Splendor and intimacy do not blend any more than the traditional oil and water. Each treads on the other’s toes. Cecil B. DeMille adds nothing to his directorial rep in this one other than to again demonstrate his rare skill in the handling of mass action.
Another tribute ought to go to C. Aubrey Smith as a soldier in one of the few sincerely written bits. Claudette Colbert’s best moment is the death of Cleo. The rest of the time she’s a cross between a lady of the evening and a rough soubrette in a country melodrama. It is not so much her fault as the shortcoming of the scenarists.
In an effort to avoid the blank verse of Shakespeare, from which this story derives, the dialog is made to become colloquial with disastrous results. When Cleopatra stabs a man hiding behind the drapings she explains to Caesar that the eavesdropper was plotting against her life or his. The imperial Julius then strides to the door, throws it open and commands a couple of guards to ‘take it away’, referring to the body. The blankest of blank verse would have been better. The entire dialog, save for a few moments, is of like calibre.
Warren William, as Caesar, and Henry Wilcoxon, as Antony, play in the drawing room style, and a not too select drawing room at that. Joseph Schildkraut is a fair Herod.
1934: Best Cinematography.
Nominations: Best Picture, Editing, Sound, Assistant Director