Cleopatra (1934)

Film Review

CLEOPATRA

Release Date: 5 October, 1934

Studio: Paramount

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Starring: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon

Synopsis

After leading his legions into Egypt, Julius Caesar (William) becomes enamored of Cleopatra (Colbert). He plans to divorce his wife and marry Cleopatra. Caesar and Cleopatra enter Rome triumphantly. On the Ides of March (15 March), 44 BC, Caesar walks up the stairs leading to the senate; during his speech he will announce his intention to become emperor and make Cleopatra his empress. Before Caesar can enter the senate, his enemies surround and assassinate him. Cleopatra returns to Egypt. Mark Anthony (Wilcoxon) leads his legions into Egypt, intending to capture Cleopatra and carry her to Rome in chains. Cleopatra carefully prepares herself to receive Anthony. Her beauty and sensuality enthrall him, and he remains in Egypt. Octavian, Caesar’s nephew, leads his legions against the Egyptian army of Anthony and Cleopatra and defeats them. With Octavian’s legions approaching, Anthony stabs himself and dies in Cleopatra’s arms. Seated on her throne, Cleopatra clasps a venomous asp to her breast. She is dead when Octavian arrives to seize her.

Discussion

The dramatic story of Cleopatra provides appropriate material for a lavish epic. The exaggeration and unevenness present in the scripts of many DeMille films is mostly absent in this film, probably because the plot stays fairly close to the history, and embellishment is unnecessary. Claudette Colbert is a strikingly beautiful Cleopatra; the ease with which she captivates both Caesar and Anthony is readily understandable. Dressed in slinky costumes, she displays her desirability, even as she enchants them with her charm and cleverness. Travis Banton designed sensational costumes for Colbert. Warren William, more at home in a modern, urban setting, subdues his speech patterns and mannerisms to convey the forcefulness and intelligence of Caesar. Henry Wilcoxon, generally an inexpressive actor, looks rather boyish and physically powerful as Anthony.