Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Render Unto Caesar

T. said last night on the phone, "I'm watching Vivien Leigh in Caesar and Cleopatra." I'd never heard of it, so I turned on TCM, consistently the best channel on TV, just for a minute, and found myself watching the whole thing.

Adapted from the George Bernard Shaw play, the 1946 film, in color, was apparently not a great success with audiences, who expected romance and battles and got very little of either. Instead, they saw a strong Leigh performance as a willful teen turned willful queen, pithy Shavian dialogue, and fabulous art direction by Oliver Messel, who also did the costumes and the covetable jewelry (and did the same for Suddenly, Last Summer, one of my favorite Elizabeth Taylor roles).

Every member of the cast wore intense amounts of kohl eyeliner, which must have contributed considerably to it being the most expensive production in British film history at the time. And the costumes were stunning, like the Donna Karan-ish black number below.

From left, an excellent Claude Rains as Caesar, Cecil Parker as his advisor Britannus (a role that enabled the Irish Shaw to score some anti-British points), Leigh, and Stewart Granger as the studly-swishy best friend, a.k.a. the Rupert Everett part.

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