Shakespeare Plays Available in Video Format
Scholars Online Educational Resources

Home

All’s Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Coriolanus
Cymbeline
Hamlet
Henry IV, part 1
Henry IV, part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
King John
King Lear
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Macbeth
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Othello
Pericles
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Winter’s Tale
Shakespeareana

Available versions

1929: Sam Taylor

1967: Franco Zeffirelli

1976: Kirk Browning

1980: Jonathan Miller

1982: Peter Dews

1983: Peter Dews/John Allison

1988: Richard Monette

2013: Toby Frow


Adaptations

1953: Kiss Me, Kate

1958: Kiss Me, Kate

1994: Aida Zyablikova (animated)

1999: 10 Things I Hate About You

2003: Kiss Me, Kate

2005: ShakespeaRe-Told: The Taming of the Shrew


Related

2015: Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 2, Episode 1


The Taming of the Shrew
1929: Sam Taylor

In 1929, Sam Taylor directed the legendary Hollywood couple Douglas Fairbanks and his wife Mary Pickford in their only production together. Their The Taming of the Shrew was one of the first wave of talking pictures, and was reasonably well-received at the time; since then its reputation has been in almost continuous decline, and is now regarded as a fairly bad effort. I have to concur with the later assessment.

As a treatment of the play, to begin with, it is absurdly spare, cut down to a length of about one hour. The makers of the film have inserted large wordless passages for one thing or another (some of them finding no warrant in the text) and added completely new text in other places, with no attempt to square it with Shakespeare’s. There’s a representation of the wedding, for example, where Petruchio stands about, a boot strapped to his head, eating an apple, while the priest drones on about founding a marriage on a principle of happiness. That this is not Shakespeare’s text would be obvious to anyone familiar with him, I think, but it’s particularly noteworthy in that Shakespeare does not dramatize the wedding at all — all of it is represented in second-hand report. In the process, therefore, there is at most maybe ten to fifteen minutes of Shakespeare’s dialogue. It should go without saying that that is not really enough to represent the whole play.

Elsewhere, Shakespeare’s text appears in fits and starts, often slightly rephrased, but always abundantly cut and dumbed down. Conversations are framed by action scenes of one sort or another, and shots of Katherine scowling. She delivers most of her lines very much in the manner of an indignant Shirley Temple, and with about the same vocal timbre. Petruchio himself bellows here and hollers there, and shows next to no variation in his delivery from one thing to another. He spends his wedding night playing solitaire and talking to his dog. The resolution of the plot is completely derailed as Katherine suddenly just decides to smile and be agreeable about everything. This works for a while; then he bullies her some more, they get into a shoving match, and she hits him in the head with a stool. Apparently this is the romantic balm to heal all wounds, and they are reconciled and Katherine becomes docile and ridiculous.

This production is interesting as one data-point among several, showing how Shakespeare was received and handled in different periods, forming part of a broader history of taste. For anything else, though, it’s fairly useless.


Baptista: Edwin Maxwell

Bianca: Dorothy Jordan

Gremio: Joseph Cawthorn

Grumio: Clyde Cook

Hortensio: Geoffrey Wardwell

Katherine: Mary Pickford

Petruchio: Douglas Fairbanks

Servant : Charles Stevens