Wearing a series of ludicrous and sexually arousing costumes, Egyptian "vamp" queen Theda Bara (as Cleopatra) forms ruling alliances and dalliances with Roman leaders Fritz Leiber (as Julius Caesar) and Thurston Hall (as Mark Antony). There are presently no known copies of this film in existence, the last having been destroyed by fire in the 1930s. The script, numerous photographs, and a small film fragment survive. The story served as a model for the 1963 "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor. Only a handful of Ms. Bara's films survive, with her "Cleopatra" being the most missed...
Bara rocketed to stardom with "A Fool There Was" (1915); her most widely seen film, it can most kindly be put in the "historically important" category. Bara was an immediate sex symbol. She remained one of the world's biggest box office draws through 1920, peaking in 1917 as a sexy alternative to wholesome favorites Mary Pickford and Marguerite Clark. The "Fool" formula was revisited for many Bara films, but success also afforded Bara an opportunity to essay classics like "Cleopatra", "Camille" and "Salome". Of all, "Cleopatra" would be an excellent opportunity to appreciate her appeal...
Contemporary reviewers noted the popular star's then standard "eye-rolling" performance with some kindness. In the surviving seconds of film footage, Bara's style appears better suited to costume drama. The production was also an "epic" of the time, with a huge budget. "The New York Times" called it an "uncommonly fine picture." Tantalizing further, their reviewer stated: "From a scenic standpoint, also, it is quite a triumph for the director. The Sphinx, the pyramids and a goodly section of Rome are duly duplicated, and the larger scenes are handled in a way that suggests D. W. Griffith."
****** Cleopatra (10/14/17) J. Gordon Edwards ~ Theda Bara, Fritz Leiber, Thurston Hall, Henri de Vries
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