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Cleopatra hasn't been on the throne of the pharoahs of Egypt very long when Julius Caesar pays a visit. Caesar finds the prospect of romance more tempting than he expected, since Cleopatra is a rare woman who is bright as well as beautiful. And for Cleopatra, a friendly relationship with the most powerful man in the world may pay dividends in the future. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rains a Perfect Caesar in this Magnificent Shavian Spectacle
Cleopatra and Julius Caesar carry on an arch flirtation, while spouting epigrams courtesy of George Bernard Shaw, in this literate, exuberant and thoroughly enjoyable movie. "Caesar and Cleopatra" stands out against the typical British production, which tends to be drab and morose. (Other notable exceptions are the works of Pressberger & Powell, the Korda brothers and Olivier.)
Claude Rains is perfectly cast as the cynical, world-weary and "ready for the knife" Julius Caesar. I'm not sure if it's makeup, or perhaps lighting, but Rains's face looks like it was taken from one of those memorial portraits in the Roman catacombs. In any case, while it may be Caesar's countenance we see, it's Shaw's voice we hear. I love Claude Rains in everything, but there's an intimacy with Rains here that makes "Caesar and Cleopatra" one of my Rains favorites.
And Vivian Leigh. What can I say? Her Cleopatra is Scarlett O'Hara, except that while Scarlett's flirtations were matters of the heart, Cleopatra's were purely matters of state. In the beginning Cleopatra is a sheltered, naive...well, princess. By the end, she has learned well at Caesar's knee and possesses the ruthlessness and guile of statecraft - she is a queen.
Another delight is Stewart Granger's swashbuckling Apollodorus, and Flora Robson has a delicious part as Cleopatra's nursemaid Ftatateeta. Robson is well qualified as a tutor of royalty, having herself played Queen Elizabeth in "Fire over England".
Like another classic British spectacle, "The Four Feathers," "Caesar and Cleopatra" is one of the treasures in my film archive which I view repeatedly alone.
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