7.6/10
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10 user 1 critic

Much Ado About Nothing (1973)

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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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
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Kathleen Widdoes ...
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Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Charles Bartlett ...
Frederick Coffin ...
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Arny Freeman ...
Jack Gianino ...
George Gugleotti ...
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Mark Hammer ...
Bette Henritze ...
Jeanne Hepple ...
Margaret
Nina Jordan ...
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David Lenthall
Will Mackenzie ...
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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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Comedy | Romance

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2 February 1973 (USA)  »

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4:3
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Connections

Version of Viel Lärmen um nichts (1975) See more »

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A lovely but flawed valentine
27 March 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I was fortunate to see this production of the NY Shakespeare Festival when it transferred to Broadway (and I was in high school), and it was a glorious treat. Waterston and Widdoes were wonderful as the sparring lovers battling one another with words. Barnard Hughes was terrific as Dogberry, recreating a Keystone Cops routine. The setting of the Spanish American War era was a very fine transfer, and the first Shakespeare production I had seen that didn't use the Elizabethan period. I had lots of wonderful memories of this production, and even managed to catch it when it was broadcast on television in 1973.

Several years ago, I found a copy of this and rented it, and it didn't live up to my memories of the stage production. It is a filmed play, not re-conceived and produced as cinema, and has all of the flaws that filmed plays have: sets that can magically evoke a time and place on the stage, but seem flimsy on film; stage acting that works when you see it in a theatre, but seems overdone on film; a small ensemble playing entre'acte music that charms when heard live, but seems small and tinny on film. Much of the performances that I remembered with affection, particularly those of Waterston and Widdoes, were still very fine, and Hughes is still my favorite Dogberry.

It doesn't hold up well when compared to the Branagh Much Ado, which was definitely conceived in cinematic terms (like the galloping troops at the opening evoking The Magnificent Seven), and which was much better at conveying how Claudio could be duped into believing that Hero was a wanton woman and not the virgin he had wooed. But Branagh cut my second favorite line from his Much Ado ("your Hero, his Hero, everyman's Hero").

This version of Much Ado is charming for what it is: a filmed play, with talented performers, in a lovely production. But it is not great cinema.


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