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Friday, October 17, 2014

Cleopatra (1934)

When Julius Caesar (Warren William) arrives in Egypt to settle a dispute over the throne of Egypt between Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) and her brother, she charms him into becoming her lover. After his assassination, she also charms Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon), who has come to take her in chains to Rome, into becoming her lover too. Cecil B. DeMille's take on the Cleopatra/Caesar/Marc Antony story is a lavish spectacle that lives up to the DeMille tradition of more is better. While the film does away with inconvenient facts (like the son Cleopatra had by Caesar), it's an entertaining if at times absurd telling of the tale. It can't possibly complete with the superior 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz production. Among other things, it lacks the literacy of that film's screenplay and better performances and in spectacle, nothing in the 1934 movie is as jawdropping as Cleopatra's entry into Rome in the later film. When Antony arrives on Cleo's barge where she seduces him, the orgy looks like a Las Vegas floor show and Colbert plays Cleo as a coquettish schoolgirl. The dialog is pedestrian and we're cheated on the battle scenes which are done in a quick montage. Still, for what it is, it's eminently watchable. With Gertrude Michael, Joseph Schildkraut, Ian Keith, C. Aubrey Smith and Irving Pichel.

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