Come, gentle night, come, loving black-brow'd night,And when Juliet is preparing to drink the potion that will simulate death, we get none of her terrors of being sealed in the Capulet tomb. Zeffirelli's version is a safe compromise between the too-reverent George Cukor production for MGM in 1936, and Luhrmann's souped up modern version, but Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey are preferable to the aging Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, and they handle the verse better than Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes did in Luhrmann's film. One thing the Zeffirelli film also has going for it is Nino Rota's score, which grew over-familiar when it became a best-selling LP but is still evocative today. And there are some good actors in the cast, including Michael York's Tybalt, Pat Heywood's Nurse, and Milo O'Shea's Friar Lawrence, not to mention Laurence Olivier's uncredited narrator. (Olivier also supplied the voice for the Italian actor playing Montague.) But I still want to see Renato Castellani's 1954 film version again -- it's been so long since I saw it that I had forgotten it was in color, and I may in fact have only seen it on a black-and-white TV -- before pronouncing Zeffirelli's film the best movie version.
Give me my Romeo, and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.