Baptista (Michael Hordern), a rich Paduan merchant, announces that his fair young daughter, Bianca (Natasha Pyne), will remain unwed until her older sister, Katharina (Elizabeth Taylor), a hellish shrew, has wed.
Lucentio (Michael York), a student and the son of a wealthy Pisan merchant, has fallen in love with Bianca. He poses as a tutor of music and poetry to gain entrance to the Baptista household and to be near Bianca.
Meanwhile, Petruchio (Richard Burton), a fortune-hunting scoundrel from Verona, arrives in Padua, hoping to capture a wealthy wife. Hortensio (Victor Spinetti), another suitor of Bianca, directs Petruchio's attention to Katharina.
When Hortensio warns him about Katharina's scolding tongue and fiery temper, Petruchio is challenged and resolves to capture her love. Hortensio and another suitor of Bianca, Gremio (Cyril Cusack), agree to cover Petruchio's costs as he pursues Katharina.
Elizabeth Taylor ... Katharina
Richard Burton ... Petruchio
Cyril Cusack ... Grumio
Michael Hordern ... Baptista
Alfred Lynch ... Tranio
Alan Webb ... Gremio
Giancarlo Cobelli ... The Priest
Vernon Dobtcheff ... Pedant
Ken Parry ... Tailor
Anthony Gardner ... Haberdasher
Natasha Pyne ... Bianca
Michael York ... Lucentio
Victor Spinetti ... Hortensio
Roy Holder ... Biondello
Mark Dignam ... Vincentio
This is Burton and Taylor's best film together. It is full of color and fun, and some very fine comedy. All of the actors are brilliant in it. It's a big, romping chase of a movie, and when you hear Petruchio's deep chuckle, it makes you laugh, too.
It's based on the bare bones of Shakespeare's play about Baptista, a rich man with two unmarried daughters. The older daughter is so nasty that no one can stand her long enough to marry her, and everyone in town wants to marry the younger daughter but can't till the older is married off. A bad-mannered fortune hunter shows up and agrees to take the older daughter off the father's hands for a steep price. After the marriage, Petruchio sets about breaking the pride of Kate, and eventually he wears her down, but she works her own magic on him, and in the end they both find that they love each other.
Richard Burton should have won the Oscar for this role; he IS Petruchio. It's a national disgrace that he didn't get it. And Liz is really good as Kate. She makes us believe that she is a horrible shrew, and when her soft side emerges she makes us believe that she could have been sweet all along.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at their peak are a joy to behold--they
infuse this gorgeous film of "The Taming of the Shrew" with so much life and
energy, that it becomes a wonderful, bouyant, three-ring circus of entertainment. The sets and costumes of Zeffirelli's meticulously recreated Renaissance Italy are ravishingly beautiful. Each scene is composed like a painting--and Nino
Rota's score complelemnts the film perfectly. His melodies ring in the air long after the film has ended. Shakespeare would have been delighted.
In this production of The Taming of the Shrew it was Richard Burton's way of letting his wife Elizabeth Taylor in on his world, the world of the classics. He's wonderful as Petruchio and she acquits herself well as the shrewish Katharine.
Michael Hordern is the harried father of the lovely Bianca and her older sister, the beautiful, but independent Katherine. The sisters, Natasha Pyne and Elizabeth Taylor are as different as they come. Young Michael York is most interested in Pyne, but Hordern wants to see the older daughter married off at first. But Taylor scares off would be suitors.
Enter Richard Burton who's a roguish fortune hunter, but Hordern is quite willing to overlook that if he'll just take Taylor off his hands. The rest of the film concerns both Burton and York's parallel quests for their mates.
The Taming of the Shrew is probably best known to today's audience as the basis for Cole Porter's biggest Broadway success, Kiss Me Kate. Yet it's still stands well on its own as William Shakespeare's most rollicking comedy and a medieval treatise on feminism. Yet even when it's over, you're not quite sure just how submissive of a medieval wife Elizabeth Taylor will be.
Director Franco Zefirelli recreated medieval Padua with a great eye for detail. In that wedding, I'm sure he must have gotten Richard Burton good and plastered for the scene. Burton was one of the most legendary imbibers in screen history, but that scene was way too real to be just acting.
Laurence Olivier supposedly once told Richard Burton that he had a choice of being the greatest classical actor of his generation or a movie star. Too which Burton is supposed to have replied that he wanted both. I think he succeeded with The Taming of the Shrew.
# Franco Zeffirelli originally proposed this film as a vehicle for Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
# The dress that Elizabeth Taylor wears during Kate's final monologue is inspired by the dress that the model wears in Lorenzo Lotto's painting, "Lucretia". Taylor even wears a similar coverciere (shawl-like partlet), and has a necklace tucked into her bodice, just like Lotto's Lucretia.
# Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton co-produced the film, putting $1 million of their own money into the production and waiving their combined $2 million+ salaries taking a percentage of the film's profits instead.