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I watched LOVE AFFAIR again. There's a wonderful shot where she reads in the newspaper he didn't marry the other woman (meaning he's free to be with her) and she steps out on to the balcony-- as the door slowly swings open we see a reflection of the Empire State building in the glass, signifying the pre-arranged meeting place for them. These artistic touches, along with Irene Dunne's sensitive acting, really help to put this film over.

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I watched LOVE AFFAIR again. There's a wonderful shot where she reads in the newspaper he didn't marry the other woman (meaning he's free to be with her) and she steps out on to the balcony-- as the door slowly swings open we see a reflection of the Empire State building in the glass, signifying the pre-arranged meeting place for them. These artistic touches, along with Irene Dunne's sensitive acting, really help to put this film over.

 

I like that scene. Also HE gets a companion shot while working on the billboard painting, only the camera just moves to the Empire State instead of just being reflected in a window. That scene reminded me of several other movies, but the only one I can think of, off hand, is dreamy Janet Leigh in Bye Bye Birdie leaning on a doorway and no reflection there. This is after she and Dick Van Dyke "consummate" their relationship after he rescued her from the Turks Men Club.

 

Lots of Empire background shots in The Lost Weekend preceding that movie as well.

 

The movie is also quite religious in tone, compared to other non De Mille films of that decade. The whole "nearest thing to heaven" line relating to the Empire State echoes how they first "fell in love" inside grandma's chapel and she does the sign of the cross, while he is a bit more awkward imitating her. After all, he hadn't acknowledged his religious side since he was an altar boy.

 

The only parts that date a bit for me are the nauseatingly cute kids, although they aren't as icky as An Affair to Remember. One plus is that 1930s-40s films are interracial in children's groupings, unlike 1950s Mickey Mouse Club whiter-than-Wonder-Bread. The "Our Gang" series made racial mixing acceptable for two decades, but things became a trifle more segregated post-war despite progress by Stanley Kramer and Sidney Poiter.

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The movie is also quite religious in tone, compared to other non De Mille films of that decade. The whole "nearest thing to heaven" line relating to the Empire State echoes how they first "fell in love" inside grandma's chapel and she does the sign of the cross, while he is a bit more awkward imitating her. After all, he hadn't acknowledged his religious side since he was an altar boy.

 

The only parts that date a bit for me are the nauseatingly cute kids, although they aren't as icky as An Affair to Remember. One plus is that 1930s-40s films are interracial in children's groupings, unlike 1950s Mickey Mouse Club whiter-than-Wonder-Bread. The "Our Gang" series made racial mixing acceptable for two decades, but things became a trifle more segregated post-war despite progress by Stanley Kramer and Sidney Poiter.

 

I like the religious tone of it; it appeals to me. The kids are very cute and I am sure audiences in 1939 thought so too. Schmaltz in a good way.

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It is the phase you are going through. The religious aspect, that is. Ha ha! So was everybody in 1939 too, with war clouds on the horizon.

 

Although Leo McCarey did a great job remaking his own film scene by scene with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, I feel that black and white suits this story much better than color and CinemaScope, especially since TCM aired a Museum of Modern Art print that was vastly superior than so many public domain prints (even if there were plenty of scratches that could have been digitally fixed). RKO could easily import shots from the many older RKO-Pathé travelogues (and they had a plenty of material stretching the decades through their Pathé material) more successfully with studio created shots of Madeira. (Only MGM's Jimmy FitzPatrick had it covered in Technicolor one year prior to this time.) Also the matte work looked quite realistic in the scenes of the pair leaving grandmother and her waving at them from the distance. The sets of her house and garden are pretty much the same in both films almost as if they were recycled, but they appear more realistic in monochrome. Can't place my finger on why exactly. Despite how many great CinemaScope travelogues 20th Century Fox was putting out in the fifties that could be incorporated in many of their features (like Three Coins In the Fountain and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing), An Affair To Remember feels rather stage-bound.

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Although Leo McCarey did a great job remaking his own film scene by scene with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, I feel that black and white suits this story much better than color and CinemaScope, especially since TCM aired a Museum of Modern Art print that was vastly superior than so many public domain prints (even if there were plenty of scratches that could have been digitally fixed). RKO could easily import shots from the many older RKO-Pathé travelogues (and they had a plenty of material stretching the decades through their Pathé material) more successfully with studio created shots of Madeira. (Only MGM's Jimmy FitzPatrick had it covered in Technicolor one year prior to this time.) Also the matte work looked quite realistic in the scenes of the pair leaving grandmother and her waving at them from the distance. The sets of her house and garden are pretty much the same in both films almost as if they were recycled, but they appear more realistic in monochrome. Can't place my finger on why exactly. Despite how many great CinemaScope travelogues 20th Century Fox was putting out in the fifties that could be incorporated in many of their features (like Three Coins In the Fountain and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing), An Affair To Remember feels rather stage-bound.

 

If I had a chance to remake it, I'd do it in sepia-- at least the first part. The chapel scene would practically look gold. Then when she has the accident, I'd go to black and white with very dark lighting to show how close she's come to death. I'd start to brighten it when she sees him at the theater. And the eventual reconciliation I'd really lighten the scenes, almost have the images washed out in white to signify the heavenly theme. There's a lot that could be done with it visually in a remake, even if mostly filmed on a stage. 

 

Another thing I like about the story is that every time something happens to one of them, it then happens to the other. So they are in a way mirror reflections of each other (each other's souls). I would use reflections such as the shot of the building in the glass door, and have them in front of mirrors a bit more. I think when she's devastated by the accident she would be examining herself anyway in front of mirrors to see how much she's changed. The story could be presented very psychologically to tie in with the spiritual aspects. Quite similar to a Sirk melodrama.

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It has been a long time since I saw the '94 version (which wasn't that great apart from the great Kate in her bit role), but you can see how the window shot of the Empire State was repeated in a key scene in this trailer.

 

 

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Incidentally I don't think any future remakes of LOVE AFFAIR should discard the religious/spiritual aspects. It should remain central to the love story.

 

What I would change, however, is I would cast the kids with non-professional actors and coach them. I think it would play better if these were actually poor children who can sing well but not in a showy/show biz sort of way. It should be genuine and real-- so when the actress does the scene with them, we get a very human almost semi-documentary feel like she is reaching out to encourage their talent. I believe that would still keep it sweet without being too cutesy. 

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Essential: THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949)

 

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Some performances are so good they’re nothing less than masterful. Claude Rains gives such a performance in this film. It’s something that works on more than one level– as an actor connecting with an audience; as an actor following through on what the director and screenwriter intends; and as an actor to be watched by other actors (to see how it can be done).

 

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The film shares thematic similarities with David Lean’s earlier romance drama BRIEF ENCOUNTER. Both productions feature Trevor Howard as the “ideal” lover. Here he’s the heart’s desire of a woman played by Ann Todd (Lean’s real life wife), but she is married to Rains. It’s a triangle with all the usual complications, but it’s not one with a predetermined outcome. Nor is it one that automatically suggests Howard and Todd are the central focus, while Rains is made to play the jealous husband in the background. In fact, it is very much Rains’ picture, with the other two contemplating each other in ways that their fantasy may have a profound, real effect on Rains. Eric Ambler’s screenplay, based on a story by H.G. Wells, makes them all human and Rains just as much a part of the action and the outcome as he should be.

 

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There are several flashbacks that recount the story of how Todd knows Howard, revealing why she may have loved Howard or thought she loved him, but really loves Rains more. Rains is put through torturous paces when finds himself turning to mush around his potentially adulterous wife– a kind of sentimentality and devotion he assumed he was beyond. But while things may seem to spin out of control, there is a smoothness and an assuredness that these are adults who can figure it all out in the end.

 

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Though the film does lead to a sensible romantic conclusion, it keeps pulling us back into a fantasy world with Todd’s character. Her daydreams and her friendship with Howard always seem to signify more, as if she’s on the cusp of experiencing something greater and deeper. By the time she realizes what a mess she’s made of everything– how she’s put her marriage to Rains in jeopardy as well as Howard’s marriage to his wife– she tries to do what is right for each person concerned. In the process, she reaches a near-tragic point, where she is brought back to reality by what she really wanted and needed from the start.

 

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THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS airs occasionally on TCM.

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Essential: ROMEO AND JULIET (1968)

 

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When Franco Zefferelli made this film, he made Shakespeare more accessible to modern audiences. It wasn’t the first cinematic version about the great star-crossed lovers, nor would it be the last, but its timeless qualities set it apart. Primarily remembered for its realistic casting (earlier productions used much older actors to portray the teenaged leads) and remembered for on-location filming in and around Rome, it remains highly regarded nearly fifty years after Paramount first released it.
 

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Critic Roger Ebert called it an exciting adaptation. The opening sequence certainly contains a great deal of excitement and nicely establishes the mood. Immediately we see the youth of two rival Veronese families (the Capulets and Montagues) engaged in a street brawl that has escalated in the blink of an eye from an insult to a sword fight. But the disturbance ends, and our heroic Romeo (Leonard Whiting) makes his entrance in a more subdued and romantic moment. Then we glimpse sweet young Juliet (Olivia Hussey) in her home environment. Even someone with no prior knowledge of the proceedings can figure out they will fall in love.
 

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But the basic scenario is somewhat contrived. We have to ask why in all these years of living in the same small city they never noticed or head about each other before the party scene. And what’s caused their initial love-at-first-sight to be so overpowering is not explained either. Is it because they find something in each other absent within their own families? Of course, the first kiss they share is quite special. Yet it lacks the type of psychological dimension we see in Hamlet, so the tragicness that should be there right from the beginning is largely absent.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-35-21-pm.png


Juliet’s cousin Tybalt is of course the villain of the piece/peace. Though if you think about it, Shakespeare’s need to present a tragedy is what brings the pair to eventual ruin. In the meantime we’re poised to root for the antithesis of happiness, because rooting for this couple and their hysterically dramatic ending is the same as rooting for trouble and misery. Other things work against the text. Romeo and Juliet as literary figures are now so casually a part of our common culture that it’s easy to overlook how extreme and violent their story is. Though one can never overlook the sheer impossibleness of it all– especially after Tybalt’s death.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-37-20-pm.png


Shakespearean scholars may not like to point out the other plot holes– at least in Zefferelli’s telling. For instance, there is no explanation given for Juliet’s sudden decision to marry Paris. Viewers know she cannot marry Paris if she is already wed to Romeo, and she is just going along with the idea to prevent hostilities with her father. But it’s not explained how she convinces her parents she’s changed her mind and is now willing to be Paris’ wife.
 

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Also during the funeral procession at the end, we are not told how Romeo has been forgiven for his crimes. He did take the law into his own hands when he killed Tybalt, and it would keep him from being honorable in the eyes of the prince, even if the Capulets were able to understand why he did it. Then there’s the fact we’re never told much about why the Capulets and the Montagues are feuding in the first place. Is this all just an old-fashioned turf war, or were there other killings in the past that needed to be avenged? The backstory is not at all properly fleshed out.
 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-38-23-pm.png


The crypt scene and the funeral seem kind of rushed to me. Zefferelli spends too much time presenting the courtship and showing the gang activity in the streets (no doubt influenced by WEST SIDE STORY) that he is forced to speed up the the last two acts of the play in order to get everything in before the movie ends. When it’s over, the experience leaves us with a somewhat unoriginal conclusion. I’m not sure if it’s Shakespeare’s main idea or Zefferelli’s that love is forever. And in a fool’s paradise it has the effect of a dagger to the heart.
 

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ROMEO AND JULIET can be streamed as part of the Amazon video service.

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So many questions!

 

OK.

 

First of all, these are sheltered teenagers in a medieval society. Juliet is kinda shy and doesn't get out much. A masquerade ball is her only outing. When not sniffing flowers out in the meadow like Ferdinand the Bull, Romeo is hanging out with the boys.

 

I don't know what the families are fighting over, but Michael York's Tybalt and John McEnery's Mercutio are the two who are obviously undersexed and desperately needing a "release". We don't see Romeo's parents much but they seem too sweet-natured to be involved in any war fare. Juliet's parents have no issue with Romeo attending the ball and Romeo is only "bad" and outlawed after he killed Tybalt (if by accident). Also the friar and nurse are both happy about Romeo and Juliet together and both *think* the parents will eventually approve. Only nobody wants to be honest about the secret marriage ceremony and Tybalt's death throws everything out of wack.

 

Probably the biggest issue is that Paris is the "arranged" husband the parents favor. Juliet only "agrees" to marry him after she has a plan to get what she wants. Isn't this decision made after she talks to the friar with a solution: her fake death?

 

A bigger issue is the very slooooooow mail service by donkey and Leonard Whiting's Romeo sticking to what his teen friend tells him rather than waiting to hear the truth. Those impatient teenagers!!!! They are their own worst enemies. Had that letter explained everything, Romeo wouldn't have poisoned himself with so much gusto.

 

There was quite a bit of criticism at the time for cutting some key lines in the play because the cast was struggling a bit, being very young. Romeo + Juliet which was made almost three decades later with LeonardO (not Leonard) didn't suffer in this way. However that cast was a few years older, mostly in their twenties and thirties. Not as old as Leslie Howard, but a trifle less believable than this version.

 

As far as instant attraction... who can explain that? I mean... juvenile Prince Philip squinted at Aurora in her crib in Disney's Sleeping Beauty but was all gaga when seeing her as a teenager "Briar Rose" frolicking bare-foot with hooty owl, birdies, squirrels and bunnies. Maybe Juliet was just a tyke when he last saw her. Or maybe he was blinded by Mercutio's obsession over him, constantly wanting to know where he is at all times as the jealous gay lover. I get him and Benvolio mixed up. Which dude kept saying it was too hot to keep fussing?

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Essential: ROMEO AND JULIET (1968)

 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-49-14-pm.png

When Franco Zefferelli made this film, he made Shakespeare more accessible to modern audiences. It wasn’t the first cinematic version about the great star-crossed lovers, nor would it be the last, but its timeless qualities set it apart. Primarily remembered for its realistic casting (earlier productions used much older actors to portray the teenaged leads) and remembered for on-location filming in and around Rome, it remains highly regarded nearly fifty years after Paramount first released it.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-45-55-pm1.pn

Critic Roger Ebert called it an exciting adaptation. The opening sequence certainly contains a great deal of excitement and nicely establishes the mood. Immediately we see the youth of two rival Veronese families (the Capulets and Montagues) engaged in a street brawl that has escalated in the blink of an eye from an insult to a sword fight. But the disturbance ends, and our heroic Romeo (Leonard Whiting) makes his entrance in a more subdued and romantic moment. Then we glimpse sweet young Juliette (Olivia Hussey) in her home environment. Even someone with no prior knowledge of the proceedings can figure out they will fall in love.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-35-52-pm.png

But the basic scenario is somewhat contrived. We have to ask why in all these years of living in the same small city they never noticed or head about each other before the party scene. And what’s caused their initial love-at-first-sight to be so overpowering is not explained either. Is it because they find something in each other absent within their own families? Of course, the first kiss they share is quite special. Yet it lacks the type of psychological dimension we see in Hamlet, so the tragicness that should be there right from the beginning is largely absent.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-35-21-pm.png

Juliet’s cousin Tybalt is of course the villain of the piece/peace. Though if you think about it, Shakespeare’s need to present a tragedy is what brings the pair to eventual ruin. In the meantime we’re poised to root for the antithesis of happiness, because rooting for this couple and their hysterically dramatic ending is the same as rooting for trouble and misery. Other things work against the text. Romeo and Juliette as literary figures are now so casually a part of our common culture that it’s easy to overlook how extreme and violent their story is. Though one can never overlook the sheer impossibleness of it all– especially after Tybalt’s death.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-37-20-pm.png

Shakespearean scholars may not like to point out the other plot holes– at least in Zefferelli’s telling. For instance, there is no explanation given for Juliet’s sudden decision to marry Paris. Viewers know she cannot marry Paris if she is already wed to Romeo, and she is just going along with the idea to prevent hostilities with her father. But it’s not explained how she convinces her parents she’s changed her mind and is now willing to be Paris’ wife.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-8-25-58-am.png

Also during the funeral procession at the end, we are not told how Romeo has been forgiven for his crimes. He did take the law into his own hands when he killed Tybalt, and it would keep him from being honorable in the eyes of the prince, even if the Capulets were able to understand why he did it. Then there’s the fact we’re never told much about why the Capulets and the Montagues are feuding in the first place. Is this all just an old-fashioned turf war, or were there other killings in the past that needed to be avenged? The backstory is not at all properly fleshed out.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-38-23-pm.png

The crypt scene and the funeral seem kind of rushed to me. Zefferelli spends too much time presenting the courtship and showing the gang activity in the streets (no doubt influenced by WEST SIDE STORY) that he is forced to speed up the the last two acts of the play in order to get everything in before the movie ends. When it’s over, the experience leaves us with a somewhat unoriginal conclusion. I’m not sure if it’s Shakespeare’s main idea or Zefferelli’s that love is forever. And in a fool’s paradise it has the effect of a dagger to the heart.

 

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-8-27-22-am.png

ROMEO AND JULIET can be streamed as part of the Amazon video service.

 

Franco Zefferelli's "Romeo and Juliet" - wild, uncontrollable, tragic - the very essence of young YOUNG love.

 

Romeo -

 

"O blessed, blessed night!  I am afeard

Being in night, all this is but a dream,

Too flattering-sweet to be substantial."

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Franco Zefferelli's "Romeo and Juliet" - wild, uncontrollable, tragic - the very essence of young YOUNG love.

 

Romeo -

 

"O blessed, blessed night!  I am afeard

Being in night, all this is but a dream,

Too flattering-sweet to be substantial."

 

Plus it was the swinging sixties. Everybody did stuff with passion, spelled with a capital "P". This was sandwiched between The Graduate ("Elaine!!!!!!" "What's that guy doing?!?" "He's too late!") and the 1969 combo of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (and I still crack up with Eliott Gould's mouth full of nuts when he admits to his "affair") and Goodbye Columbus (i.e. Richard Benjamin just had to use HER shower afterwards).

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So many questions!

 

OK.

 

First of all, these are sheltered teenagers in a medieval society. Juliet is kinda shy and doesn't get out much. A masquerade ball is her only outing. When not sniffing flowers out in the meadow like Ferdinand the Bull, Romeo is hanging out with the boys.

 

I don't know what the families are fighting over, but Michael York's Tybalt and John McEnery's Mercutio are the two who are obviously undersexed and desperately needing a "release". We don't see Romeo's parents much but they seem too sweet-natured to be involved in any war fare. Juliet's parents have no issue with Romeo attending the ball and Romeo is only "bad" and outlawed after he killed Tybalt (if by accident). Also the friar and nurse are both happy about Romeo and Juliet together and both *think* the parents will eventually approve. Only nobody wants to be honest about the secret marriage ceremony and Tybalt's death throws everything out of wack.

 

Probably the biggest issue is that Paris is the "arranged" husband the parents favor. Juliet only "agrees" to marry him after she has a plan to get what she wants. Isn't this decision made after she talks to the friar with a solution: her fake death?

 

A bigger issue is the very slooooooow mail service by donkey and Leonard Whiting's Romeo sticking to what his teen friend tells him rather than waiting to hear the truth. Those impatient teenagers!!!! They are their own worst enemies. Had that letter explained everything, Romeo wouldn't have poisoned himself with so much gusto.

 

There was quite a bit of criticism at the time for cutting some key lines in the play because the cast was struggling a bit, being very young. Romeo + Juliet which was made almost three decades later with LeonardO (not not Leonard) didn't suffer in this way. However that cast was a few years older, mostly in their twenties and thirties. Not as old as Leslie Howard, but a trifle less believable than this version.

 

As far as instant attraction... who can explain that? I mean... juvenile Prince Philip squinted at Aurora in her crib in Disney's Sleeping Beauty but was all gaga when seeing her as a teenager "Briar Rose" frolicking bare-foot with hooty owl, birdies, squirrels and bunnies. Maybe Juliet was just a tyke when he last saw her. Or maybe he was blinded by Mercutio's obsession over him, constantly wanting to know where he is at all times as the jealous gay lover. I get him and Benvolio mixed up. Which dude kept saying it was too hot to keep fussing?

 

I didn't have a problem with them cutting certain lines and using more close-ups and short takes with the leads. But I do think Zefferelli condensed too much of the final acts so the whole thing is kind of off-balance. It's very slow and leisurely during the first hour and a half, then the last 38 minutes after the marriage, he has to hurry and get to the crypt scene. So it doesn't flow like it should. 

 

I don't think Zefferelli is really using the lighting or camera angles to suggest any psychological complexities with the leads, which he should do. If Olivier or Welles had filmed it, we would have seen the darker aspects of this forbidden love. Instead Zefferelli relies heavily on the fresh-faced cast, the costumes and the soaring music. 

 

I almost find Tybalt the most interesting character in this version. He's edgier and a lot more complex than everyone else. But after his death, there's a scene where the nurse is crying and says he was her best friend. Nothing earlier in the movie suggested they had any sort of real relationship.

 

I can buy Juliet being sheltered if she had an affliction-- like a speech impediment, a clubfoot or if she was agoraphobic. But this is a very wealthy family in a small city and they would have been riding in the streets to concerts and to church, and she would have been out of the house more and would at least have heard about Romeo who was her same age. Having them meet as strangers is just highly improbable.

 

As for marrying Paris, we know she's already wed to Romeo and cannot commit bigamy, and she comes up with a plan to avoid the second marriage. But we still need to see how she convinces her father she is now amenable to being Paris' wife. We go from a scene with her being defiant and the father screaming at her, to her suddenly having agreed. It's too much of a jump forward to be believable. She should really be agonizing about going behind her parents' backs and realizing she has to deceive her father. But we get none of that because Zefferelli is trying to rush to the crypt scene.

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I did not catch the nurse comment on Tybalt being a friend. Yes, we only have the earlier shot of her asking him to identify Romeo at the ball to go by. It could be that everybody got along with Tybalt in that family. Yet Juliet's parents already know he is high strung though.

 

Obviously the families had a LOT of rage between them, but we the viewers know little about it. Especially when Juliet learns that her lover is from the family she is supposed to hate. Also the way her mommy goes into rage after Tybalt's death. Again, I don't get the impression that HIS parents are as war-like as HERS especially with HIS Mommy relieved that he was not involved in a fight early in the movie.

 

I agree that there are some loop holes in the material.

 

However I didn't see the last portion was too rushed, although Romeo is too rushed like Speedy Gonzales. But... that is teenagers for you. "Fools rush in..."

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I didn't have a problem with them cutting certain lines and using more close-ups and short takes with the leads. But I do think Zefferelli condensed too much of the final acts so the whole thing is kind of off-balance. It's very slow and leisurely during the first hour and a half, then the last 38 minutes after the marriage, he has to hurry and get to the crypt scene. So it doesn't flow like it should. 

 

I don't think Zefferelli is really using the lighting or camera angles to suggest any psychological complexities with the leads, which he should do. If Olivier or Welles had filmed it, we would have seen the darker aspects of this forbidden love. Instead Zefferelli relies heavily on the fresh-faced cast, the costumes and the soaring music. 

 

I almost find Tybalt the most interesting character in this version. He's edgier and a lot more complex than everyone else. But after his death, there's a scene where the nurse is crying and says he was her best friend. Nothing earlier in the movie suggested they had any sort of real relationship.

 

I can buy Juliet being sheltered if she had an affliction-- like a speech impediment, a clubfoot or if she was agoraphobic. But this is a very wealthy family in a small city and they would have been riding in the streets to concerts and to church, and she would have been out of the house more and would at least have heard about Romeo who was her same age. Having them meet as strangers is just highly improbable.

 

As for marrying Paris, we know she's already wed to Romeo and cannot commit bigamy, and she comes up with a plan to avoid the second marriage. But we still need to see how she convinces her father she is now amenable to being Paris' wife. We go from a scene with her being defiant and the father screaming at her, to her suddenly having agreed. It's too much of a jump forward to be believable. She should really be agonizing about going behind her parents' backs and realizing she has to deceive her father. But we get none of that because Zefferelli is trying to rush to the crypt scene.

The original script by Mr. William Shakespeare was drastically cut, because the two lead actors were not seasoned professionals.

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The original script by Mr. William Shakespeare was drastically cut, because the two lead actors were not seasoned professionals.

 

Yes they lacked experience (which is something you get in spades with Shearer and Howard). In some ways this version seems almost like a Love poem to Whiting by Zefferelli. A lot of Juliet's stuff seems to be cut, but not Romeo's. And the morning after bed scene lingers on Whiting's derriere, whereas with a heterosexual director, I think the emphasis would have been on Hussey's nude body. So at points this seems like ROMEO FEATURING JULIET instead of ROMEO AND JULIET.

 

I did not catch the nurse comment on Tybalt being a friend. Yes, we only have the earlier shot of her asking him to identify Romeo at the ball to go by. It could be that everybody got along with Tybalt in that family. Yet Juliet's parents already know he is high strung though.

 

Obviously the families had a LOT of rage between them, but we the viewers know little about it. Especially when Juliet learns that her lover is from the family she is supposed to hate. Also the way her mommy goes into rage after Tybalt's death. Again, I don't get the impression that HIS parents are as war-like as HERS especially with HIS Mommy relieved that he was not involved in a fight early in the movie.

 

I agree that there are some loop holes in the material.

 

However I didn't see the last portion was too rushed, although Romeo is too rushed like Speedy Gonzales. But... that is teenagers for you. "Fools rush in..."

 

Maybe his being so high strung is what makes Tybalt the more interesting character in my opinion. But I almost wanted him to be more evil, more dangerous. We should have seen him kill someone in the opening sequence and get away with it, so when the later scene occurs, we know what a destructive force Tybalt really is and the subsequent deaths have been better foreshadowed. 

 

I don't think the feud between the families is all about Tybalt and the Montague boys. These lads have learned their hatred from their fathers and grandfathers. We need to know more about the history of war between the rival families. This should be more than just boys on the street having brawls. Every new argument is based on the long-standing issue that keeps dividing them and necessitates the prince to keep an eye on them and intervene where necessary.

 

Probably the reason Romeo's parents are not shown as much is because the actor who played Lord Montague had a thick Italian accent. Supposedly Olivier dubbed his dialogue, and for all we know, Zefferelli might have cut material that featured him to save on the process of re-recording all his dialogue. But I agree we need to see him more and we really should have some sort of scene with the fathers earlier in the movie, where maybe they try to bury the hatchet and they fail, which sends Tybalt back out to the streets on his crusade. Zefferelli could have expanded the story in key areas to give us a deeper understanding of the contentiousness between the families and how that dooms the young lovers even more.

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Yes they lacked experience (which is something you get in spades with Shearer and Howard). In some ways this version seems almost like a Love poem to Whiting by Zefferelli. A lot of Juliet's stuff seems to be cut, but not Romeo's. And the morning after bed scene lingers on Whiting's derriere, whereas with a heterosexual director, I think the emphasis would have been on Hussey's nude body. So at points this seems like ROMEO FEATURING JULIET instead of ROMEO AND JULIET.

 

 

Maybe his being so high strung is what makes Tybalt the more interesting character in my opinion. But I almost wanted him to be more evil, more dangerous. We should have seen him kill someone in the opening sequence and get away with it, so when the later scene occurs, we know what a destructive force Tybalt really is and the subsequent deaths have been better foreshadowed. 

 

I don't think the feud between the families is all about Tybalt and the Montague boys. These lads have learned their hatred from their fathers and grandfathers. We need to know more about the history of war between the rival families. This should be more than just boys on the street having brawls. Every new argument is based on the long-standing issue that keeps dividing them and necessitates the prince to keep an eye on them and intervene where necessary.

 

Probably the reason Romeo's parents are not shown as much is because the actor who played Lord Montague had a thick Italian accent. Supposedly Olivier dubbed his dialogue, and for all we know, Zefferelli might have cut material that featured him to save on the process of re-recording all his dialogue. But I agree we need to see him more and we really should have some sort of scene with the fathers earlier in the movie, where maybe they try to bury the hatchet and they fail, which sends Tybalt back out to the streets on his crusade. Zefferelli could have expanded the story in key areas to give us a deeper understanding of the contentiousness between the families and how that dooms the young lovers even more.

 

Leonard's bottom exposure was partly due to the director's gay infatuation (although nothing happened between the two off camera), but that was the trend in American and European movies at the time. This was the era when Charlton Heston and Burt Lancaster were unashamedly exposing their bottoms on screen as well. Full frontal male nudity only officially arrived (outside of Time Square porn) when Warhol's Flesh opened in cities outside of New York (September 1968) and not officially in a studio-backed release, Medium Cool. (That being released after the Swedish import, I Am Curious, Yellow which was responsible for opening the flood gates after being confiscated by U.S. Customs in January 1968 and much legal red tape before getting a legitimate release in March 1969.)

 

Also Olivia, whose breasts are shown fleetingly, was more "under aged" than Leonard so they had to be more cautious in how they depicted her on screen.

 

I completely agree about the fathers and grandfathers starting all of the warfare. There are moments when Tybalt seems to be operating on orders rather than personal animosity. The only problem showing him killing somebody early in the movie would be that it would have to factor as an extra in the "he killed Mercutio" excuse later.

 

Being an Italian production, a lot of dialogue was recorded later, so Olivier's contributions were no big deal. The original LP does not have original soundtrack dialogue but alternate recordings with the exact same cast.

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Honestly, it is not that solid a piece of dramaturgy.

 

It is quite "contrived".

 

And, yet it endures, I think, as a testament to the glorious impetuousness of young love.

 

The type of love that is already "doomed".

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Honestly, it is not that solid a piece of dramaturgy.

 

It is quite "contrived".

 

And, yet it endures, I think, as a testament to the glorious impetuousness of young love.

 

The type of love that is already "doomed".

 

Good point. I'm glad I watched it again recently and reviewed it. I remember the first time I saw it was in a high school Shakespeare class in the late 80s, on VHS! 

 

Now that I have finished with the classic love stories theme, I am going to look at different types of films next month. In March I will be focusing on several James Bond films starring Roger Moore. I just love Moore and feel like he needs a bit of honoring. And I've never seen his very first movie as 007, so I am eager to review it plus three more in the weeks ahead!

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In regards to ROMEO FEATURING JULIET, this is really more his film than hers anyway. I recall reading that Zefferelli's interest in him had more to do with his very photogenic face than his rear end, although the camera does linger there too. Olivia does a good job but I favor her later work in several prominent seventies and eighties successes (like playing Mary in Jesus of Nazareth). Leonard was sadly a "has-been" within five years after this film's success, although he attempted a music career.

 

Yet it isn't his looks that are important in keeping you focused on him. He has a very broad range of facial expressions. My "vibe" is that Leonard the actor was more "into" actress Olivia than she was "into" him. He puts a lot of raw emotion in that crypt scene and, unfortunately, her "happy dagger" speech comes off a trifle less motivated. Also her hysterical scenes with her parents earlier seem less about Romeo than just mommy and daddy's authority issues.

 

Leonard's "In what vile part of this anatomy" scene is so raw that you momentarily think he may kill himself on the spot if Milo O'Shea's friar doesn't stop him. In fact, this scene is great foreshadowing of what is to come: the friar failing to stop the eventual suicide. He succeeds in talking Romeo out of it in his quarters earlier, but the sight of the opened crypt prompts a scared-white expression on Milo's face. This works well on screen because Leonard pulls it off successfully as a 17 year old with feelings rather than a 17 year old with limited Shakespearean experience.

 

They may not have been lovers off screen, but they remained good friends. Here they are shortly after filming wrapped in October 25, 1967:

 

 

 

Then in December 6, 2016

 

 

 

 

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I kind of felt Whiting was over-acting in spots-- really trying to get the pathos across by overdoing the expressions and vocal inflections. Hussey was a lot more subdued (except for when she and the father were arguing). Then we have the supporting cast-- some of them shouted their lines in dramatic scenes, which seemed like they were acting as if they were still on stage, instead of on a movie set near a boom mic. But since almost all of the dialogue was redubbed and they did their lines again in a sound recording booth there is no need for them to be shouting so much of the dialogue.

 

Another reason Whiting and some of the supporting cast might have been at high voltage was this was a big break for them career-wise and I'm sure they were trying to be powerful and make a major impression. But Zefferelli should have reigned them in more.

 

I wonder how this story would be told if it had a strong female director. I think it does need to be presented more from the female perspective, especially the balcony scene and the bedroom scene-- and a woman guiding it behind the camera might give the story the balance it deserves.

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I agree with much of what you say, but I am in the same boat with rayban here. I don't get fussy about all of the flaws. I just enjoy it for what it is. Also that second video posted below has one fan loving it more than any other Shakespeare movie and you can read comments by fans saying they have seen it 20 times. That may be a good 18 or so more than you can stomach, Topbilled. Ha ha!

 

It is also a fun relic of Paramount film history too. That music by Nino Rota is so relentlessly repetitive, but like his Godfather scores, you can't get it out of your head. Amusingly when Robert Evans's wife proved a success in Goodbye Columbus, he had to make a composite of both that movie and this movie. Wallah! We got Love Story with music not quite as addictive, but additive enough.

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