it MGM's most expensive sound film at the time.
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Norma Shearer is the only actress to portray Juliet on screen and receive an Academy Award nomination [Best Actress] for her performance.
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The role of Romeo was turned down by Laurence Olivier. He later served as the narrator for Romeo and Juliet (1968).
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Fredric March, Robert Donat and Robert Montgomery all turned down the lead before Leslie Howard was cast.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Special non-skid felt shoes were designed for Leslie Howard, John Barrymore and Basil Rathbone for their dueling scenes. Research at the time disclosed that felt soles were prepared with a resinous compound brought from Scythia. A similar compound was made up by a druggist and the soles were carefully treated for filming the scene on the flagstone of the public square set.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In a separately filmed theatrical trailer, Clark Gable and Nelson Eddy are seen at the microphone telling a radio audience the glories of the film.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Irving Thalberg pushed MGM head Louis B. Mayer for five years on the idea of making a film of the play. Mayer held firm as he felt that Shakespeare was way over the heads of the masses. It was only after Warners had a hit with their all-star version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) that he relented.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Irving Thalberg wanted to make the production as authentic as possible, drafting in famous Shakespearean intellectuals John Tucker Murray from Harvard and William Strunk Jr from Cornell. Researchers were also sent to Verona to photograph the city while the art department was instructed to study the paintings of Botticelli, Bellini, Carpaccio and Gozzoli.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
During the filming of the outdoor public square scenes Conway Tearle's armor became so hot for the actor that a prop man had to sponge it off with cool water in order for the actor to continue.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
This was the first of two adaptations of the play to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The second was Romeo and Juliet (1968).
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
In addition to Shearer having already appeared as Juliet in The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), 'Leslie Howard (I)' again played Romeo in the opening scenes of It's Love I'm After (1937).
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first screen adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. A silent film was made in 1920, but all copies of the film have since been lost.
1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
A number of costumes wound up in the extensive collection of actress Debbie Reynolds.
Is this interesting? Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page