The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Elizabeth Taylor is fantastic in this odd adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays. It certainly doesn’t reach the heights director Franco Zeffirelli reached in his excellent “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation.

“The Taming of the Shrew” has such controversial gender politics that I feel hewing closer to the text itself is key. In the actual play as written, the affairs of Petruchio and Katharina are a fictional play-within-a-play put on ostensibly to mock and misguide a fool drunkard. It’s highly doubtful it was actually intended as a model of aspirational behaviour.

Yet the ad campaign for this film included posters with taglines like “A motion picture for every man who ever gave the back of his hand to his beloved…and for every woman who deserved it” and “In the war between the sexes, there always comes a time for unconditional surrender”. Not only do I feel it’s a misreading of Shakespeare’s play, I think the apparent alignment of the creators of the film with the troublesome gender politics within it disturbing.

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As for the film itself, it’s well-made, with some fine performances. Elizabeth Taylor really is great in it, and she’s not alone. Most setpieces are staged with a good sense of fun and energy. Makes for entertaining viewing.

Overall, I dislike the film as an adaptation, but it has a lot of its own merits, not the least of which is Elizabeth Taylor. I give it two daughters, and a dated tagline.

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