Studio One in Hollywood: Season 7, Episode 46

Julius Caesar (1 Aug. 1955)
"Studio One" Julius Caesar (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Drama
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Philip Bourneuf ...
Maria Britneva ...
Calpurnia (as Maria Brit-neva)
June Graham ...
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Alfred Ryder ...
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Shepperd Strudwick ...
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1 August 1955 (USA)  »

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Version of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales: Julius Caesar (1994) See more »

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Good if you like a Shakespeare play cut in half
22 May 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is the Cliffsnotes version of "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar" with the multi-talented Leo Penn picking out the highlights and stringing them together in a more or less coherent manner for his script. It certainly does the one thing that a production of this play should always do, and that is to make the audience wonder why it is not called "The Tragedy of Marcus Junius Brutus," which is what it is from a dramatic viewpoint.

In any case, Penn saved a great deal of time by cutting the lines of the major female characters completely. Maria Britneva as Calpurnia can only look on in mute distress as her husband, Caesar (Theodore Bikel), casts caution to the wind, and an uncredited actress in the role of Porcia takes her role lying down--her husband, Brutus (Philip Bourneuf), seems oddly to be fussing with her breasts while she sleeps.

An odd costume/staging touch is that in his earliest scenes Marc Antony (Alfred Ryder) appears clad only from the waist down with his left arm sleeved in some fabric, or perhaps leather, while that hand holds a coiled whip. (Just what is Antony's relationship with Caesar?) As always, Antony's stealing the hearts of the mob with his self-deprecating but silver-tongued rhetoric is a wonder to behold. (Shakespeare himself shrank the historical time line just as Leo Penn has shortened this play; Antony's speech came about five days after the assassination, not on the same day.)

The cast is generally good, though most of it, other than Theodore Bikel and Michael Tolan (in a seemingly small role here as Octavian), is unknown to me. The brevity of this version may be favorable to appreciating those issues that might be brought into greater relief without the camouflage of the rest of the play. Octavian says at the end that Brutus was the only one of the assassins who did it for idealism while the others did it for pure envy. (Certainly Shepperd Strudwick as Cassius and Michael Strong as Casca lend credence to Octavian's judgment.) But I am moved to wonder about Shakespeare's judgment on his own characters. Is Octavian justified just because he won? Is Octavian like Henry Tudor (Henry VII) in Shakespeare's mind? Does Shakespeare take a side in this play or is he equally drawn to both the case for conservative republicanism and that for emerging monarchism (which was, of course, conservative by Shakespeare's time)? Is he repelled by either side or only by the fickleness of the mob?


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