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Cleopatra

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Cleopatra 75th Anniversary Edition (Universal Backlot Series)

Tagline – The Love Affair That Shook The World!

Starring – Claudette Colbert (Cleopatra), Warren William (Julius Caesar), Henry Wilcoxon (Marc Antony), Joseph Schildkraut (King Herod).

Released – October, 1934

Directed By – Cecil B. DeMille

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – It’s 48 BC, and the Egyptian kingdom of Queen Cleopatra is threatening revolt. The impending visit of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar presents an opportunity for Cleopatra to solidify her rule.

Cleopatra sets out to seduce Caesar in a political move to keep her empire. The attraction between Caesar and Cleopatra becomes a shared one, with the Roman Senate afraid that Caesar may divorce his wife to be with the beautiful Queen and that Rome would cease to be a republic.

Before this could happen Caesar is murdered on his way to speak in the Roman Senate. With the great Caesar dead, the Senate decides that Rome will be jointly ruled by Caesar’s nephew Octavian along with, Roman politician and general, Marc Antony.

It is now also the duty of Antony to avenge the death of Caesar. Antony arranges a meeting with Cleopatra with the hope of capturing her. However, the Queen has other ideas and captures Antony taking him to her ship where she also seduces him.

As a result of this liaison, Marc Antony is declared a traitor to Rome. The ruthless ambition of Cleopatra is now evident as the Queen learns that her relationship with Rome would be greatly improved if Antony were dead.

NOTABLE: Cleopatra won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Assistant Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound, Recording.

In 1934 the Hays Code was only just being implemented so Director Cecil B. DeMille made sure to flaunt its restrictions while still legally able to do so. DeMille opens the film with an apparently naked but strategically lit slave girl holding an incense burner in each hand as the title appears onscreen.

While having discussions with Cecil B. DeMille about playing the role of Cleopatra, Claudette Colbert expressed a great deal of unease about her climactic scene with an asp, being terrified of snakes. On the day the scene was to be filmed, DeMille had one of the largest snakes at the Los Angeles Zoo sent over and approached Colbert onset with it as she sat in costume on her throne. The actress was terrified and pleaded with him not to come any closer to her with the enormous snake, whereupon DeMille produced the diminutive little asp and said “How about this instead?” Colbert was perfectly happy to film the scene with the smaller snake.

While popular here in America, Cleopatra was strongly criticized in Italy as being a “travesty and burlesque.”