ROMEO AND JULIET
Produced and Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Premiered: August 20, 1936 (Astor Theatre, New York)
Released: April 16, 1937
Featured cast: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Edna May Oliver
Producer: Irving Thalberg
Director: George Cukor
Screenwriters: Talbot Jennings; William Strunk Jr., John Murray Tucker (Literary consultants)
Source: the play by William Shakespeare
Cinematographer: William Daniels
A boy and girl, each from a feuding family in Verona, defy their parents and marry secretly.
“Leslie Howard, not Brian Aherne (as this space urged), will play Romeo to Norma Shearer's Juliet. This proves the extent of our influence with Irving Thalberg."
- Red Kann, Motion Picture Daily, November 1, 1935
Note: After rehearsing for months with Shearer, Brian Aherne suddenly decided not to take the role.
“Even the most acidulous admit Miss Shearer's Juliet to be a triumph, and garland Leslie Howard for a curbed and disciplined performance of Romeo. Skilled performances, knowing delivery of the famous lines, an acute sense that cheers would be grudged, jeers easy, combine to set alight the talents of all concerned.”
- The Literary Digest, August 15, 1936
“With rare good taste and surprising resourcefulness the screen has translated Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet into a distinguished and beautiful photoplay. The acting, always effective, rises at times to genuine brilliance. Miss Shearer is remarkably good. She is inclined to coyness at the start, but from the balcony scene on she plays with simple intensity and profound assurance. In her most ambitious role, she does the finest acting of her career."
- Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune, August 21, 1936
“The picture clearly belongs to Norma Shearer as Juliet. Actually and for once, we see a Juliet who is a girl. Miss Shearer never seems desperate, and though her eyes well so richly with tears, she seems hardly terrified or tragic, never inelegantly tense. Her first encounter with Romeo is a delightful scene. . . . I think the studio has been overwhelmed by Shakespeare, and has rendered the film somewhat cumbersome, removed the possibilities of something fresh and exciting. This is a good sensible presentation of Romeo and Juliet. But it won't be one you'll hark to when you are discussing the movies as a great art."
- John Mosher, The New Yorker, August 22, 1936
“Miss Shearer may well glory in the character of her performance. It has youth and charm, and she reveals an expertness and efficiency in her reading of the lines which will long stand as a beacon. Leslie Howard's Romeo, while not the ideal fulfillment, is still in the truest sense a beautiful and intelligent rendition."
- Edwin Schallert, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1936
LETTERS FROM REGIONAL THEATER OWNERS
“Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer must have thought this would flop in the small towns, for they placed it in their ‘Group of Fourteen,’ but for me it out-grossed The Great Ziegfeld, Waikiki Wedding, and other so-called ‘big’ pictures. With eighty percent of my trade from college-prep and high-school students, this was a natural.”
- H.R. Griswold, Union Theatre, Sewanee, Tennessee, Motion Picture Herald, July 3, 1937
“I trust that in the future producers will let the Bard of Avon’s works slumber on in peace. This picture, after its road show, was, for all intents and purposes, supposed to be a percentage picture. For some reason it was dropped into the lower allocation. For us it proved to be a dog at the box office. If you have a top-hat-and-tails clientele, okay. But try and sell this to the boys that yell 'Gee!' and 'Haw!' It can’t be done. A finished production, all right. But what does that get you? Just a headache.”
- A.E. Hancock, Columbia Theatre, Columbia City, Indiana, Motion Picture Herald, July 17, 1937
Romeo and Juliet cost $2.96 million and grossed $2.075 million. Its loss of $922,000 was justified by its status as a prestige picture and by its success in road-show engagements and in foreign markets.
(These figures have not been adjusted for inflation nor do they include profits from reissues, television syndication, and home entertainment formats.)