Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Puppets Perform The Taming of the Shrew in Forty-Eight Seconds

The Taming of the Shrew. Dir. Sam Taylor. Perf. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. 1929. DVD. Aikman Archive, 2005.

The first full-length talkie Shakespeare film was Sam Taylor's The Taming of the Shrew. [Note: Later in film history, a different Taylor would make her name associated with the play.]

It opens with a slapstick, Punch-and-Judy-type puppet show which may serve to foreshadow the slapstick of the rest of the film. The rest of the film does have a lot of slapstick in it, as well as the arguably-cruel treatment by Petruchio of Katherine, and this opening takes some of the punch out of it. The puppet show invites us to take the rest of the film in the same vein—comic, cartoony exaggeration.

But it also invites us to consider whether a streamlined Shrew—a version of Taming stripped of all but the barest of bare essentials—would be in any way satisfactory. If this is all there is to the drama, why not get it over with in the forty-eight seconds it takes for the puppets to fall in love?

The answer is that there's much more depth to consider—and that's true even of Sam Taylor's sixty-three minute version of the play.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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