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Cleopatra (1934 film)

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Written by Waldemar Young
Vincent Lawrence
Bartlett Cormack (adaptation: historical material)
Starring Claudette Colbert
Warren William
Henry Wilcoxon
Music by Rudolph G. Kopp
Milan Roder (uncredited)
Cinematography Victor Milner
Edited by Anne Bauchens (uncredited)
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • October 5, 1934 (1934-10-05)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Cleopatra is a 1934 epic film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and distributed by Paramount Pictures, which retells the story of Cleopatra VII of Egypt. It was written by Waldemar Young, Vincent Lawrence and Bartlett Cormack, and produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Claudette Colbert stars as Cleopatra, Warren William as Julius Caesar, and Henry Wilcoxon as Mark Antony.


In 48 BC, Cleopatra vies with her brother Ptolemy for control of Egypt. Pothinos (Leonard Mudie) kidnaps her and Apollodorus (Irving Pichel) and strands them in the desert. When Pothinos informs Julius Caesar that the queen has fled the country, Caesar is ready to sign an agreement with Ptolemy when Apollodorus appears, bearing a gift carpet for the Roman. When Apollodorus unrolls it, Cleopatra emerges much to Pothinos' surprise- he tries to deny who she is. However Caesar sees through the deception and Cleopatra soon beguiles Caesar with the prospect of the riches of not only Egypt, but also India. Later, when they are seemingly alone, she spots a sandal peeking out from underneath a curtain and thrusts a spear into the hidden Pothinos, foiling his assassination attempt. Caesar makes Cleopatra the sole ruler of Egypt, and begins an affair with her.

Caesar eventually returns to Rome with Cleopatra to the cheers of the masses, but Roman unease is directed at Cleopatra. Cassius (Ian Maclaren), Casca (Edwin Maxwell), Brutus (Arthur Hohl) and other powerful Romans become disgruntled, rightly suspecting that he intends to abolish the Roman Republic and make himself emperor, with Cleopatra as his empress (after divorcing Calpurnia, played by Gertrude Michael). Ignoring the forebodings of Calpurnia, Cleopatra, and a soothsayer (Harry Beresford) who warns him about the Ides of March, Caesar goes to announce his intentions to the Senate. Before he can do so, he is assassinated. Cleopatra is heartbroken at the news. At first, she wants to go to him, but Apollodorus tells her that Caesar did not love her, only her power and wealth, and that Egypt needs her. They return home.

Bitter rivals Marc Antony and Octavian (Ian Keith) are named co-rulers of Rome. Antony, disdainful of women, invites Cleopatra to meet with him in Tarsus, intending to bring her back to Rome as a captive. Enobarbus (C. Aubrey Smith), his close friend, warns Antony against meeting Cleopatra but he goes anyway. She entices him to her barge and throws a party with many exotic animals and beautiful dancers, however, and soon bewitches him. Together they sail back to Egypt.

King Herod (Joseph Schildkraut) who has secretly allied himself with Octavian, visits the lovers. He informs Cleopatra privately that Rome and Octavian can be appeased if Antony were to be poisoned. Herod also tells Antony the same thing. Antony laughs off his suggestion, but a reluctant Cleopatra, reminded of her duty to Egypt by Apollodorus, tests a poison on a condemned murderer (Edgar Dearing) to see how it works. Before Antony can drink the fatal wine, however, they receive news that Octavian has declared war.

Antony sends orders to his generals and legions to gather, but Enobarbus informs him that they have all deserted out of loyalty to Rome. Enobarbus tells his comrade that he can wrest control of Rome away from Octavian by having Cleopatra killed, but Antony refuses to consider it. Enobarbus bades his friend and comrade Antony goodbye as he will not fight for an Egytian Queen against Rome.

Antony fights on with the Egyptian army, and is defeated. Octavian and his soldiers surround and besiege the palace of Antony and Cleopatra. Antony is mocked when he offers to fight them one by one. Without his knowledge, Cleopatra opens the gate and offers to cede Egypt in return for Antony's life in exile, but Octavian turns her down. Meanwhile, Antony believes that she has deserted him for his rival, and stabs himself. When Cleopatra returns, she is heartbroken to find him dying. They reconcile before he perishes. Then, with the gates breached, Cleopatra kills herself with a poisonous snake and is found sitting on her throne, dead.



In 1934, the Hays code had just taken effect, so DeMille got away with using more risque imagery than he would be able to in his later productions. He opens the film with an apparently naked, but strategically lit slave girl holding up an incense burner in each hand as the title appears on screen.

The film is also memorable for the sumptuous art deco look of its sets (by Hans Dreier) and costumes (by Travis Banton), the atmospheric music composed and conducted by Rudolph George Kopp, and for DeMille's legendary set piece of Cleopatra's seduction of Antony, which takes place on Cleopatra's barge.[citation needed]


The film was one of Paramount's biggest hits of the year.[1]

Academy Awards


Home media

It has been released for home viewing several times in the United States of America, including a 75th anniversary DVD edition in 2009 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.[4]

In the United Kingdom, Cleopatra was released in a Dual Format DVD and Blu-ray edition on September 24, 2012 by Eureka as part of their Masters of Cinema range.[5]


  1. ^ Churchill, Douglas W. The Year in Hollywood: 1934 May Be Remembered as the Beginning of the Sweetness-and-Light Era (gate locked); New York Times [New York, N.Y] 30 Dec 1934: X5. Retrieved December, 16, 2013.
  2. ^ "The 7th Academy Awards (1935) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ " -- Cleopatra". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Chaney, Jen (April 9, 2009). "A Pair of DVDs From a 'Loose' Era". Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved April 12, 2009. 
  5. ^

External links