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Master Will Shakespeare (1936)

Approved | | Short, Biography | 13 June 1936 (USA)
A short biography of William Shakespeare that highlights the various jobs he worked at in the theater.




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Complete credited cast:
Carey Wilson ...
Narrator (voice)


A brief biography of the Bard beginning and ending in Stratford. After grammar school and marriage to Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare goes to London and gets a job tending the horses during performances at Burbage's Blackfriar's Theatre, is promoted to prompter, and soon writes his first play to be staged, I Henry VI. Success as a writer, actor, and part owner of the Globe comes quickly. The film imagines Shakespeare as lonely and melancholy, with the romantic and doomed love of "Romeo and Juliet" as his favorite work. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Biography






Release Date:

13 June 1936 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed as a promotion piece to the then-upcoming MGM film Romeo and Juliet (1936). See more »


Featured in MGM Parade: Episode #1.12 (1955) See more »


Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performed by studio orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

"Rascal rhymester"
3 July 2011 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

Hollywood has long been criticised for its rather cavalier approach to historical accuracy. Usually this isn't much to get worried about as Hollywood's primary goal is to entertain, and a bit of artistic license doesn't go amiss if it makes a good story. Sometimes however, Hollywood sought to inform its audiences. Master Will Shakespeare was a promotional short made to accompany MGM's 1936 production of Romeo and Juliet, to introduce the bard to the less well-informed members of the audience. But don't go thinking that this necessarily makes it any more factual than its feature-length cousins.

Very little is known for certain about Shakespeare's life, so for the purposes of this short writer Richard Goldstone has apparently filled in the gaps from his own imagination. The idea of the young bard working as a theatre prompter is pure speculation, as is the rather twee idea that a timely adlib set him on the playwright's path. Given its purpose, the short naturally attempts to draw focus towards Romeo and Juliet, claiming that this was the bard's personal favourite of his own works. Again this is all fanciful guesswork. There is even an attempt to put an "A Star Is Born" type spin on Shakespeare's life, telling of how he dreamed of stardom on the stage. Incidentally, if you're interested, look up "Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship" for a rather more enlightening view.

MGM did at least know how to do these things effectively. Anthony Kemble-Cooper, a stage actor who actually has a tiny role in the Romeo and Juliet movie, does a fairly decent job in the title role. It's nice to see rotund character actor Lionel Belmore getting a brief outing here, even if it is a little sad for this lovable and once ubiquitous figure to now be strutting his stuff in relative obscurity. The general cheapness of the cast does show up, in particular an unidentified actress playing a rather shop-worn Elizabeth I. The short was directed by a young Jacques Tourneur. Tourneur shows early on his love of tight compositions with foreground clutter looming over the actors. Largely however his focus here is on swiftly moving through the material, his constantly roving camera and lively staging keeping things suitably dynamic for a whistle-stop tour of information.

Master Will Shakespeare is not badly made by any means, and more or less does what it sets out to achieve. However its casual cooking up of the facts in a short that presents itself as an educational piece is really quite naughty.

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