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Reviewed by:
  • G.B.S. Boxed
  • Bernard F. Dukore (bio)
The Bernard Shaw Collection. BBC Warner DVD, 16 May 2006. 670 minutes. $59.98. Aspect ratio 1:33 (full frame), color, NTSC (Region 1: U.S. and Canada). Ten plays on six discs—The Millionairess (1972), The Apple Cart (1972), Mrs Warren's Profession (1972), Pygmalion (1973), You Never Can Tell (1977), Heartbreak House (1977), The Man of Destiny (1981), Androcles and the Lion (1984), The Devil's Disciple (1987), and Arms and the Man (1989)—plus "bonus programs": "The Wit and World of George Bernard Shaw," narrated by Christopher Plummer; "George Bernard Shaw Lived Here: Bernard Levin at Ayot St. Lawrence"; and audio excerpts of "George Bernard Shaw Talks"—"Sixth Form" and "British Drama League."

The first question, on advice to consumers, is easily answered. Is The Bernard Shaw Collection worth buying? As a consumer who bought it, my answer is yes.

I take the title of the set from the box containing the DVDs. Elsewhere it is listed (no surprise here) as The George Bernard Shaw Collection. As cost, I cite the manufacturer's list price, which is like rack rates for hotel rooms: discounts are available. I preordered it at a 30 percent discount, about $42.00. If you shop online, you might check or a similar site for price comparisons. If not, you may investigate such chains as Best Buy. To answer an inevitable question: Yes, I would buy it at the rack rate, which comes to (paraphrasing Cusins, I'm a Shavian scholar, not an arithmetical one, so let me find my calculator) about ten bucks a disc. Although not all the productions are excellent, some are, and those that for various reasons do not come off well are worth seeing partly for bits and pieces that are dandy and partly to understand why they do not succeed.

In my view, the best of the ten are Mrs Warren's Profession (109 minutes) [End Page 213] and You Never Can Tell (120 minutes), superlatively directed by Herbert Wise and James Cellan Jones, respectively. Wise ensures that the reactions of Praed, Crofts, and Reverend Gardner to Vivie's strong handshake differ from one another. Instead of opening up the play to irrelevant, distracting exteriors, he tactfully uses the exterior set of Act I for the opening dialogue between Mrs. Warren and Frank that begins Act II and for her summoning Crofts and Reverend Gardner to dinner shortly thereafter. He shrewdly alternates long shots, medium shots, medium close-ups, and close-ups in the dialogues between Mrs. Warren and Vivie in Acts II and IV. In their first dialogue, in which they bond, he infrequently shoots either woman alone, in a setup they do not share or in which the other is not in the foreground. In their second dialogue at the end of the play, however, when they are truly alienated from each other, he shoots almost all of their dialogue with only one of them in the frame, eliminating even a hint of harmony between them. Because this is a television production, Wise sensibly dispenses with the theatrical way Shaw has Mrs. Warren meet Reverend Gardner (see my Shaw's Theater) and instead simply has her enter the garden and see him.1 He takes filmic advantage of suggestions in the text—for example, cutting from a long shot of Vivie standing in the doorway, bathed by moonlight, which ends Act II, to a medium shot of a hungover Gardner, hit by bright sunlight in the doorway of his house, which begins Act III. For You Never Can Tell Jones's camera work and editing are so fluid and unobtrusive that one is rarely aware a camera is emphasizing different parts of scenes or speeches.

Budgetary constraints are infrequently evident in both productions. When Vivie tears up Frank's letter, a few pieces accidentally fall on the floor. If director Wise had the money, he would likely have shot another take for a tidier tearing up. When Philip follows his father to the ball, Crampton says, "Come along, my boy," to which Philip replies, "Coming, dad, coming," and turns to the others to...


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