Amidst glaring kleig lamps, set strategically around the Paramount Theatre, and aided by a battery of New York’s more polite gentlemen in blue, Cecil De Millc’s grandiose, ornate, “colossal” super, super, super feature, “Cleopatra,” was ushered into the Paramount with a maximum of ballyhoo, noise and confusion. Snippily enough I should like to pose one questionâ€” “What’s all the shooting about?”
“Cleopatra,” as you might easily guess, is a motion picture based on some of the highlights of that Egyptian lady’s glamorous political and social career. In filming this epic the producer has managed to catch between the shutters of the sound camera all the obvious and trite things ever known about the Queen. What innovations there are turn out to be entirely irrelevant. The simple plot follows Caesar’s arrival in Egypt, the Queen entering wrapped up in a carpet, Caesar’s interest in the girl, his return with her to Rome, his assassination and her return to Egypt. Mark Anthony then becomes the leading figure and he is shown finally falling for the Queen’s charm and subsequently deserting the Roman cause in her favor. The picture ends with Anthony’s suicide and the asp nibbling at Cleopatra’s barely covered bosom.
This story is carried out with spectacular displays which enabled Mr. De Mille to make use of a cast of some 8,000 people. There are the usual number of dancing girls, glittering costumes, battles on land and sea, and in addition elaborate indoor sets. In spots the film is breath-taking or rather overwhelming in a spectacular way. It is entirely eye entertainment and not calculated to please movie fans who demand more than just that in their cinema fare. Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra is colorful and almost reminiscent of Helen Hayes, who played the role so skilfully in Shaw’s play, “Anthony and Cleopatra.” Her attempt to breathe some spirit into the lifeless dialogue almost succeeds. Warren William as Caesar gives a restrained but authentic performance. Harry Wilcoxon, imported from England to play the #ole of Mark Anthony, made his American debut as a screen actor in this picture. He will, if cast in the proper roles, be heard from again. He, too, suffered from the flat talk that accompanied the action, but when permitted to emote, acquitted himself with distinction.
“Cleopatra” has one distinction â€”it is the most expensive picture produced so far in this strange and disturbing year.
MORE GILBERT AND SULLIVAN
A month or so ago a revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas was announced, but the silence that followed made me think that everybody had forgotten all about it. Now I learn that the D’Oyle Carte Company of London was serious. In fact, just the other day the electrical equipment and costumes for the troupe arrived in this country and by the end of next week the English singers themselves will step ashore prepared to begin rehearsals against the opening set for September 3 at the Martin Beck Theatre.
Among the phrases used in advertising Harold Lloyd’s new picture, “The Cat’s Paw,” at the Radio City Music Hall, is “inspired comedy sparkling with clean humor,” with the emphasis on the “clean.” This is just another sop thrown to the censorship wave which for a time threatened to engulf the cinema. As a matter of fact the humor in “The Cat’s Paw” is no cleaner or more risque than is usually found in pictures of this type. I believe that stressing the purity of pictures will have a bad box-office reaction. I have noticed that in New York picture houses the audiences hissed audibly at any reference made in favor of censorship. The timidity of Hollywood is equalled only by its blatancy.