Cleopatra (1934)

95 or 101-102 mins | Drama | 5 October 1934

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HISTORY

According to a news item in DV , dancer Agnes DeMille, the niece of director Cecil B. DeMille, was cast to perform in the film. In one scene she was supposed to dance on the back of a bull, however, she left the cast due to artistic differences with her uncle. News items in NYT note that while only two months were spent shooting the film, months were spent on historical research, and duplicates of ancient Roman artifacts were created for realism. According to the pressbook, this was English actor Henry Wilcoxon's first role in an American feature film. The pressbook also notes that DeMille recalled that he cast Wilcoxon as Marc Antony after unintentionally seeing his test film while in a projection booth. Some scenes were filmed on location in the desert near Muroc, CA, and at the sand dunes of El Segundo, CA. According to a contemporary advertisement, Cleopatra was released in Germany, with German dialogue by Helmut Brandis and H. von Lortenbach and German direction by Kurt Blemis.
       A 1935 news item in DV reports that when the film was first shown in Rome, Italy, the audience responded with "catcalls and derisive laughter," and the Italian critics called the picture a "travesty and a burlesque." Victor Milner won an Academy Award for cinematography, and the picture was nominated for the following awards: Best Picture, Sound Recording (Paramount Studio Sound Department, Franklin Hansen, director), Film Editing (Anne Bauchens) and Assistant Director (Cullen Tate). Modern sources include the following cast credits: Olga Celeste ( Slavegirl ), Ecki ( Leopard ), John Carradine ( Roman ), and Hal Price ... More Less

According to a news item in DV , dancer Agnes DeMille, the niece of director Cecil B. DeMille, was cast to perform in the film. In one scene she was supposed to dance on the back of a bull, however, she left the cast due to artistic differences with her uncle. News items in NYT note that while only two months were spent shooting the film, months were spent on historical research, and duplicates of ancient Roman artifacts were created for realism. According to the pressbook, this was English actor Henry Wilcoxon's first role in an American feature film. The pressbook also notes that DeMille recalled that he cast Wilcoxon as Marc Antony after unintentionally seeing his test film while in a projection booth. Some scenes were filmed on location in the desert near Muroc, CA, and at the sand dunes of El Segundo, CA. According to a contemporary advertisement, Cleopatra was released in Germany, with German dialogue by Helmut Brandis and H. von Lortenbach and German direction by Kurt Blemis.
       A 1935 news item in DV reports that when the film was first shown in Rome, Italy, the audience responded with "catcalls and derisive laughter," and the Italian critics called the picture a "travesty and a burlesque." Victor Milner won an Academy Award for cinematography, and the picture was nominated for the following awards: Best Picture, Sound Recording (Paramount Studio Sound Department, Franklin Hansen, director), Film Editing (Anne Bauchens) and Assistant Director (Cullen Tate). Modern sources include the following cast credits: Olga Celeste ( Slavegirl ), Ecki ( Leopard ), John Carradine ( Roman ), and Hal Price ( Onlooker at procession ). Other films based on the reign of Cleopatra include Helen Gardner Picture Players' 1912 Cleopatra , directed by Charles L. Gaskill and starring Helen Gardner and Mr. Sindelar; Fox Film Corp.'s 1917 Cleopatra directed by S. Gordon Edwards and starring Theda Bara, Fritz Leiber and Thurston Hall; and Twentieth Century-Fox's 1963 Cleopatra , directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Elizabeth Taylor. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Apr 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 May 34
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Apr 35
p. 11.
Film Daily
25 Jul 34
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 34
pp. 5-11.
International Photographer
1 May 34
p. 16.
Motion Picture Herald
25 Aug 34
p. 35, 38
New York Times
20-May-34
---
New York Times
12-Aug-34
---
New York Times
17 Aug 34
p. 12.
New York Times
19-Aug-34
---
VarB
23-Jul-34
---
Variety
21 Aug 34
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cecil B. DeMille Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Adpt of historical material by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Miss Colbert's cost des by
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec eng
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr clerk
Casting dir
DeMille's secretary
Research
Caesar's bust sculpted by
Still photog
Bus mgr
STAND INS
Stand-in for Claudette Colbert
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 October 1934
Production Date:
13 March--2 May 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 October 1934
Copyright Number:
LP4995
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95 or 101-102
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
80
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In 48 B.C., Egyptian Prime Minister Pothinos kidnaps Queen Cleopatra and her philosopher, Apollodorus, and leaves them in the desert, warning Cleopatra that he will have her killed if she returns to Egypt. Realizing her brother Ptolemy could weaken and serve under Roman rule, Cleopatra and Apollodorus make their way to Caesar's camp, and she cleverly gains an audience with Julius Caesar. Cleopatra reveals Pothinos' treachery and tempts Caesar with the possibility of conquering India by going through Egypt. Later, Cleopatra tries to seduce Caesar, and then proves her fidelity to him by killing Pothinos, who had been lying in wait behind some curtains in her chamber. Cleopatra and Caesar fall in love, much to the chagrin of Caesar's followers in Rome, who fear that if Caesar divorces his wife, Calpurnia, and marries Cleopatra, Caesar would become a king, and Rome would no longer be a republic. Caesar brings Cleopatra home to Rome, and soldier Marc Antony urges him not to allow her to make an Egyptian of him. Calpurnia begs Caesar not to speak to the senate, as she has dreamed of his death, but he belittles her vision and is escorted by Casca, who, along with Brutus, Cassius and others, murder him before he reaches the senate. Cleopatra is devastated and returns to Egypt, while the Roman senate rules that Caesar's nephew Octavian will rule Rome jointly with Marc Antony, and Antony will avenge Caesar's death and punish Egypt. Antony arranges a meeting with Cleopatra in a public square, where he hopes to ambush her with his soldiers, but instead she ensnares him in her ship where she tantalizes him with ... +


In 48 B.C., Egyptian Prime Minister Pothinos kidnaps Queen Cleopatra and her philosopher, Apollodorus, and leaves them in the desert, warning Cleopatra that he will have her killed if she returns to Egypt. Realizing her brother Ptolemy could weaken and serve under Roman rule, Cleopatra and Apollodorus make their way to Caesar's camp, and she cleverly gains an audience with Julius Caesar. Cleopatra reveals Pothinos' treachery and tempts Caesar with the possibility of conquering India by going through Egypt. Later, Cleopatra tries to seduce Caesar, and then proves her fidelity to him by killing Pothinos, who had been lying in wait behind some curtains in her chamber. Cleopatra and Caesar fall in love, much to the chagrin of Caesar's followers in Rome, who fear that if Caesar divorces his wife, Calpurnia, and marries Cleopatra, Caesar would become a king, and Rome would no longer be a republic. Caesar brings Cleopatra home to Rome, and soldier Marc Antony urges him not to allow her to make an Egyptian of him. Calpurnia begs Caesar not to speak to the senate, as she has dreamed of his death, but he belittles her vision and is escorted by Casca, who, along with Brutus, Cassius and others, murder him before he reaches the senate. Cleopatra is devastated and returns to Egypt, while the Roman senate rules that Caesar's nephew Octavian will rule Rome jointly with Marc Antony, and Antony will avenge Caesar's death and punish Egypt. Antony arranges a meeting with Cleopatra in a public square, where he hopes to ambush her with his soldiers, but instead she ensnares him in her ship where she tantalizes him with a feast, dancing girls and jewels, gets him drunk and seduces him. Antony returns to Egypt with Cleopatra where they fall in love. Two months later, King Herod warns Cleopatra that Octavian has declared Antony a traitor, and insinuates that her relations with Rome would be improved if Antony were dead. Apollodorus also advises Cleopatra to kill Antony, and she begins to test poisons on convicts. Warned by Herod, Antony hears that Cleopatra is testing poisons, and thus is suspicious when she serves a special meal with wine for him. She allays his fears, and at the moment he is about to drink the poisoned wine, news arrives that Rome has declared war against Egypt. Antony is roused to action and tells Cleopatra that she can either choose him or Rome. She is impressed by her lover, and after telling him that she is no longer a queen, but a woman, she prevents him from drinking the poisoned wine. Antony calls general Enobarbus to serve with him, but Enobarbus' loyalties are with Rome, and he refuses. Antony raises an army of Egyptian soldiers, and the battle is fought on land and sea. The Egyptian troops suffer defeat, and only Antony survives. Cleopatra secretly goes to Octavian and offers him Egypt in exchange for Antony's life, and he reluctantly accepts the terms. Antony mistakes Cleopatra's willingness to see Octavian as duplicity and commits suicide, but Cleopatra finds him in time to correct him and declare her fidelity to him before he dies. As the gate to the throne of Egypt is smashed by Roman troops, Cleopatra kills herself by the bite of a poisonous asp. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.