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At some time in the career of most actors comes an overwhelming compulsion to play the greatest stage lovers. This spring such a time came to Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Mr. Olivier had won honors as hero of the films Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. Miss Leigh satisfied the entire nation as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. So in Hollywood they began rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, with Dame May Whitty playing Juliet's nurse. Now they have brought their show to Broadway via Chicago for a gala nine-weeks' run.
Both stars have played Shakespeare before in their native England. Both of them get a full measure of beauty from Shakespeare's poetry. If their own performances lack tenderness, they still fit well into a sumptuous, swift production in which a revolving stage whisks actors from ballroom to bedroom to balcony.
Romeo and Juliet has been given under many odd circumstances. In Shakespeare's day Juliet was acted by a boy. Later the title roles were played in London by the Cibbers, father and daughter, and by the Cushmans, sisters. In New York in 1762 a Mrs. Douglass and her son played the lovers. And in 1877 six actresses played Juliet in one performance, each appearing in one scene, with a full-time Romeo. The current presentation gains interest because Miss Leigh and Mr. Olivier are very much in love and are to be married whine divorce decrees become final.