Directed by Sam Taylor. USA. 1929.
This early film version presents the play as a screwball comedy in the manner of Howard Hawks later His Girl Friday but without the rapid-fire dialogue. The 1929 version lasts only a little over an hour but is full of high energy and fun, if not much Shakespeare. Ms. Pickford was said to be dissatisfied with her performance as Katherine and to me she doesn't look shrewish enough but she is a charming presence and Fairbanks is a boisterous Petruchio who does perfect justice to his domineering character.
One of William Shakespeare's
most popular plays, The Taming of the Shrew satirizes the subservient
role of women in the Elizabethan age. Set in Padua, a city in Northern
Italy, Baptista Minola (Edwin Maxwell) has two lovely daughters, Bianca
(Dorothy Jordan) and Katherine (Pickford). He refuses to have Bianca marry
before Katherine but that is a hard sell since she is temperamental and
possessed of a razor sharp tongue. Kate has managed to frighten off potential
suitors until the lothario Petruchio, a gentleman from Verona, comes into
town looking for a wife. When Petruchio and Kate meet for the first time,
he boldly announces that he plans to court and marry her. She reacts with
a flurry of insults, and he retorts with playful taunts, then tries to
calm her. Finally, she slaps him. He threatens to strike back if she slaps
him again. Later, after more fireworks, Petruchio uses reverse psychology
on her, saying:
'Twas told me you were rough and coy and sullen,
And now I find report a very liar;
For thou are pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous.
(Act II, Scene I, Lines 243-246)
Interestingly, there is a prologue to the play, a play within a play, called the induction that does not appear in the film but it is a curiosity and seemingly has nothing to do with the play itself. In the induction, a nobleman on his way home finds an inebriated sleeping man named Christopher Sly. He decides to play a joke on him by having his servants bring him to the best bedroom in the home, dress him in the clothes of a rich nobleman and spray him with exotic perfumes. When Sly wakes up, the servants pretend he is a lord and master who has just woke up to reality after having been insane for fifteen years. Sly then watches as a traveling group of actors perform a play called The Taming of the Shrew. Could this be the author's way of mocking a commoner who is pretending to be the author of plays actually written by a nobleman?
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