Firstly I must say that even though the approach they take is very different I really love and appreciate BOTH versions of "Cleopatra". It seems to be inevitable that the two are endlessly compared as to their general worth but in reality they are very different while essentially telling the same story.
I found Claudette Colbert to be an excellent Cleopatra and while she is most famous for portraying sophisticated modern women in "Cleopatra" and her other epic production from that time, "The Sign of the Cross" she captures beautifully the feel of that far off time in history. Claudette was an extremely capable actress equally adept at performing in comedy, drama and spectacle. Here she has a role of a lifetime and it is one of the roles she is justly remembered most for.
Contrary to what a lot of reviewers always state I find Cecil B DeMille's work wonderful to watch. I guess being a history buff I just love the times most of his productions are set in.I think that a great deal of thought and care has gone into all his productions...no more obvious than in his 1934 version of "Cleopatra"
The film positvely glows with one exotic scene after another. Cleopatra's seduction of Marc Antony on her barge has to be seen to be believed!! Surely the queen's real barge was never so lavish!! Her entry into Rome as part of Ceasar's entourage while well done can't possibly compare to the incredibly lavish entry scene in Elizabeth Taylor's version unfortunately.
As a history exercise it stays close to what real history says happened but never once does the entertainment let up. The settings , costumnes, music used are pure DeMille and are thus a sight for the eye. I feel that Claudette also has tried to inject more of a human element into her characterisation displaying frustration and fear of things that might occur and tiredness at the burden she must carry as one Queen up against the whole Roman Empire. When she exclaims "It's always Egypt!" meaning it is her resposibilities always ahead of her own needs she displays a great human side to a impressive character.
I can't fault this production and it still holds up today as impressive entertainment. I never tire of the story of the Queen of the Nile and all the intrigues of her court. And the costumns and sets make the film well worth viewing for that alone.
Not a really great history lesson but terrific entertainment as it was intended. They dont make films like this one nowadays mores the pity!!!.