CLEOPATRA (director/writer: Charles L. Gaskill; screenwriter: from the play by Victorien Sardou; cinematographer: Lucien Tainguy; editor: Helen Gardner; music: Chantal Krevinzuk/Raine Maida; cast: Helen Gardner (Cleopatra), Helen Gardner (Cleopatra), Pearl Sindelar (Iras), Miss Fielding (Charmiann), Miss Robson (Octavia), Helene Costello (Nicola), Charles Sindelar (Marc Antony), Mr. Howard (Pharon, a Greek Slave and Fisherman), James R. Waite (Ventidius); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Helen Gardner; TCM; 1912-silent)
“The energetic silent film passes for high-art at the time.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Helen Gardner was the star, editor, costume designer and it was her production company (Helen Gardner Picture players) that shot this 88 minute feature movie (the usual feature at the time was only twenty minutes). Her company was the first started by an actress. Cleopatra is based on the play by Victorien Sardou that opened in Paris in 1890 and is written and directed by Gardner’s husband Charles L. Gaskill (“Sylvia Gray”/”The Miracle”/”The Common Sin”).
Cleopatra (Helen Gardner), the Egyptian queen, is known for her many affairs and has just taken a new lover, a slave called Pharon. He’s so taken with her, that he is willing to die for her. The Roman soldier Ventidius issues Cleopatra an order to meet Mark Antony (Charles Sindelar) at Tarsus to answer charges of conspiracy, who when he meets her is stunned by her beauty and begins an affair with her until he learns of his wife Flavia’s death.
Back in Rome, for political reasons Antony marries Octavia, the sister of Octavius. When Cleopatra learns Antony’s fleet is in Actium and under attack, though disappointed that he’s not loyal she still goes to meet him there with her navy. But her navy deserts Antony and he’s defeated. But he still has enough men to defend Cleopatra from Octavius in Egypt. When once again defeated, Antony stabs Cleopatra and himself; to ensure her death, Cleopatra presses an asp to her breast and dies.
The energetic silent film passes for high-art at the time. George Eastman with the help of Turner Classic Movies, splendidly restored this version.
REVIEWED ON 9/21/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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