How fortunate we are that this early first feature epic survives in near entirety. It stands as a testimonial to one of the greatest and overlooked actresses of early cinema, the divine Helen Gardner. Miss Gardner was a prolific actress of the stage and early screen. She taught pantomine and was possibly the first star to form her own production company, the Helen Gardner Picture Corporation, of which this film was produced. Now granted this film seems stagey and it lacks some of Griffith's techniques but it boasts some fine performances and is important for its historical value. In my opinion Miss Gardner is the finest Cleopatra the screen has ever had. She is every inch the Queen of the Nile, beautiful, majestic, sexy. She had a strong screen presence and talent that is almost forgotten due to the fact that so many of her films are gone, which is why this film is of great importance. This film is based on the play by Victorien Sardou and was directed by Miss Gardner's husband Charles L. Gaskill. Miss Gardner also designed her costumes for this as she did for many of her roles. I had always wanted to see the 1917 Theda Bara version but as long as that film remains lost, Helen Gardner is the quintessential Cleopatra of the screen. Long live the Queen!
Upon viewing this film it becomes evident of the transition period in the film industry. The actors are speaking but there is the hint of gestural expressions that became common in the silent era. Its by no means a cinematic work of art, but there are some redeeming qualities. I happen to have got a tape taken from a good print so as to observe that some of the photography and lighting was somewhat decent but not too brilliant. Some of the acting takes a back seat but it is Miss Pickford's presence that saves what would be a forgettable film. This was a whole new concept. Mary Pickford speaks for the first time and her personna was altered by her trendy apparell and short, shingled hairstyle. In my opinion she was worthy of the Academy Award. Not only was she one of greatest actresses of the century but she was very instrumental in the deveopment of the film industry. But still her talkies don't compare to her silent films. It is these more than anything that secures her status of the icon she truly was, "America's Sweetheart".