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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 (9 customer reviews)

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Frequently Bought Together

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 + My Fair Lady
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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: 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 (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002Y06VI4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,793 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
50 of 53 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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37 of 40 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 14 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Desperate Times Call For... September 17, 2012
By ArtDC
The ONLY reason I bought this DVD was it seems to be the ONLY U.S. version of Major Barbara currently available. Wendy Hiller, just as she was in Pygmalion, is a Shavian revelation. And her interplay with Morley is brilliant. Its such a shame that the producers let such an arbitrarily cut version be perpetuated, rather than putting out the original version. However, its WENDY HILLER IN SHAW. Even poorly edited, it qualifies as some of the best acting of the last century. By the way - the other two plays are well done and enjoyable, with fewer poor cuts.
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