7 August 2017

As ever, Norma

Here is a sweet little note from Norma Shearer to Brian Aherne, written in 1935. Shearer wrote to Aherne after doing a screen test together for MGM's film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Aherne was one of the actors considered for the role of Romeo, but he later decided not to play itmuch to Shearer's disappointment. The reason for rejecting the part was that Aherne thought himself too old for it. (Fredric March, MGM's first choice, had rejected the role for the same reason.) In the end, the Romeo part went to Leslie Howard who, at the time in his forties, was even older than Aherne (or March). Incidentally, Shearer herself was 33, which made her also a very old Juliet.

Source: WorthPoint


Dear Brian -

Thank you for your terribly kind letter.
I admit I was rather incoherent the other night. I was just trying to say how much I appreciated your delightful enthusiasm while taking our tests and how disappointed I was to hear you had decided not to play in "Romeo + Juliet".
I called you up this afternoon to have a little chat about it but you were not at home.
I want you to know that both Irving and I have always felt you would be wonderful in either parts and still do.

With our affectionate regards

As ever

-Judging by Shearer's letter, Aherne was also considered for another part in Romeo and Juliet, which was most likely the role of Mercutio, a role Aherne had played on Broadway in 1934. 

-"Irving" was Shearer's husband Irving Thalberg, head of production at MGM. Thalberg had wanted to make Romeo and Juliet for a long time and in June 1935 announced his plans to do so. Studio head Louis B. Mayer, however, was far from enthusiastic about the project, since he felt that a Shakespeare adaptation would not be accessible enough for the general public. In the end, Thalberg managed to convince Mayer and hired George Cukor to direct. Romeo and Juliet was released in 1936, having cost MGM $2 million (Thalberg's original budget was $800,000). Due to its high production costs, the film eventually lost a lot of money at the box-office.

Above: The only picture I could find of Norma Shearer and Brian Aherne together; here they are photographed with Chico Marx and Martha Raye. Below- left photo: Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer as Romeo and Juliet in MGM's film adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy; right photo: Shearer and husband Irving Thalberg who was known as MGM's wonder boy; the couple was married from 1927 till September 1936 when Thalberg suddenly died of pneumonia.

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