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Eclipse Series 20: George Bernard Shaw on Film (Major Barbara / Caesar and Cleopatra / Androcles and the Lion) (The Criterion Collection) (1952)

Claude Rains , Vivien Leigh , Chester Erskine , David Lean  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Eclipse Series 20: George Bernard Shaw on Film (Major Barbara / Caesar and Cleopatra / Androcles and the Lion) (The Criterion Collection) + Pygmalion (1938) - Essential Art House
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Product Details

  • Actors: Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh, Wendy Hiller, Rex Harrison, Stewart Granger
  • Directors: Chester Erskine, David Lean, Gabriel Pascal, Harold French, Nicholas Ray
  • Writers: Chester Erskine, Gabriel Pascal, Anatole de Grunwald
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 23, 2010
  • Run Time: 347 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002Y06VI4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,974 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Eclipse Series 20: George Bernard Shaw on Film (Major Barbara / Caesar and Cleopatra / Androcles and the Lion) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

The hugely influential Nobel Prize–winning critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw was notoriously reluctant to allow his writing to be adapted for the cinema. Yet thanks to the persistence of Hungarian producer Gabriel Pascal, Shaw finally agreed to collaborate on a series of screen versions of his witty, social-minded plays, starting with the Oscar-winning Pygmalion. The three other films that resulted from this famed alliance, Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Androcles and the Lion, long overshadowed by Pygmalion, are gathered here for the first time on DVD. These clever, handsomely mounted entertainments star such luminaries of the big screen as Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains, Wendy Hiller, and Rex Harrison.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MAJOR BARBARA is from a heavily cut edition--beware June 11, 2010
The Criterion/Eclipse Series' MAJOR BARABARA in the "George Bernard Shaw on Film" set looks all right (not a real restoration) but has a very serious drawback. The original theatrical film runs 136 minutes, and was issued that way on New Century Telecommunications and Janus VHS a few decades ago (the Janus was a 4% sped-up PAL-NTSC conversion, so it ran 131 minutes); it was aired on TV (most recently on Bravo) at 136 minutes as well. The new DVD version was apparently transferred from a heavily edited reissue for another market and runs only 122 minutes--15 minutes edited out (there were several of these re-workings for different markets, even a US version of 100 minutes, a true abomination)! Consequently, a good deal of Shaw's crisp, brilliant dialog is gone, and the dialog continuity is like Swiss cheese. I was looking forward to this film's DVD re-appearance for a long time, and to receive it as an unacceptable, heavily re-edited version, especially under the Criterion aegis (itself transferred from a new short UK edition, is a terrible disappointment. Avoid!
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars G.B. SHAW ON FILM February 5, 2010
The works of George Bernard Shaw are like the works of William Shakespeare. They were written to be performed on the stage, not on film.

If you want these great plays to work in the motion picture medium, then adjustments must be made.

Shaw's comedies, in particular, though filled with colorful characters and brilliant wit, are also burdened with his social commentary and speechifying, which might work well in the theatre, but taxes the patience of a movie audience.

Such a "burden" was lifted when Lerner & Lowe turned the playwright's PYGMALION into the hit musical, MY FAIR LADY. Songs took the place of the cumbersome speeches.

Shaw was personally involved in both the casting and production of the first two films in this collection, MAJOR BARBARA (1941) and CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1945), and the result is pure Shaw. That is not, necessarily, a bad thing if you approach these pictures as a filmed version of a stage play.

Yes, in both movies, director Gabriel Pascal does his best to "open up" the action, even to the extent of incorporating some brief battle sequences into the Technicolor CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, but at the end of the day, these are still two filmed stage plays with all of the playwright's long speeches seemingly uncut and too many key events taking place off-stage.

Again, that is not to say that pure Shaw cannot be entertaining. It can be, particularly when the splendid casts of these pictures deliver his clever dialogue.

MAJOR BARBARA stars Wendy Hiller, a favorite of the playwright, as the daughter of a wealthy munitions manufacturer (Robert Morley). She works as a Salvation Army officer and speaks out against the hypocrisy she believes exists in her organization.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile, Even if You Don't Agree With Shaw March 1, 2010
Criterion's Eclipse series is a collection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classic films, bundled and presented in simple editions. Eclipse Series 20 - George Bernard Shaw On Film gathers together three of the master playwright's works as adapted to film by the producer Gabriel Pascal: Major Barbara (1941), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), and Androcles and the Lion (1952).

The black-and-white Major Barbara follows a bold Salvation Army officer in her quest to save souls, through her disappointment in the organization's financial dependence on questionable sponsorship, and on to a new type of hope. Featuring a superbly unforgettable performance by Wendy Hiller in the feature role, and a dreamy, young Rex Harrison as her fiancé "Dollie," this captivating and emotionally authentic film struck me as the winner of this collection.

Caesar and Cleopatra is a luxuriously produced technical spectacle starring Vivien Leigh (after her Gone With the Wind performance) in an incredibly coy and playful depiction of the Egyptian queen. Claude Rains is her opposite as the suave and confident Julius Caesar who is alternately fascinated and frustrated by this young royal.

This full-fledged costume drama was an economic disaster, with a cost of $5 million, and a loss of $3 million; imported Egyptian sand, moving filming to Cairo, it all added up. Sadly, the film itself is rather ponderous and slow moving, all the more so for those of us with modernized cinema viewing habits firmly entrenched. Still, there are some fine moments of acting amongst the dramatics - the young boy-king Ptolemy was wonderful, as was the charming Apollodorus (Stewart Granger).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To be in Bernard Shaw 's mood! November 13, 2005
Claude Rains as Caesar and Viviane Leigh as Cleopatra star this dazzling story that rides between the drama and comedy. A splendid occasion to crown once more the corrosive humor that literally permeates a good part of the dialogues. There is humor but also a formidable description and bold personal statement of this privileged dramaturge. The movie ha its particular rhythm, you may consider something theatrical, but that does not diminish at all its intrinsic virtues.

Basil Sydney as the Caesar 's shield, Flora Robson as Totatita and Stewart Granger are particularly effective in this British gem, that I insist maintains a very special feature, that demands from you the major attention.

Delicious and admirable portrait of a very special approach around the emotional, political, social and backstage in this satirical, clever and always reminded adaptation of Georges Bernard Shaw.

Go for this. One of the most admirable British gems of the middle forties.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL PLAYS
It must be so difficult to bring these old films up to the standards we expect today but the rocess was very good and of course the three plays are excellent . Read more
Published 4 months ago by Richard Turnley
4.0 out of 5 stars Desperate Times Call For...
The ONLY reason I bought this DVD was it seems to be the ONLY U.S. version of Major Barbara currently available. Read more
Published on September 17, 2012 by ArtDC
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Threesome
I had been looking for Androcles and the Lion for some time. When I found it as part of a multi-movie disc I figured that I had two other movies I could watch without changing the... Read more
Published on January 29, 2012 by William the Archer
5.0 out of 5 stars Shaw gems on DVD
What a great idea from Criterion to give us three lesser none film versions of Shaw's plays. I had a VHS of "Major Barbara" and wore it out. Read more
Published on March 28, 2010 by RareRare
4.0 out of 5 stars Read your history, folks!
One of the reviewers states that Cleopatra "was said to be in her 40s when she met Caesar." That would be impossible, since she died at the age of 39 (her dates are B.C.E. 69-30). Read more
Published on November 9, 2005 by John J. Schauer
4.0 out of 5 stars Give it a chance
Ceasar & Cleoptra is based on Shaw's play and alas it's very, almost painfully stiff and stagey. They essentially took the play and filmed it and that rarely if ever, works on... Read more
Published on November 28, 2004 by Amazon Customer
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