Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Romeo and Juliet (1968), directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

After warming up with the funny and frantic The Taming of the Shrew (1967) (thank Burton and Taylor for giving him the job) Zeffirelli continues with Italian Renaissance Shakespeare, notable this time for using teen leads more closely matching the original play. By comparison, Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer were 43 and 34 in Romeo and Juliet (1936).

Pioneering modern movie Shakespeare, Zeffirelli's great strength is in the intelligibility of the story. The lines make sense even if the wording might be obscure in print. Wisely, he is willing to show rather than tell and trim long speeches as needed.

Olivia Hussey is the shining star here: "she doth teach the torches to burn bright". Her reaction in the first balcony scene is the best I have seen. He: "O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?" She: "What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?" (He saves it with a good come-back). On the downside: her dubbed in moans and sobs are excessive.

The famous poster was suggestive: she is halfway down his chest with the implication that she might be sliding down farther, which wasn't allowed in 1968:


Score by Nino Rota. The lyrics are not from the play. As with Michel Legrand's music for Summer of '42 (1971) the love theme was so popular that everyone became sick of it eventually.

Available on Blu-ray. Image quality is only fair, but that may be limited by the film source.