GenreComedy, Romance ScreenplaySam Taylor CountryUnited States
Release dateOctober 26, 1929 (1929-10-26) WriterWilliam Shakespeare (play), Sam Taylor (adaptation) CastMary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Edwin Maxwell Similar moviesKiss Me Kate (1953)
The Taming of the Shrew (1929) is the first sound film adaptation of the Shakespearean play of the same name. The movie was directed by Sam Taylor, adapted by Taylor from William Shakespeare's play, and stars Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks.
The first sound version of the play on film, this version was planned as a sound film from the start. Pickford had already made her sound film debut in Coquette (1929) so The Taming of the Shrew marked her second talkie. This version of the film is primarily known for how Pickford delivers Katherina's last speech. As she moves though the litany of reasons why a woman should obey her husband, she winks toward Bianca, unseen by Petruchio. Bianca smiles in silent communication with Katherina, thus acknowledging that Katherina has not been tamed at all. Pickford and Fairbanks' marriage was breaking down even before filming began, and animosity between the couple increased during filming. In later years, Pickford stated that working on the film was the worst experience of her life, although she also acknowledged that Fairbanks' performance was one of his best.
For many years it was believed that one of the credits read "Additional Dialogue by Sam Taylor", but the actual credit reads "Adapted and Directed by Sam Taylor".
Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance, writing in 2008, believes "Taming of the Shrew has never received the recognition it deserves as the first talking film of a Shakespeare play. It was not only technically superior to the majority of talking pictures in 1929 but would unquestionably be the finest translation onto film of Shakespeare for some time to come." Vance also sees the film as a window into the Pickford-Fairbanks marriage: "As a reenactment of the Pickford-Fairbanks marriage, Taming of the Shrew continues to fascinate as a rather grim comedy. The two willful, larger-than-life personalities working at cross-purposes and conveying their resentment and frustration to each other through blatant one-upmanship and harsh wounds is both the movie and the marital union."
After many years out of circulation, the film was re-released in 1966 in a new cut supervised by Pickford herself. New sound effects and music were added throughout, much of the voice dubbing was enhanced with newly available technology, and seven minutes were cut from the initial print. This re-released version is the only version now available on DVD or VHS.