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The density and sophistication of the dialogue mark this out as a theatrical production transferred to film - there are few breaks in the dialogue, few silences, little scope for special effects or distractions. It's a film to be watched with intense concentration, an actors' and a playwright's film rather than a cinematographic extravaganza.
Regarded as the most expensive film yet made in Britain (1945), it suffered the interruption of German bombing and necessary delays following Vivienne Leigh's miscarriage. It suffered from director Pascal's need for realism - he sent to Egypt for sand to ensure he got the right colour! An epic, yes, but not one which suffers from too much glitz or show. What comes across, vividly, is a sense of scale - you do get the impression of the vastness of Egypt and the scale of empire, and not just a sense that the sets are huge and elaborate. In 1945, the cinema-going audience knew all about the scale of Egypt, the size of the desert, knew the way from Egypt to Italy and beyond - they'd all followed the epic story of the Desert War for years.
The film's dialogue, of course, is Shavian - rich, terse, comedic, intelligent, with just a nod to Shakespeare. You have to listen - the cast deliver their lines at times with machinegun pace, and the wit, social commentary, and morality come at you like sledgehammers. The settings are exotic, some of the costumes a trifle bizarre ... but Leigh looks elegant and regal throughout. And somehow or other, Pascal contrives convincingly naturalistic images and settings.
You have immediate doubts. Claude Rains was a fine actor, but as Caesar? As a man of action, a front line soldier? He wanders across the desert and talks to the Sphinx ... to discover Cleopatra hiding there.Read more ›
Before all the Cleo movies we saw it turns out that Caesar (Claude Rains) made a visit to Alexandria. He casually comes in contact with Cleo (Vivien Leigh.) They seem to hit it off for an old man and a less than mature girl. Caesar teaches Cleo the ropes of leadership. There are scuffles and backstabbing; the even burn "The Library". What will become of this relationship?
This is an intriguing 1945 movie with all the biggie actors of the time. However it looks like they threw in anyone that could sound English. I spent as much time identifying the different actors as I did watching the play.
I have a copy of the play and am just now getting around to reading it.