I was catching up on my modern movie news and found that Disney is planning to “remake” their 1996 animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Part of the announcement was that the new film would be based on both the Victor Hugo novel and their cartoon version.
Being a good old movie nerd, that immediately brought to mind this infamous screen credit:
“By William Shakespeare with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor”
The problem is that the film that allegedly had this credit, The Taming of the Shrew (1929), is available as a reissue version that omits it, if it ever existed at all. That font of online truth, Wikipedia, confidently states that:
For many years it was believed that one of the credits read “Additional Dialogue by Sam Taylor”, but there is no evidence any print ever contained such a credit.”
I was willing to think this was a myth before I read the Wikipedia entry but now I decided to dive in for myself. I have tangled with Wikipedia many, many times over the years, you see, and had to clean up several messes. (Their Ivan Mosjoukine page… Bah!) So, if Wikipedia claims it is false, that’s my first hint that it might be true.
The actual phrase “additional dialogue by Sam Taylor” yields no contemporary results– I don’t consider anecdotes from the 1950s to be evidence for a picture released in 1929, but “additional dialog” does. (Typos and alternative spellings must always be factored in when performing a text search.) Further, there are plenty of references to the adaptation of Shakespeare’s play by Taylor, a great deal of them negative and sarcastic. And all from within a few weeks of the film’s October 1929 debut.
But back to the mystery at hand: was there ever an ONSCREEN CREDIT that stated some variation of “additional dialogue by Sam Taylor” and is there evidence to back it?
For onscreen credits, I have to say that there is no definitive evidence. In advertising, though, there is a decent amount.
In the November 1929 issue of Screenland:
For isn’t there a report that Mary’s and Doug’s new co-starring picture is being advertised: ” ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by William Shakespeare, with additional dialog by Sam Taylor?” Sophisticates are already chuckling at Mr. Taylor cutting into Bill Shakespeare’s laurels like that.
And the November 7, 1929 issue of the Greeley Daily Tribune:
A gaudy harbinger of coming attractions on Broadway’s movie belt contains this sign: “Coming ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford (BOTH). By William Shakespeare with Additional Dialog by Sam Taylor. The Big Laugh Hit That New York Has Been Waiting For.”
The November 2, 1929 issue of Liberty:
Even at that, Shakespeare does not get all the credit. Director Sam Taylor is listed as aiding in the dialogue. These improvements appear to consist principally of inserting Petruchio’s comment, “What a wench!” here and there.
Now, the last item is probably the strongest evidence that an onscreen title card existed but it is ambiguous enough to also count as evidence toward a print, poster or other advertisement with the deathless credit. Still, I feel that there is enough contemporary reference material to make me list the “additional dialogue by” anecdote as a possibility instead of a myth.
It should be noted that individual theaters were highly creative, for better or worse, with their advertising and if the credit only exists in an ad, it is highly unlikely that it was an official United Artists piece of marketing material. I don’t think there’s any way on heaven or earth that Doug or Mary would allow something like that.
This is hardly a smoking gun, just a mildly smoldering one, but it is enough to keep this little story in the “maybe” box.