Top positive review
Generally Successful Screen Adaptation of Shaw's Wordy Play
on 5 February 2018
I've actually seen this play in the theatre, many years ago, when Shaw's plays were still performed. It starred John Gielgud (far too old & skinny) as Caesar & the young Anna Calder Marshall, who stole the show as the Egyptian sex kitten with claws!
Vivien Leigh is not that different, giving a portrayal of the Last Pharaoh that isn't too far from the historical reality - selfish, insecure, ruthless when it suited her. (Cleopatra was the product of an incestuous, fratricidal dynasty & almost certainly murdered her own sister.)
Claude Rains' Julius Caesar, by contrast, bears little resemblance to the historical man.....he is humorous, laid back even, avuncular, & the mouthpiece for much of Bernard Shaw's mischievous philosophising......what's left of it, that is, because inevitably it has been reworked for the Big Screen.
My overall impression of that 1971 stage performance was that "Caesar & Cleopatra" is, like so many of Shaw's plays, more of a debate than a drama. Surprisingly, this 1940s film screenplay is by GBS himself, though whether he really was responsible for writing the battle scenes & outdoor action sequences I rather doubt. The film strives to be an epic, often anticipating the disastrous Burton/Taylor effort of the Sixties.
It looks good, costumes look authentic & the supporting cast is strong: Flora Robson, Stewart Granger looking like a young Hercules, Basil Sydney, Alan Wheatley. Look out, too, for Jean Simmons & Jon Laurie in tiny roles.
I can't agree with the earlier reviewer who disparages Vivien Leigh because of her voice: that's how actresses were trained to speak in those days. Beware of patronising the past.