“Together we could conquer the world.”
When I think of Cleopatra I think of a woman who was outrageously intelligent, who stood tall, and knew how to use her sexuality to get what she wanted. How else could this woman have made a powerful man like Julius Caesar become weak with love and bring Marc Antony to his own destruction Watching Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 pre-code version of Cleopatra you see this strong intelligent and incredibly seductive woman come to life through Claudette Colbert.
Now hopefully you all know your ancient history to some extent or have at least heard of the Egyptian queen at some point in your life because I am not going to summarize the story. If you do not know the story look it up.
When I was little I had this weird obsession with Ancient Egypt. Cleopatra was always my favorite to read about. I have also loved stories with a lot of drama and her story is full of drama so I guess that is why I adore her so much. I know the film versions are dramatized but this version is how I picture the great woman. Elizabeth Taylor may have been gorgeous in her version but she was in no way seductive or exuded an incredible confidence. Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra kicks the crap out of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra. First of all this a pre-code film and almost every film was about a strong woman using her beauty to get what she wants from men. From the moment Colbert rolls out of the carpet she is nothing but sexy and confident. We know right away that the men in her life are doomed to fall at her feet and bring their empire with them.
This was the perfect film to do during the pre-code era and the 1930s with its risqué subject matter and extravagance. Several of the costumes Colbert wears are just pieces of cloth wrapped around her chest with just a long skirt on. Some of the lines are wonderful- “Why do you laugh Charmion?” “I laugh at wondering how Caesar will be unable to unclasp your dress” (paraphrasing that one); Antony going to Cleopatra for his men and she tells them they fell asleep “You mean they are drunk?” “No… awfully drunk.” The sets (along with the costumes) are gorgeous Art Deco and extravagant. They are some of the most lavish I have seen besides the 1963 version.
The first time I sat through this film I was so happy that it did not run as long at the 1963 one. I love how this one showed the important points of the story instead of showing the details. All we need to see is how Caesar fell for her and died for it and how Marc Antony loved her so much he was willing to be the enemy of his own country we do not need to see everything in between.
Cecil B. DeMille was a genius. His whole style of directing is awe inspiring. The best directed scene was when Caesar is being killed and the camera goes to a point of view angle of the senators and Caesar.
Cleopatra is one of the best films to have come out of the 1930s. It leaves you on the edge of your seat not only with the action but with the way Claudette Colbert plays the seductive intelligent queen. You can see it in her eyes what she wants and that once they have been laid on her prey there is nothing that will loosen her grasp. This version of Cleopatra needs to be seen and known and spoken about by more people for its all around brilliance and its pre-code.