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Julius Caesar

To those normally allergic to Shakespeare, this will be a surprise - a tense, melodramatic story, clearly presented, and excellently acted by one of the finest casts assembled for a film. Presented in its traditional, classic form, there is no attempt to build up the spectacle or battle scenes to gain sweep. The black-&-white camera has been used effectively, the stylized settings simulate scope, and the costumes breathe authenticity.

To those normally allergic to Shakespeare, this will be a surprise – a tense, melodramatic story, clearly presented, and excellently acted by one of the finest casts assembled for a film. Presented in its traditional, classic form, there is no attempt to build up the spectacle or battle scenes to gain sweep. The black-&-white camera has been used effectively, the stylized settings simulate scope, and the costumes breathe authenticity.

Highlight of the film is the thesping. Every performance is a tour de force. Any fears about Marlon Brando appearing in Shakespeare are dispelled by his compelling portrayal as the revengeful Mark Antony. The entire famous funeral speech takes on a new light.

John Gielgud, as the ‘lean and hungry’ Cassius is superb. The English actor portrays the chief conspirator with sympathetic understanding. James Mason, as the noble, honorable Brutus, is equally excellent. As the close friend of Caesar, who joined the conspiracy out of noble motives, Mason is determined though ridden by guilt feelings. His falling out with Cassius at the Battle of Philippi and the scene with his wife, portrayed by Deborah Kerr, make for moving drama.

Louis Calhern’s Caesar is another triumph. He plays the soldier-hero with proper restraint and feeling. Edmond O’Brien, though better known for his toughguy roles, is an effective Casca. The picture is so big that the two femme stars, Kerr and Greer Garson, are seen in gloried bits. However, both acquit themselves creditably.

1953: Best B&W Art Direction.

Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Marlon Brando), B&W Cinematography, Scoring a Dramatic Picture

Julius Caesar

  • Production: M-G-M. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Producer John Houseman; Screenplay Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Camera Joseph Ruttenberg; Editor John Dunning; Music Miklos Rozsa; Art Director Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno
  • Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1953. Running time: 121 MIN.
  • With: Marlon Brando James Mason John Gielgud Louis Calhern Greer Garson Deborah Kerr