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Eclipse Series 20: George Bernard Shaw on Film (Major Barbara / Caesar and Cleopatra / Androcles and the Lion) (The Criterion Collection)
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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.Read more ›
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).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Major Barbara has 15 minutes of Shaw's. anacharistic dialogue expunged and plays tighter for it.All in all I find Shaw a little passé these days but the transfers are good. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mort Peacock
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 morePublished 20 months ago by Richard Turnley
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 morePublished on January 29, 2012 by William the Archer
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