Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

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CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA

Claude Rains / Vivien Leigh / Stewart Granger / Flora Robson / Francis S. Sullivan / Basil Sydney / Cecil Parker / From the play by George Bernard Shaw / Costume Design  Oliver Messel / Art Design  John Bryan & Oliver Messel / Cinematography  Jack Cardiff, Jack Hildyard, Robert Krasker & Freddie Young / Producer  & Director  Gabriel Pascal

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CAESAR – ‘Hail, Sphinx: salutation from Julius Caesar! I have wandered in many lands, seeking the lost regions from which my birth into this world exiled me, and the company of creatures such as I myself. I have found flocks and pastures, men and cities, but no other Caesar, no air native to me, no man kindred to me, none who can do my day’s deed, and think my night’s thought. In the little world yonder, Sphinx, my place is as high as yours in this great desert; only I wander, and you sit still; I conquer, and you endure; I work and wonder, you watch and wait; I look up and am dazzled, look down and am darkened, look round and am puzzled, whilst your eyes never turn from looking out–out of the world–to the lost region–the home from which we have strayed. 

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..Sphinx, you and I, strangers to the race of men, are no strangers to one another: have I not been conscious of you and of this place since I was born? Rome is a madman’s dream: this is my Reality. These starry lamps of yours I have seen from afar in Gaul, in Britain, in Spain, in Thessaly, signalling great secrets to some eternal sentinel below, whose post I never could find. And here at last is their sentinel–an image of the constant and immortal part of my life, silent, full of thoughts, alone in the silver desert. 

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Sphinx, Sphinx: I have climbed mountains at night to hear in the distance the stealthy footfall of the winds that chase your sands in forbidden play–our invisible children, O Sphinx, laughing in whispers. My way hither was the way of destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute, part woman, and part God–nothing of man in me at all. Have I read your riddle, Sphinx?’

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THE GIRL – Old gentleman?

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CAESAR –  Immortal gods!

THE GIRL –  Old gentleman: don’t run away.

CAESAR –  “Old gentleman: don’t run away!!!” This! To Julius Caesar!

THE GIRL – Old gentleman.

CAESAR – Sphinx: you presume on your centuries. I am younger than you, though your voice is but a girl’s voice as yet.

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THE GIRL – Climb up here, quickly; or the Romans will come and eat you.

CAESAR – A child at its breast! A divine child!

THE GIRL – Come up quickly. You must get up at its side and creep round.

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CAESAR – Who are you?

THE GIRL – Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.

CAESAR – Queen of the Gypsies, you mean.

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CLEOPATRA – You must not be disrespectful to me, or the Sphinx will let the Romans eat you. Come up. It is quite cosy here.

CAESAR(to himself)  What a dream! What a magnificent dream! Only let me not wake, and I will conquer ten continents to pay for dreaming it out to the end.

CLEOPATRA  Take care. That’s right. Now sit down: you may have its other paw. It is very powerful and will protect us; but  it would not take any notice of me or keep me company. I am glad you have come: I was very lonely. Did you happen to see a white cat anywhere?

CAESAR – Have you lost one?

CLEOPATRA – Yes: the sacred white cat: is it not dreadful? I brought him here to sacrifice him to the Sphinx; but when we got a little way from the city a black cat called him, and he jumped out of my arms and ran away to it. Do you think that the black cat can have been my great-great-great-grandmother?

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CAESAR – Your great-great-great-grandmother! Well, why not? Nothing would surprise me on this night of nights.

CLEOPATRA – I think it must have been. My great-grandmother’s great-grandmother was a black kitten of the sacred white cat; and the river Nile made her his seventh wife. That is why my hair is so wavy. And I always want to be let do as I like, no matter whether it is the will of the gods or not: that is because my blood is made with Nile water.

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CAESAR – What are you doing here at this time of night? Do you live here?

CLEOPATRA – Of course not: I am the Queen; and I shall live in the palace at Alexandria when I have killed my brother, who drove me out of it. When I am old enough I shall do just what I like. I shall be able to poison the slaves and see them wriggle, and pretend to Ftatateeta that she is going to be put into the fiery furnace.

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CAESAR – Hm! Meanwhile why are you not at home and in bed?

CLEOPATRA – Because the Romans are coming to eat us all. YOU are not at home and in bed either.

CAESAR – Yes I am. I live in a tent; and I am now in that tent, fast asleep and dreaming. Do you suppose that I believe you are real, you impossible little dream witch?

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CLEOPATRA – You are a funny old gentleman. I like you.

CAESAR – Ah, that spoils the dream. Why don’t you dream that I am young?

CLEOPATRA – I wish you were; only I think I should be more afraid of you. I like men, especially young men with round strong arms; but I am afraid of them. You are old and rather thin and stringy; but you have a nice voice; and I like to have somebody to talk to, though I think you are a little mad. It is the moon that makes you talk to yourself in that silly way.

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CAESAR – What! you heard that, did you? I was saying my prayers to the great Sphinx.

CLEOPATRA – But this isn’t the great Sphinx.

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CAESAR – What!

CLEOPATRA – This is only a dear little kitten of the Sphinx. Why, the great Sphinx is so big that it has a temple between its paws. This is my pet Sphinx. Tell me: do you think the Romans have any sorcerers who could take us away from the Sphinx by magic?

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CAESAR – Why? Are you afraid of the Romans?

CLEOPATRA – Oh, they would eat us if they caught us. They are barbarians. Their chief is called Julius Caesar. His father was a tiger and his mother a burning mountain; and his nose is like an elephant’s trunk.  They all have long noses, and ivory tusks, and little tails, and seven arms with a hundred arrows in each; and they live on human flesh.

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CAESAR – Would you like me to show you a real Roman?

CLEOPATRA – No. You are frightening me.

CAESAR –  No matter: this is only a dream..

CLEOPATRA – It is not a dream: it is not a dream. See, see. (She plucks a pin from her hair and jabs it repeatedly into his arm.)

CAESAR – Ffff–Stop!  How dare you?

CLEOPATRA – You said you were dreaming. I only wanted to show you..

CAESAR – Come, come: don’t cry. A queen mustn’t cry.  Am I awake? Yes, I.. no: impossible: madness, madness!  Back to camp–to camp. 

CLEOPATRA – No: you shan’t leave me. No, no, no: don’t go. I’m afraid–afraid of the Romans.

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CAESAR – Cleopatra: can you see my face well?

CLEOPATRA – Yes. It is so white in the moonlight.

CAESAR – Are you sure it is the moonlight that makes me look whiter than an Egyptian? Do you notice that I have a rather long nose?

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CLEOPATRA – Oh!

CAESAR – It is a Roman nose, Cleopatra.

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4 comments on “Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

  1. watcat says:

    Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

  2. […] though its clearly not a cinematic masterpiece by any measure, Caesar and Cleopatra has plenty to recommend it, even if one chooses to give it a “camp” reading. […]

  3. Jhon David says:

    whats the end of the story? did Cleopatra in love to Caesar?

  4. chaplin says:

    I hate to break this to you, JD.. but Caesar gets done in by his mates at work, and Cleo runs off with his best friend Antony.. who subsequently gets killed after a dodgy sea battle, and Cleo takes her own life, by letting an asp bite her on the bosom. Basically, it ends badly for all.

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