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Cleopatra (1934) Poster

(1934)

Trivia

A number of day-to-day schedule problems and delays appear to have been costume-related, in many cases because Claudette Colbert felt they didn't fit her correctly and was sending them back to the costume shop.
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In 1934 the Hays Code was only just being implemented so Cecil B. DeMille made sure to flaunt its restrictions while he was still legally able to do so. He opens the film with an apparently naked but strategically lit slave girl holding an incense burner in each hand as the title appears onscreen.
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Cecil B. DeMille considered Richard Dix, William Gargan and Charles Bickford for the role of Marc Antony. DeMille settled on the final actor when he accidentally catching a test footage screening for newcomer Henry Wilcoxon.
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Warren William was cast largely on the strength of his performance in The Mouthpiece (1932).
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When Cecil B. DeMille was in pre-production on this film, he asked to screen the original version, Cleopatra (1917) with Theda Bara. No prints could be found on in Los Angeles, so a copy of it was borrowed from the Fox office in New York. After DeMille viewed the film it was sent back to Little Ferry, New Jersey. On July 9, 1937, a fire at the storage facility destroyed almost all of Fox's known archived prints, most likely including Cleopatra. The screening for DeMille's company, on February 15, 1934, may have been the last time anyone saw the legendary film.
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Costume designer Vicky Williams left the project because she was annoyed by what she perceived as a lack of organization in the department.
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From the outset, Cecil B. DeMille was determined to bring the Cleopatra story to the masses, feeling that the Shakespeare and Shaw versions were too highbrow.
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When she first started having discussions with Cecil B. DeMille about playing the part of Cleopatra, Claudette Colbert expressed a lot 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 sent over from Los Angeles Zoo 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 nearer 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 such a small snake instead.
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Daily Variety reported that the film was badly panned by Italian critics, one of whom called it a "travesty and a burlesque," when shown in Rome. It also was met with "catcalls and derisive laughter" from the audience.
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One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since.
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The film largely came about because Cecil B. DeMille's previous film (also coincidentally starring Claudette Colbert) Four Frightened People (1934) had been a huge flop. Paramount head Adolph Zukor wanted DeMille to replicate the success of The Sign of the Cross (1932) and told him he had to make another historical epic next with lots of sex in it.
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1934 was a banner year for Claudette Colbert with three of her films being nominated for Best Film Academy Awards - Cleopatra (1934), Imitation of Life (1934) and It Happened One Night (1934). She of course won the Oscar for Best Actress for the last of those.
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Shot in around six weeks for $842,000.
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Adolphe Menjou and John Gilbert were both offered the part of Caesar.
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In reality, at the time Octavian was only 11 years old, not an adult man as portrayed here.
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Pothinos, portrayed in an extremely virile fashion by Leonard Mudie, was in fact a eunuch.
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Claudette Colbert was sick from April 10, 1934 to April 16, delaying the production.
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