This beautiful version of the Veronese love story was by far the most successful at the box office, although Zeffirelli took a huge chance casting two unknowns in the leads. Whiting was 17 and Hussey was 15, the closest any screen actors have actually come to the ages of the characters.
It's a visually stunning adaptation with much action, broad humor, and eroticism. The Italian director had made THE TAMING OF THE SHREW the year before with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Although that film was not a big hit, his backers felt that his assured direction merited another
attempt at Shakespeare, and the project was filmed in Tuscany at Pienza, Gubbio, Artena, and in the palace once owned by the Borgias. In order to take the onus off the relatively inexperienced leads, Zeffirelli trimmed some of the longer speeches, used reaction shots to break matters up, and gave
the actors bits of business to do so they wouldn't seem like talking heads. That technique was successful, although both leads did betray their youth on several occasions. Major excisions in the text include, unforgivably, Juliet's potion speech. Laurence Olivier was around to lend his mellifluous
voice as a narrator, a definite plus, but the director is the true star here as he gives us rousing crowd scenes, vicious fights, and a brief nude scene. The sets are magnificent, the supporting actors excellent, and the costumes attractive enough to warrant an Oscar for Donati, beating out
another period piece that year, OLIVER!
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- Rating: PG
- Review: This beautiful version of the Veronese love story was by far the most successful at the box office, although Zeffirelli took a huge chance casting two unknowns in the leads. Whiting was 17 and Hussey was 15, the closest any screen actors have actually come… (more)