Julius Caesar (1953)

121-122 mins | Drama | 1953

Producer:

John Houseman

Cinematographer:

Joseph Ruttenberg

Editor:

John Dunning

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Corp.
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HISTORY

The film's opening credits read "William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar." The opening credits also include the following quotation, attributed to the popular Ancient Roman biographer and historian Plutarch, but possibly paraphrased from his writings: "Upon Caesar's return to Rome, after defeating Pompey in the civil war, his countrymen chose him a fourth time counsel and then dictator for life...Thus he became odius to moderate men through the extravagance of the titles and powers that were heaped upon him." Although there is no onscreen credit for screenplay or adaptation, publicity material in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library indicates that producer John Houseman and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz worked independently to edit Shakespeare's play for the screen, then consolidated their changes in one final script, which was prepared by Mankiewicz. The opening cast credits differ in order from the closing credits, which list the cast members in order of appearance. In the opening credits, the principal actors are listed in the following order: Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Louis Calhern, Edmond O'Brien, Greer Garson and Deborah Kerr. Although the character's name is usually spelled "Marc Antony," the onscreen credits list it as "Mark Antony."
       According to modern sources, Orson Welles had been planning to film Julius Caesar when M-G-M began working on its version. In a modern interview, Welles said that he had been offered financing by Egypt's King Farouk to film a modern-dress version of the play, adding that he hoped to cast Richard Burton as "Brutus." Houseman, who had collaborated with Welles on the acclaimed 1937 Mercury Theatre stage version, which drew parallels between the events in ancient Rome and the rise of ... More Less

The film's opening credits read "William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar." The opening credits also include the following quotation, attributed to the popular Ancient Roman biographer and historian Plutarch, but possibly paraphrased from his writings: "Upon Caesar's return to Rome, after defeating Pompey in the civil war, his countrymen chose him a fourth time counsel and then dictator for life...Thus he became odius to moderate men through the extravagance of the titles and powers that were heaped upon him." Although there is no onscreen credit for screenplay or adaptation, publicity material in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library indicates that producer John Houseman and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz worked independently to edit Shakespeare's play for the screen, then consolidated their changes in one final script, which was prepared by Mankiewicz. The opening cast credits differ in order from the closing credits, which list the cast members in order of appearance. In the opening credits, the principal actors are listed in the following order: Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud, Louis Calhern, Edmond O'Brien, Greer Garson and Deborah Kerr. Although the character's name is usually spelled "Marc Antony," the onscreen credits list it as "Mark Antony."
       According to modern sources, Orson Welles had been planning to film Julius Caesar when M-G-M began working on its version. In a modern interview, Welles said that he had been offered financing by Egypt's King Farouk to film a modern-dress version of the play, adding that he hoped to cast Richard Burton as "Brutus." Houseman, who had collaborated with Welles on the acclaimed 1937 Mercury Theatre stage version, which drew parallels between the events in ancient Rome and the rise of fascism in Europe, recalled in his memoir that he received a letter from Welles in Jul 1952. Houseman wrote that Welles suggested either a collaboration or a financial settlement between himself and M-G-M, a proposal the studio's legal department promptly rejected. Houseman also noted that M-G-M's production was delayed because, although Shakespeare's play was in the public domain, independent producer David O. Selznick held the rights to the title "Julius Caesar"--having registered it with the MPAA--and refused to relinquish them. As a 10 Nov 1952 LAT news item explained, the MPAA administered title registration "under a priority-rights system which, while not legally binding, is usually honored as a gentlemen's agreement by majors and indies alike."        The news item added that M-G-M first considered filming Julius Caesar in 1934, but opted to make Romeo and Juliet instead. By the time M-G-M again became interested in Julius Caesar in 1946, ownership of the title had passed to independent producer Edward Small, with Selznick next in line. Selznick then acquired the rights, but when he failed to put the film into production within the time period specified by the title registration bureau, the title went to M-G-M.
       A 24 Aug 1951 news item in HR reported that M-G-M intended to film Julius Caesar on location in Rome, financing the production with frozen lira from The Great Caruso and other successful releases. Plans to shoot the film on location did not materialize, however. According to modern sources, Bronson Canyon in Hollywood substituted for the battlefields of Philippi. According to May 1952 HR news items, M-G-M originally considered Laurence Olivier for the part of "Julius Caesar" and sought Leo Genn for a role in the film. A 29 Oct 1952 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column claimed that Marlon Brando was cast as "Mark Antony" because Richard Burton was not available. Modern sources contend that British stage actor Paul Scofield, who was originally considered for the part of Brutus, had already been scheduled to test for Mark Antony when Houseman proposed Brando for the role. A biography of Brando states that the studio wanted Stewart Granger to play Mark Antony. According to a 5 Aug 1952 HR news item, John Dehner was originally cast in the role of "Messala." HR news items include Wilton Graff, Morris Ankrum, Victor Wood and Mervin Williams in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A 10 Oct 1952 HR news item adds fencing coach Jean Heremance to the cast, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
       A 28 May 1953 HR news item reported that Johnny Green, head of M-G-M's music department, was composing an overture for the film. According to a 1977 article in Films and Filming , Mankiewicz and Houseman had wanted composer Bernard Herrmann to write the music for the film, but were forced to use M-G-M contract composer Miklos Rozsa when Green and studio head Dore Schary refused to pay Herrmann's salary. The article adds that Rozsa wrote and recorded an overture, but Green replaced it with Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien . The overture in the released film was not by Tchaikovsky, however, and only Rozsa is credited onscreen with the film's music. In May 1953, a spoken-word recording of Julius Caesar , assembled from the film's soundtrack, was released by a subsidiary of M-G-M.
       According to information in the film's production file, Mankiewicz shot each scene of Julius Caesar in sequence. Houseman's memoir adds that Mankiewicz insisted on rehearsing for three weeks on the actual sets, in part to achieve strict control over the sound-recording process so that the actors' lines would not have to be re-recorded. Houseman wrote that their adjustments during rehearsals paid off: "In the final print of Julius Caesar there are not more than two dozen lines of 'looped' dialogue." Houseman also wrote that he and Mankiewicz decided against making the film in color or CinemaScope "on purely dramatic grounds," explaining that Shakespeare's tragedy called for "intensity and intimacy rather than grandeur; for direct violent confrontations that do not benefit from a lush, polychrome background." Moreover, Houseman noted, shooting the film in black and white enabled them to use scenery from M-G-M's 1951 Roman epic Quo Vadis (See Entry) "and still avoid an appearance of duplication that would be painfully obvious in color."
       A number of modern sources maintain that veteran Shakespearean actor John Gielgud, who made his American film debut in Julius Caesar , coached Brando in his first classical role. In his memoir, Gielgud acknowledged that Brando asked him to make a tape-recording of one of Mark Antony's speeches for him to study, along with other recordings. "He had tapes of Maurice Evans and John Barrymore and three or four other actors and listened to them every day to improve his diction," Gielgud wrote. Brando won praise for his performance, and the film received generally strong reviews, both in the United States and England. The British publication News Chronicle wrote, "It is maddening to be forced to admit it--but it has been left to Hollywood to make the finest film version of Shakespeare yet to be seen on our screens." The SatRev review asserted that the film featured "the best Shakespearean acting yet seen on film." Julius Caesar was chosen best picture of the year by the National Board of Review and received an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Black and White). The film was also nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Cinematography (Black and White) and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
       Julius Caesar had already been adapted for film a number of times, most recently as a 16mm student film produced by David Bradley at Northwestern University. Made primarily for educational purposes, the low-budget film, which featured Charlton Heston as Mark Antony, was released theatrically in 1950 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). A 1970 British version again featured Heston as Marc Antony, with Jason Robards as Brutus and Gielgud as Caesar. The play has also been adapted for television many times. Modern sources name Phil Rhodes and Ken DuMain as Brando's stand-ins. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Nov 52
p. 468.
American Cinematographer
Dec 52
pp. 528-29.
Box Office
6 Jun 1953.
---
Box Office
13 Jun 1953.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 1953.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jun 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Jun 53
p. 10.
Films and Filming
May 1977.
---
Films in Review
Apr 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 52
p. 5, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 52
p. 7, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 53
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Mar 1953.
---
Motion Picture Daily
3 Jun 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Jun 53
p. 1861.
New York Times
11 May 1952.
---
New York Times
21 Sep 1952.
---
New York Times
22 Mar 1953.
---
New York Times
5 Jun 53
p. 19.
Saturday Review
6 Jun 1953.
---
Variety
3 Jun 53
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Dramatis Personae in the order of their appearance:
Thomas Browne Henry
And as citizens of Rome:
Lawrence Dobkin
David Bond
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec supv
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Dial coach
Casting
Fencing coach
Research
STAND INS
Singing voice double for John Hardy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (London, 1599, published 1623).
SONGS
"Now, O Now, I Needs Must Part," words and music by John Dowland.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
Release Date:
1953
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 3 June 1953
Production Date:
25 August--mid October 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 March 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2456
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
121-122
Length(in feet):
10,795
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16238
SYNOPSIS

In 44 B.C., tribunes Flavius and Marullus watch with contempt as the citizens of Rome indulge in revelry to celebrate their leader Julius Caesar's triumph over Pompey. After pulling garlands off Caesar's statues and denouncing the self-appointed dictator, the two men are taken away by guards. Later, at a ceremonial race, Caesar is approached by a soothsayer, who tells him to beware the ides of March. Outside the stadium, Caesar's former comrades, Cassius and Brutus, discuss their dissatisfaction with the present regime. Meanwhile, Caesar confides to his loyal protégé, Mark Antony, that he considers the smart, ambitious Cassius dangerous. Later, Brutus and Cassius encounter Casca, who relates how Caesar was offered a crown by Mark Antony three times during the ceremonies. Casca says that Caesar made a big show of refusing the crown, thus inciting the crowd, before succumbing to his "falling sickness" and passing out. That night, a fierce storm rips through the streets of Rome, and rumors of supernatural phenomena spread. Cassius approaches Casca in the street and enlists him in his conspiracy against Caesar. In his home, Brutus ponders his earlier conversation with Cassius through the night, and as dawn breaks on the ides of March, he concludes that only Caesar's death will release Rome from his tyranny. Cassius comes by with Casca and several other conspirators, and Brutus agrees to join them. Cassius proposes that Mark Antony be killed as well, but Brutus cautions against excessive bloodshed and assures the others that Mark Antony is harmless. After Cassius and the others leave, Brutus' wife Portia awakens and implores Brutus in vain to tell her what has been ... +


In 44 B.C., tribunes Flavius and Marullus watch with contempt as the citizens of Rome indulge in revelry to celebrate their leader Julius Caesar's triumph over Pompey. After pulling garlands off Caesar's statues and denouncing the self-appointed dictator, the two men are taken away by guards. Later, at a ceremonial race, Caesar is approached by a soothsayer, who tells him to beware the ides of March. Outside the stadium, Caesar's former comrades, Cassius and Brutus, discuss their dissatisfaction with the present regime. Meanwhile, Caesar confides to his loyal protégé, Mark Antony, that he considers the smart, ambitious Cassius dangerous. Later, Brutus and Cassius encounter Casca, who relates how Caesar was offered a crown by Mark Antony three times during the ceremonies. Casca says that Caesar made a big show of refusing the crown, thus inciting the crowd, before succumbing to his "falling sickness" and passing out. That night, a fierce storm rips through the streets of Rome, and rumors of supernatural phenomena spread. Cassius approaches Casca in the street and enlists him in his conspiracy against Caesar. In his home, Brutus ponders his earlier conversation with Cassius through the night, and as dawn breaks on the ides of March, he concludes that only Caesar's death will release Rome from his tyranny. Cassius comes by with Casca and several other conspirators, and Brutus agrees to join them. Cassius proposes that Mark Antony be killed as well, but Brutus cautions against excessive bloodshed and assures the others that Mark Antony is harmless. After Cassius and the others leave, Brutus' wife Portia awakens and implores Brutus in vain to tell her what has been troubling him lately. Meanwhile, Caesar's wife Calpurnia awakens in terror from a nightmare, and tells her husband that dire omens say he must not go out. Caesar orders a sacrifice, and the augurs confirm Calpurnia's fears. Caesar refuses to be intimidated by these portents, but to placate his wife, agrees to send Mark Antony to the senate house to say that Caesar is unwell. When Decius Brutus, one of the conspirators, comes to escort Caesar to the senate house, Caesar says he will not go, confiding that Calpurnia dreamed she saw Caesar's statue spouting blood. Decius Brutus insists that the dream was misinterpreted, and actually signifies good tidings for Rome. He adds that the senate has decided to give Caesar a crown that day, and Caesar is ashamed for almost yielding to his wife's fears. Caesar meets up with the conspirators in the street, and they encounter the soothsayer, who reminds Caesar that the ides of March has not yet passed. Inside the senate house, the conspirators stab Caesar to death, with the horrified Brutus delivering the fatal thrust. Mark Antony's servant comes bearing a conciliatory message, and Brutus and the others agree to meet with him. Mark Antony stands sadly over his mentor's bloody corpse, then, summoning all his self-control, makes peace with Caesar's killers. He requests that he be allowed to speak at Caesar's funeral, and over Cassius' protests, Brutus agrees, on the condition that Mark Antony not assign blame. The assassins disperse and Mark Antony, alone with Caesar's corpse, apologizes to his fallen friend and vows to avenge him. Brutus addresses the hysterical crowd that has assembled outside the senate house, justifying his actions by saying that he loved Rome more than Caesar, who had grown too ambitious. Brutus wins the crowd over, then departs so that Mark Antony may address them. The citizens are initially hostile to Caesar's former aide, but Mark Antony commands their attention with an emotional speech that cleverly pokes holes in the conspirators' explanation, at Brutus' expense. He then inflames the crowd by revealing that Caesar's will bequeathed all his wealth to the citizens of Rome, and stirs their passion by showing them Caesar's corpse. Soon the crowd is screaming for revenge against the "traitors" who killed Caesar. As the mob begins to riot in the streets, Mark Antony quietly slips away. Later, Brutus and Cassius have formed armies and fled, and Rome is under the rule of Caesar's heir Octavius, Mark Antony and Lepidus. While preparing for war against the conspirators, the triumvirate issues death sentences against scores of political enemies. Meanwhile, at his camp near Sardis, Brutus is visited by Cassius, and the two men argue bitterly over the corruption in Cassius' forces. Brutus then reveals that Portia has killed herself, and they put their differences aside. Word comes that the triumvirate's purge has claimed the lives of up to one hundred senators, and that Mark Antony and Octavius are leading forces toward Philippi. Brutus proposes that they meet their enemy at Philippi, and despite his misgivings, Cassius accedes. Late that night, Brutus is visited by Caesar's ghost, who states that he will see Brutus at Philippi. The following morning, on the plains of Philippi, Brutus and Cassius say their farewells before risking everything on one battle. Mark Antony's army is strategically positioned in the hills, and Cassius' troops suffer a terrible defeat. In despair, Cassius orders his bondman to kill him with the same dagger he used to slay Caesar. Later, as Brutus surveys the carnage, he tells his old friend Volumnius that Caesar's ghost appeared to him again in the fields of Philippi. Certain that defeat is inevitable, Brutus says goodbye to his men and instructs his servant to hold his sword while he throws himself on it. Later, Mark Antony stands over Brutus' body and praises the honorable man--the only one of the assassins to have acted purely out of concern for his country's welfare--as "the noblest Roman of them all." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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