Cleopatra (1934) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

Cecil B. DeMille was one of the greatest producers from Hollywood’s Golden Era. He has produced numerous Best Picture winners and nominees, and has worked with some of the greatest film stars from that time period. DeMille was aware about the cinematic qualities of the famous historical tale of Cleopatra, and created a Best Picture nominee that was only one hundred minutes long. The final result is a visually stunning black-and-white spectacle.

A Toast

This film features Oscar-winning cinematography and a fabulous performance by Claudette Colbert in the title role. Interestingly, Colbert won the Best Actress Oscar not for this film, but for the Best Picture winner It Happened One Night (1934). The overall design of the film is beautiful, such as the camerawork that captures the glamour of Cleopatra, including her famed golden barge. The costumes are also very stylish even though a “Best Costume Design” category did not exist at that time. Like many big-budget Hollywood productions, this film portrays the life and times of Cleopatra with sheer opulence.

Verdict

Cleopatra was one of the most important films made during the early stages of Hollywood history. It was made around the same time that censors were debating about what could (or should) be shown on-screen. It was one of three films made during the height of Colbert’s career (the other two being Imitation of Life and It Happened One Night). It was also the first Cleopatra film that received a Best Picture nomination until the highly controversial version came out in 1963. A fun fact is that this film did not inspire the Elizabeth Taylor epic because the 1963 version was actually a remake of the 1917 version. Nevertheless, Cleopatra (1934) is still a delightful Hollywood historical epic that is much shorter and simpler than one of the most scandalous films ever produced in cinematic history.

Cleopatra (1934) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever Cleopatra does anything romantic with Julius Caesar and/or Marc Antony

Take a Drink: every time Claudette Colbert wears a fabulous costume

Drink a Shot: whenever old-school Hollywood glamour appears on-screen, including the very mighty golden barge

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