Much Ado about Nothing is my favorite Shakespeare comedy (as well as the inspiration for my first novel). Lucky for me, there are several screen versions of the play that are faithful to the original but still satisfying to a modern audience.
My first exposure to the play was in high school in the form of a CBS production by Joseph Papp. Starring Sam Waterson as Benedick and Kathleen Widdoes as Beatrice, this Americana-inspired version is set in the days of Teddy Roosevelt and suffragettes.
Perhaps the best known version of the play, Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film is an all-star romp that is elevated by the then husband-and-wife team of Branagh and Emma Thompson.
Branagh, the most accessible of Shakespearean actors, is not afraid to have his Benedict appear foolish when love strikes. Thompson is his perfect foil, and hits every note as the shrewd and witty woman who goes soft for the right guy. Their declaration scene is funny and moving, and seems even more poignant now. (I still haven’t gotten over their divorce.)
For me, though, the 1984 BBC production is the gold standard for this play. Robert Lindsay is a properly virile Benedict, back from the wars with a month’s growth of beard. In one of the most charming scenes of the play, he appears clean-shaven after hearing Cheri Lunghi’s Beatrice announce that she can’t stand men with hair on their faces. (“I had rather lie in the woolen.”)
Lunghi is luminous as Beatrice, revealing every facet of this complicated woman. Her exchanges with Lindsay are fast and furious, but her vulnerability is evident in the face of Benedict’s declaration: “I love nothing in the world so much as you.” Sigh. (And this one is available on Netflix!)
♥ ♥ ♥
Coming up: Harlequin author Ann Roth is my guest in the kitchen on Friday!