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Much Ado About Nothing (1973)

TV Movie  -  Comedy | Romance  -  2 February 1973 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 89 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 1 critic

Videotape of the Joseph Papp production. Don Pedro and his men (Teddy Roosevelt Roughriders) have returned from the wars. After Beatrice turns down his proposal, Don Pedro decides to ... See full summary »

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Title: Much Ado About Nothing (TV Movie 1973)

Much Ado About Nothing (TV Movie 1973) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Kathleen Widdoes ...
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Videotape of the Joseph Papp production. Don Pedro and his men (Teddy Roosevelt Roughriders) have returned from the wars. After Beatrice turns down his proposal, Don Pedro decides to matchmake her with Benedick (her former boyfriend), but she being an independent-minded, bicycle-riding Suffragette type, it's going to take a bit of trickery. Meanwhile, Beatrice's cousin, Hero, has fallen in love with Benedick's friend, Claudio. But Don Pedro's bastard half-brother, Don John, plots to split them apart, and Benedick finds himself having to choose between his best friend and the woman he loves. Written by Kathy Li

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2 February 1973 (USA)  »

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A Charming Staging of This Comedy; Kathleen Widdoes is Lovely
16 August 2005 | by See all my reviews

Of course, if one spends millions on a sumptuous and largely irrelevant setting for any Shakespearean comedy, the result will look livelier than a photographed stage production of the same story will look. But the comments made by too-young and untrained reviewers about this well-liked and interesting production of Shakespeare's best-liked comedy certainly need to be considered from the standpoint of their lack of context for judging classical-speech works. To begin with, this production I assert works much better than the badly-acted recent Kenneth Branagh version in most respects. It is unpretentious, the costumes and sets are unobtrusively attractive and quietly colorful; and some of the acting is very good indeed; at least most of those reading classical lines in the play can read them to some degree. This allows the viewer to concentrate on the meaning of what is being said and not on untrained actors' attempts to utter the classical line readings. This version happily preserves on film here, with some imaginative use of camera angles, the play that was staged in New York by Joseph Papp, and it has been directed by A.J. Antoon and Nick Havinga with no sense I can find of repetitious or uninspired line-readings. Much of it still looks like a stage play; but a trained listener can certainly enjoy this interesting attempt at recapturing the meaning of the Renaissance original work. Some critics have used the word "nothing" as if it were pronounced "noting" in relation to this famous work--i.e. people watching one another, spying on one another, commenting upon one another etc. This is perhaps a permissible approach. What this production is about I suggest is FUN. The interpretation here is that people are being victimized, but that there is enough native good in people to defeat villainy eventually. The story, for those who have slept in a closet for the last four hundred years, concerns the return from the wars of a unit among whose soldiers is Benedick. They are greeted by ladies including Beatrice, his continual tormentor and verbal sparring partner. The troop's leader swears that he fought bravely and refuses to quarrel with Beatrice. The leader, Don Pedro, is also greeted by his dour brother on his return, Don John, who professes desire for a reconciliation despite past differences. The subsequent events of the narrative involve young Claudio falling in love with the lady Hero; then a plot is hatched by the villains to slander the lady's name. When the abused Claudio accuses her of sexual misconduct, the ladies design to feign that she is dead, to win time to find out who has lied and win sympathy for her. A funeral is held, and Benedick is told by Don Pedro that Beatrice loves him. He vows to help clear Hero's name, and the two, against their wills, find that when they are not quarreling, they are attracted to one another very strongly. The mystery is unraveled, the villains caught and sentenced to appropriate punishment. And the viewer is also treated to the antics of the city's Elizabethan-style comedic watchmen, a group led by Dogberry, a fine malaprop-spouting creation, and followed by equally inept fellow guardians of the public safety. For this charming and well-paced production, Peter Link wrote some pleasant music. But the great strength of the work, contrary to the surrealistic postmodern reviews of the work, is the towering performances by Kathleen Widdoes as Beatrice and Barnard Hughes as Dogberry. Her performance is so natural, so nuanced and so intelligent, it throws much of the rest of the under-funded proceedings into secondary importance. What she grasped about the part I suggest is that Beatrice is a person, and that her quarrel is with the posturing of the Euro-style superiority-believing men as 'males', and with the naturally merry Benedick in particular. The young people act acceptably; F. Murray Abraham, Betty Henritze as Ursula and Douglass Watson as Leonardo are particularly good also. Sam Waterston is bright, likable and as effective as Benedick as his less-than-classical accent permits; he won many admirers by the personal grace of his work in the piece; at the time it was first aired, he was not well-known. This unpretentious staging is I find so much more enjoyable than the noisy, ill-accented later British effort there is literally no comparison between the two. There are defects in this photographed stage-play as "cinema"; but I watch it whenever I can, because it is charming, stylish and I suggest very-well-thought-out. And Kathleen Widdoes I judge to be lovely and award-caliber as the before-her-time feminist Beatrice, by any adult's standards.


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