Romeo and Juliet (1937)

120, 127 or 130 mins | Romance | 16 April 1937

Director:

George Cukor

Producer:

Irving G. Thalberg

Cinematographer:

William Daniels

Editor:

Margaret Booth

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

According to a DV pre-release news item, the Aug 1936 world premiere of this picture in New York was to be followed by a prestigious opening in Stratford-on-Avon, England. A Nov 1935 DV news item notes that production on the picture was held up due to casting difficulties for the part of "Romeo." The article notes that "practically all available players in Hollywood have been tested" for the part, though none were acceptable to producer Irving Thalberg. Contemporary news items and modern sources indicate that actors Robert Montgomery, Brian Aherne, Clark Gable, Robert Donat, Laurence Olivier, Franchot Tone and Robert Taylor were among those considered for the part of "Romeo." A HR pre-release news item notes that at one point, Robert Taylor had been named as the studio's second choice for the lead in the event that its deal with Warner Bros., in which Montgomery and other unnamed M-G-M actors were "traded" for Warner Bros. stars Paul Muni and Leslie Howard, fell through. News items also note that Maurice Murphy replaced William Henry as "Balthasar," and Henry Daniell, who was originally set for the part of "Paris," was given the part of "Benvolio" and was then replaced by Reginald Denny. Romeo and Juliet was the final film of former silent film matinee idol Conway Tearle (1878--1938).
       According to HR , M-G-M planned to shoot the entire picture twice to "ensure that they got the most out of the production." The two-part filming, which was said to be the first time that a studio employed such a technique, involved the shooting of the players' ... More Less

According to a DV pre-release news item, the Aug 1936 world premiere of this picture in New York was to be followed by a prestigious opening in Stratford-on-Avon, England. A Nov 1935 DV news item notes that production on the picture was held up due to casting difficulties for the part of "Romeo." The article notes that "practically all available players in Hollywood have been tested" for the part, though none were acceptable to producer Irving Thalberg. Contemporary news items and modern sources indicate that actors Robert Montgomery, Brian Aherne, Clark Gable, Robert Donat, Laurence Olivier, Franchot Tone and Robert Taylor were among those considered for the part of "Romeo." A HR pre-release news item notes that at one point, Robert Taylor had been named as the studio's second choice for the lead in the event that its deal with Warner Bros., in which Montgomery and other unnamed M-G-M actors were "traded" for Warner Bros. stars Paul Muni and Leslie Howard, fell through. News items also note that Maurice Murphy replaced William Henry as "Balthasar," and Henry Daniell, who was originally set for the part of "Paris," was given the part of "Benvolio" and was then replaced by Reginald Denny. Romeo and Juliet was the final film of former silent film matinee idol Conway Tearle (1878--1938).
       According to HR , M-G-M planned to shoot the entire picture twice to "ensure that they got the most out of the production." The two-part filming, which was said to be the first time that a studio employed such a technique, involved the shooting of the players' rehearsals against a black backdrop in addition to the conventional filming.
       HR and NYT news items noted that John Mansfield and Cyril Hume took writing assignments on the film, and that conductor Wilhelm von Wymetal was assigned to "handle the operatic sequence," but their contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. HR production charts and pre-release news items list actors John Bryan, Jeanne Hart, Rodney Bell, Adrian Rosley, Vernon Downing, Gertrude Astor, Dorothy Granger, Anthony Marsh, Madeline Talcott, Howard Wilson, Charles Albin and Francis X. Bushman, Jr. in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Francis X. Bushman, Jr. (also known as Ralph Bushman) was the son of actor Francis X. Bushman, who played "Romeo" in Metro Pictures Corp.'s 1916 version of Romeo and Juliet . John Bryan, a professional Shakespearean actor, was originally announced for the part of "Friar John," and Anthony Marsh, an "amateur" player, was announced for the bit role of "Mecutio's page." HR also notes that Dr. W. W. Dearborn , a chiropractor who received his first bit role in The Great Ziegfeld , was set for a speaking part in the film. According to a MPH news item, M-G-M's research department spent two years gathering background material for the film, which included the dispatching of a technical crew to photograph parts of Verona, Italy. A NYT article indicates that M-G-M reconstructed Verona's Church of San Zeno on eight acres of the studio's backlot, and that three replicas of "Juliet's" famous balcony were built so that the cameramen could get all the camera angles they wanted without having to use a crane. A HR pre-release news item notes that Leslie Howard was advised by a doctor to take a convalescent cruise following the completetion of his work on the film. Howard was absent from the set twice during production, once when he fell ill, and again after he was injured while filming a duel scene. A NYT article notes that "casting wizard" William Grady was responsible for the casting of 2,000 extras, 900 of whom had appeared in previous Shakespeare productions. The NYT article also indicates that James Vincent, stage actress Katherine Cornell's stage manager, was "engaged in an advisory capacity." According to an unidentified source in the AMPAS production file for the 1932 M-G-M film Blondie of the Follies , newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst banned Norma Shearer's name from his newspapers because he thought that Marion Davies, his longtime friend and protegée, should have beat out Shearer (Thalberg's wife) for the part of Juliet. A biography of director George Cukor notes that art director Cedric Gibbons often feuded with his collaborator, Oliver Messel. Messel and Gibbons, according to HR , were embroiled in a "great credit battle" over the designs for the film until Thalberg designated Gibbons as the official "designer of sets" and put Messel in charge of the costumes with Adrian.
       The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a letter sent from PCA official Joseph I. Breen to Irving Thalberg, dated 20 Dec 1935, in which Breen, after viewing some of the early footage of the film, told Thalberg that "the present manner of playing this bedroom scene is highly inadvisable. In the first place, it seems to us that any attempt to inject anything approaching a 'hot' bedroom scene into a Shakespeare classic would be a serious mistake." Breen suggested that Thalberg "omit all the action of them [Romeo and Juliet] lying on the bed, fondling one another in a horizontal position, and pulling one another down." The PCA files also note that censors in Spain deleted the following dialogue from the film: Juliet: "Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day. It was a nightingale, and not a lark that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear. Nightly she sings on yon pomegrante tree. Believe me, love, it was the nightingale." Romeo: "It was the lark, the herald of the morn, no nightingale. Look." In addition, censors in Japan deleted a number of kissing scenes; censors in Alberta ordered the shortening of the stabbing in "Juliet's" death scene; and censors in Java deleted all of "Juliet's" suicide scene. Romeo and Juliet was rejected in its entirety by the German censors.
       Many films and televised programs have been based on or inspired by Shakespeare's play, including: the 1916 Fox film Romeo and Juliet , directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara and Harry Hilliard; Metro Pictures Corp.'s 1916 film Romeo and Juliet , directed by John W. Noble and starring Francis X. Bushman and Beverly Bayne (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3772 and F1.3773); West Side Story , a 1961 United Artists film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer; the 1964 Italian-Spanish co-production, Guiletta e Romeo , directed by Riccardo Freda and starring Gerald Meynier and Rosemarie Dexter; the 1968 Italian-British co-production, Romeo and Juliet , directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6. 5499, F6.4150 and F6.4150a); the Bolshoi Ballet's production of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet , which starred Mikhail Lavrovsk and Natalia Bessmertnova and aired on the CBS television network on 27 Jun 1976; and the BBC-produced Romeo and Juliet teleplay, directed by Alvin Rakoff and starring Patrick Ryecart and Rebecca Saire, which aired on the PBS network on 14 Mar 1979. The 1929 M-G-M musical revue entitled The Hollywood Revue of 1929 featured Norma Shearer and John Gilbert performing a Technicolor skit in which they acted out the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2553). Romeo and Juliet was named as one of the ten best pictures of 1937 by the FD nationwide film critics poll, and received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Actress (Norma Shearer); Best Supporting Actor (Basil Rathbone); and Best Interior Decoration. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Nov 35
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Nov 35
p. 1
Daily Variety
16 Jul 36
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Jul 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Jul 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 35
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 35
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 35
p. 3, 6
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 35
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 36
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 36
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 36
p. 4, 10
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 36
p. 2, 4
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 36
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 36
p. 3, 18
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 36
p. 8, 10
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 36
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 36
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 36
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 36
pp. 4-5.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 37
Sect II, p. 119.
Motion Picture Daily
16 Jul 36
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald
28 Mar 36
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Jul 36
p. 48.
MPSI
1 Jan 37
p. 7.
New York Times
20 Oct 1935.
---
New York Times
22 Dec 1935.
---
New York Times
19 Apr 1936.
---
New York Times
15 May 36
p. 24.
New York Times
21 Aug 36
p. 12.
New York Times
3 Jan 1937.
---
Variety
26 Aug 36
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Arr for the screen by
Literary consultant
Literary consultant
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Settings
Settings
[Art] assoc
[Art] assoc
Artistic consultant
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
DANCE
Dance dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv on church seq
Created and staged duels and sword fights
Press representative
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (London, ca. 1596, published 1597).
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 April 1937
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 20 August 1936
Production Date:
26 December 1935--mid April 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 September 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6642
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
120, 127 or 130
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2216
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Verona, Italy, during the Middle Ages, the feuding between the Capulet and Montague clans, which has been a tradition for many generations, continues when members of the Capulet family quarrel with the Montagues in the town square and engage in a sword fight. One day, Juliet, a Capulet, consents to meet Paris, whom her mother wishes her to marry, at a banquet. Meanwhile, Romeo, a Montague, who has been spurned by his love Rosaline, is advised by his friends, Mercutio and Benvolio, to seek another sweetheart and forget Rosaline. When Romeo receives an invitation to the Capulet ball, he decides to forgo the event, but changes his mind when he learns that Rosaline is expected to attend. At the party, Romeo's attentions turn away from Rosaline as soon as he takes notice of Juliet. Romeo and Juliet instantly fall in love and seal their love with a kiss. No sooner does Romeo find a new sweetheart, however, than he discovers that Juliet is a Capulet. When Juliet learns that Romeo is a Montague, she retires to her balcony, where she sadly contemplates her misfortune. Romeo, who has been hiding in the shadows of Juliet's garden, overhears her calling out his name and emerges to profess his love for her. Juliet then asks Romeo to marry her, and they agree to wed the next day. After arranging a clandestine wedding at Friar Laurence's cell, Romeo sends a message to Juliet by way of her nurse. At the same time, Tybalt, Lady Capulet's hotblooded nephew, becomes angry at Romeo's involvement with Juliet and challenges him to a duel. Romeo, ... +


In Verona, Italy, during the Middle Ages, the feuding between the Capulet and Montague clans, which has been a tradition for many generations, continues when members of the Capulet family quarrel with the Montagues in the town square and engage in a sword fight. One day, Juliet, a Capulet, consents to meet Paris, whom her mother wishes her to marry, at a banquet. Meanwhile, Romeo, a Montague, who has been spurned by his love Rosaline, is advised by his friends, Mercutio and Benvolio, to seek another sweetheart and forget Rosaline. When Romeo receives an invitation to the Capulet ball, he decides to forgo the event, but changes his mind when he learns that Rosaline is expected to attend. At the party, Romeo's attentions turn away from Rosaline as soon as he takes notice of Juliet. Romeo and Juliet instantly fall in love and seal their love with a kiss. No sooner does Romeo find a new sweetheart, however, than he discovers that Juliet is a Capulet. When Juliet learns that Romeo is a Montague, she retires to her balcony, where she sadly contemplates her misfortune. Romeo, who has been hiding in the shadows of Juliet's garden, overhears her calling out his name and emerges to profess his love for her. Juliet then asks Romeo to marry her, and they agree to wed the next day. After arranging a clandestine wedding at Friar Laurence's cell, Romeo sends a message to Juliet by way of her nurse. At the same time, Tybalt, Lady Capulet's hotblooded nephew, becomes angry at Romeo's involvement with Juliet and challenges him to a duel. Romeo, however, is too much in love to respond to Tybalt's threats and decides not to fight. Mercutio, on the other hand, believes that Romeo has sacrificed his honor by not defending himself against Tybalt, and fights Tybalt himself. Mercutio is killed in the ensuing battle. When Romeo learns of Mercutio's death, he becomes incensed and demands a duel with Tybalt. Tybalt dies by Romeo's sword, and Romeo is forced to take refuge at Friar Laurence's cell, where he learns that a proclamation has been issued ordering his banishment. While waiting for Romeo to meet her at her balcony, Juliet is informed by her nurse of Tybalt's death and of Romeo's exile. Despite the tragic death of her cousin, Juliet proves her unwavering love for Romeo when she allows him onto her balcony for one last reunion. Following Romeo's hasty departure, Lady Capulet enters Juliet's room and believes that her daughter's tears are for Tybalt. When Juliet's mother sends her to speak with her father, he offers her no comfort and insists that she marry Paris. Juliet pleads with her father to reconsider his demand, but he threatens her with banishment if she refuses to abide by his order. Desperate, Juliet seeks the advice of Friar Laurence, who suggests that she take a potion that will make her appear dead for forty-two hours. Although the friar sends a message to Romeo informing him of Juliet's feigned death, the message is never delivered to him because the messenger, Friar John, is quarantined when he comes into contact with the pestilence. Meanwhile, as the Capulets prepare for Juliet's wedding banquet, Juliet's nurse discovers Juliet, apparently dead, and relates the news to her family. Romeo is devastated by the news of Juliet's death and decides to join Juliet in her grave. When Friar Laurence discovers that his message to Romeo was never delivered, he hastens to the Capulet family tomb to prevent Romeo's suicide. Just before he drinks a poisoned potion, Romeo is challenged by Paris to a sword fight, and Paris is slain. Friar Laurence arrives at the tomb moments after Romeo has taken his poison. When Juliet awakens, she learns of Romeo's suicide and, grief-stricken, stabs herself with Romeo's dagger. Following the tragic death of the "star-crossed lovers," the Capulets and the Montagues admit their complicity in the tragedy and at last end their feud. +

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