Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)
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We have seen this story before, though differently told, when the wonderful Rex Harrison played Caesar to the talented Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra. (Both of these names should be written with a K, since that is how they were both actually pronounced.) It is an absolute truth about that later film that only the first half is much worth watching, since Richard Burton in the second half plays a lovesick puppy so well it's thoroughly disgusting. GBS avoids that pitfall by giving us a great Caesar and a delightful Cleopatra, and fabulous stars to play them.
Shaw's play tells the story of Caesar's occupation of Alexandria after his final defeat of Pompey, and his defense of his position against perfidious Egyptians and renegade Romans in the service of Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra's prepubescent brother and husband. The text is a creation of the utmost cunning: nothing less than a successful imitation of Shakespeare (though mostly in a more modern idiom). Few writers other than Shaw would have attempted this feat, and fewer still would have been successful at it.
Mentioning Ptolemy XIV, I should mention his (and Cleo's) brother, Ptolemy XIII. They were both married to Cleopatra and each of them was pounding on her bedroom door by the time he was 10.Read more ›
Bernard Shaw himself (he did not die until the 1950s) is credited with the screenplay, which may have something to do with the criticisms. Shaw is very talky and hard to 'transfer' to motion picture standards of verisimulitude, but this movie has a beautiful, delightful Vivien Leigh, the incomparable Claude Rains, the beautifully dashing Stewart Granger, plus 'old friends' of the classic British cinema such as Flora Robson, Felix Aylmer, Basil Sidney, Stanley Holloway, Leo Genn, Francis L. Sullivan -- all who appeared in wonderful films like Laurence Olivier's 'Hamlet', David Lean's 'Great Expectations' and many other intelligent pictures of that pre- and post-war (WWII, that is) period. (There is even a very very young, but very lovely as always, Jean Simmons as a slave of Cleopatra who plays the harp.)
The picture attempts an 'epic' look, with battles yet noted I'm afraid by unconvincing stunt work and 'casts of thousands' sort of milling about -- and Cecil B. De Mille does this so much better than Gabriel Pascal, the director of 'Caesar and Cleopatra'. But I myself admit I love the Shavian ambience -- the intellectual activist actually attractive (in Shaw's plays at least!) to the winsome young woman; ... friendship, discussion and respect; thought as more important than 'action-adventure'.
If Shaw's plays do seem too dated to you and they generally bore you, yes, stay far away from this film!Read more ›
Even the costumes and set designs were incredible. Add this to your movie collection!
Just one note: maybe Cleopatra was not African (black) as stated in an earlier review, but I do believe that
simply stating this rumor as an untruth would have been sufficient. Calling this untruth a "lie" was a bit strong!
However, I notice that whenever Africa is mentioned in even the slightest way people have a tendency to lose their minds a bit. We need to get over this visceral attitude!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of my all-time favorite movies. All the acting is fantastic - and the sets are some of the best ever made.Published 5 months ago by Dba Living Artists
Yeah well it's Hollywood and this version is a wonderful contrast to that of Taylor and company. I really like Claude Rains and Vivian Leigh, this no exception - a great tale told... Read morePublished 5 months ago by klaatu
Vivian Leigh - one of the beauties of this century played so well against Claude Raines. I could see the spark of Scarlet O'Hara in her eyes before she matured into a queen.Published 5 months ago by Linda Haskell
I have no problem giving this product a five star review because it is as advertised. I must admit I would much rather have a fully restored wide screen version of this Bernard... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Leo Hott
old film and pretty tough to watch. It is hard to take it seriously when it seems the actors don't.Published 9 months ago by M. Fuentes