AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Cleopatra
Director: Cecil B. DeMille (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Oct 1934
Production Date:   13 Mar--2 May 1934
Duration (in mins):   95 or 101-102
Duration (in reels):   11
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Claudette Colbert (Cleopatra)  
    Warren William (Julius Caesar)  
    Henry Wilcoxon (Marc Antony)  
    Joseph Schildkraut (Herod)  
    Ian Keith (Octavian)  
    Gertrude Michael (Calpurnia)  
    C. Aubrey Smith (Enobarbus)  
    Irving Pichel (Apollodorus)  
    Arthur Hohl (Brutus)  
    Edwin Maxwell (Casca)  
    Ian MacLaren (Cassius)  
    Eleanor Phelps (Charmion)  
    Leonard Mudie (Pothinos)  
    Grace Durkin (Iras)  
    Ferdinand Gottschalk (Glabrio)  
    Claudia Dell (Octavia)  
    Harry Beresford (Soothsayer)  
    Jane Regan (Lady Vesta)  
    William Farnum (Lepidus)  
    Lionel Belmore (Fidius)  
    Florence Roberts (Lady Flora)  
    Dick Alexander (General Philodemas)  
    Celia Ryland (Lady Leda)  
    William V. Mong (Court physician)  
    Robert Warwick (General Schillas)  
    George Walsh (Courier)  
    Jack Rutherford (Flavius)  
    Kenneth Gibson (Scribe)  
    Wedgewood Nowell (Scribe)  
    Bruce Warren (Scribe)  
    Robert Manning (Aelius)  
    Ed Deering (Convict)  
    John Rutherford (Drussus)  
    Charles Morris (Cicero)  
    Margerie Bonner (Roman girl)  
    Leon Beauman (Egyptian guard)  
    Colonel Nicholai Kolovaloss (Roman general)  
    Colonel Tim Lonergan (Roman general)  
    John Roy Marsilio (Roman soldier)  
    Gil Barry (Roman soldier)  
    Bob Hall (Roman soldier)  
    Carl Saxe (Roman soldier)  
    Ernie Smith (Roman soldier)  
    Bryant Washburn    
    Mary MacLaren    
    Jack Mulhall    
    Julanne Johnston    
    Phillips Smalley    
    Edmund Jones    
    Inez Seabury    
    Wilfred Lucas    
    Bryant Washburn Jr.    
    Carlyle Blackwell Jr.    
    Reuben Schaffer    
    Horace B. Carpenter    
    Jilda Keeling    
    Mary Fahrney    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Cecil B. DeMille Production
Distribution Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Director: Cecil B. DeMille (Dir)
  David MacDonald (Asst dir)
  Cullen Tate (Asst dir)
Producer: Adolph Zukor (Pres)
Writer: Waldemar Young (Scr)
  Vincent Lawrence (Scr)
  Bartlett Cormack (Adpt of historical material by)
Photography: Victor Milner (Photog)
  William Mellor (Cam op)
  Cooper Smith (Cam op)
  Guy Roe (Asst cam)
  Robert Rhea (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  Roland Anderson (Art dir)
Film Editor: Anne Bauchens (Film ed)
Costumes: Travis Banton (Miss Colbert's cost des by)
Music: Nathaniel Finston (Mus dir)
  Rudolph Kopp (Mus)
Sound: Harry Lindgren (Rec eng)
  Franklin Hansen (Sd dir)
Production Misc: Emily Barye (Scr clerk)
  Billy Gordon (Casting dir)
  Florence Cole (DeMille's secretary)
  Gladys Percey (Research)
  Jeanie Macpherson (Research)
  Ralph Jester (Caesar's bust sculpted by)
  Ray Jones (Still photog)
  Roy Burns (Bus mgr)
Stand In: Gladys Jeans (Stand-in for Claudette Colbert)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Productions, Inc. 5/10/1934 dd/mm/yyyy LP4995 Yes

PCA NO: 80
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Marcus Antonius
  Caesar, Gaius Julius, 100-14 B.C.
  Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt, 69-30 B.C.
  Duplicity
  Egypt--History
  Rome--Ancient history
  Seduction
  Traitors
 
Subjects (Minor): Augustus, Roman Emperor, 63 B.C.-14 A.D.
  Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus
  Calpurnia
  Conspiracy
  Convicts
  Deserts
  Disillusionment
  Herod I, King of Judea, 73-74 B.C.
  Kidnapping
  Loyalty
  Murder
  Nephews
  Philosophers
  Poison
  Political alliances
  Prophets
  Romance
  Senators
  Snakes
  Soldiers
  Suicide
  Visions
  War

Note: 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.  

Bibliographic Sources:   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   
Variety   21 Aug 34   p. 17.
VarB   23-Jul-34   

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.