Monday, January 20, 2014

The Taming Of The Shrew (1908) DVD Review

The Taming Of The Shrew (1908) was directed by D. W. Griffith. This short silent film is one of the earliest versions of The Taming Of The Shrew. It’s rather broad, but enjoyable. Most of the film is spent on the actual taming in Act IV. Of course, it skips the whole Induction.

Act I

The film begins with two men (presumably Gremio and Hortensio) falling for Bianca. Then Katherina enters upstage, and first hits a servant with his own hat. She then frightens away Bianca’s suitors and yells at Bianca.

Act II

Baptista then enters, followed by a man with a lute (a different man, so this can’t be Hortensio, unless one of the previous men was Lucentio). He tries to teach her by placing her hands on the instrument, but she gets upset. Interestingly, she doesn’t smash the instrument over his head. Instead, she drops it and grabs some kind of framed canvas and hits him over the head with that. She really throttles him.

We then get the first title card of the film: “Arrival of Petruchio, intent upon winning Katherina’s love.” Petruchio meets Baptista.


After Petruchio talks with Baptista, the film then skips right to the day of the wedding. Petruchio’s clothes are a mess, but he is apparently on time.

Act IV

Act IV begins with a title card: “At Petruchio’s home – he determines to curb her temper.” In this version, Petruchio carries a whip, and proceeds to beat his servants with it. Katherina tries to stop him, then cowers on the left side of the screen, even hiding under the table. He is then very gentle with her as he helps her out from under the table.

His servants bring in the food, and before Katherina can dig in, Petruchio takes it from her to inspect it. He then beats the servants with the meat. She sits down and he laughs behind her, waving the whip around playfully.

A title card reads, “The servants tremble before their master.”

The Tailor then arrives (he and the Haberdasher are combined into one character) and is left alone with Katherina, showing her a garment, which she is clearly keen on. He hands her a hat that she admires. Before she can put it on, Petruchio re-enters, takes it from her, inspects it, then throws it to the floor. The Tailor flees, and Petruchio leads Katherina upstairs.

Petruchio then catches Katherina in the kitchen trying to eat some of the food, which of course he takes from her. This leads to more beating of the servants. She, on her knees, tries to get him to stop.

Act V

A title card reads, “The Lion And The Lamb.”

The fifth act is quite different from the play. Rather than Petruchio and Katherina traveling to Baptista’s house, Baptista oddly arrives at Petruchio’s home to rescue his daughter. But then she runs back to Petruchio. Baptista throws up his hands in defeat and leaves.

Then, outside, Petruchio puts flowers in Katherina’s hair. And that’s the last shot of the film.

(It's interesting that this film has no title cards with actual dialogue.)

Time: 11 minutes

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