When Julius Caesar (Claude Rains) comes to visit Alexandria, one of the first things he does is see the Sphinx. While basking in the Sphinx’s glory, he meets a strange, silly young girl who urges him to hide before the Romans find and eat him. After talking to this girl for a few minutes, he finds out that she is Princess Cleopatra (Vivien Leigh). At first, she doesn’t realize who he is, or even that he’s Roman. When she does, she’s initially afraid, but he quickly wins her over. Caesar takes Cleopatra under his wing and the two of them develop a close friendship. He helps her find her confidence, teaches her how to act like royalty, and helps her to get power away from her brother.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Caesar and Cleopatra. Historical dramas, for the most part, aren’t really my thing. Generally, I think they’re stiff and humorless and usually go on for way too long. So I was very pleased to find that Caesar and Cleopatra was actually pretty lighthearted. I thought Netflix had made a mistake when they described it as “witty,” but there was no mistake. Vivien Leigh’s Cleopatra has a lot Scarlett O’Hara’s steely will and determination, but has a much more playful side. I really wasn’t expecting to see Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains being so funny and playful. But what a wonderful surprise it was because Vivien was an absolute delight to watch in her comical scenes. Actually, I think I liked her better in her funny scenes than in her more Scarlett O’Hara-esque scenes.
Caesar and Cleopatra was a box office failure when it was first released, and it’s still a movie I don’t hear discussed very often. Maybe it gets overshadowed by Elizabeth Taylor and Claudette Colbert’s turns as Cleopatra, but Caesar and Cleopatra deserves to be re-evaluated a little bit. It’s not one of the all-time greats, but it’s still very enjoyable fun and not dragged out at all. Totally unlike any other historical drama I’ve ever seen. I’m really glad I decided to take a chance on this one.