Director: George Cukor
Notable cast: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard
Despite receiving four Academy Award nominations, critics and audiences had a mixed response to this film. Many filmgoers praised the adaptation for its lavish production value, and others celebrated the faithful treatment of the original text, despite the fact that Cukor cut nearly half of Shakespeare’s text. Others, however, found the film overlong and lacking imagination. More recently the film scholar Stephen Orgel has pointed out that the lead actors are too old for their roles.
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Notable cast: Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting
Zeffirelli cut nearly two-thirds of Shakespeare’s lines, but many critics felt this film was a sensitive adaptation of the text. The film won two Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. With its very young leads and Whiting’s long hairstyle, the movie was seen in its time as a
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Notable cast: Claire Danes, Leonardo di Caprio
Unlike Cukor and Zeffirelli, who both set their adaptations in medieval Italy, Luhrmann moved the action of Shakespeare’s play to America in the twentieth century. Verona, therefore, becomes “Verona Beach,” home to warring gangs and a police chief called “Prince.” Luhrmann’s adaptation is probably the most faithful of the three, in the sense that it retains more of the original language than either Cukor’s or Zeffirelli’s versions.