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When she discovers that a slave named Pharon professes his love for her, Cleopatra makes a bargain with him: she will give him ten days of "love," at the end of which he is to commit suicide. He agrees, although the queen's handmaiden Iras, in love with the slave, isn't happy with the arrangement. Later when Cleopatra is seducing Marc Antony, her relationship with Pharon is used against her, but with little effect. She allies herself with Antony against Octavius, participates in a brief war, then meets her end rather than be subjected to Roman rule. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the peak of her fame, Vitagraph "vamp" star Helen Gardner formed her own company and released this ambitious multi-reel feature. But, while financially and critically successful, this dreadful "Cleopatra" proved to be a gross artistic miscalculation by Ms. Gardner and director/partner Charles L. Gaskill. Some context is required. In 1912, "movies" were widely considered to be a vulgar and cheap form of entertainment, when compared to the "legitimate theater." For example, snooty critics saw movie close-ups as inferior because they only showed part of the actor, and many performers refused to appear in flickering films.
Apparently, Gardner and her company shot "Cleopatra" with theatrical intentions. So, the carrying around of fake sets in front of a static camera was intentional; the crew could have gone out on location, but didn't. Moreover, Gardner's wild gesturing purposefully imitated a stage style of acting. Probably, Gardner hoped she and "Cleopatra" would surpass Sarah Bernhardt's recently released "Queen Elizabeth" (1912) in critical acclaim. Instead, it looks like Gardner forgot how to act. And, with her full figure unflatteringly accented by off-camera fans, she looks dreadful. This "Cleopatra" leaves us with only its historical importance.
** Cleopatra (11/13/12) Charles L. Gaskill ~ Helen Gardner, Charles Sindelar, Helene Costello, Harry Knowles
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