Cleopatra (1912)

by popegrutch


Director: Charles L. Gaskill

Starring: Helen Gardner

This is the longest 1912 film I’ve watched so far – at 88 minutes, it qualifies for “feature length.” The editing was slower-paced than some movies of the period, and the action was distinctly stagey – long shots of square sets that actors enter/exit and move about on, with no camera moves and very few closeups. The exception, interestingly, was the Battle of Actium, where closeups and rapid edits were used to mask the lack of convincing special effects. The romance of Cleopatra and Marc Antony is one of the oldest soap operas in the world, and this version is fairly true to the Shakespeare version, although without the dialogue. Helen Gardner, who was 28 at the time, was apparently a big deal – her name is on every intertitle. This is noteworthy because the Hollywood “star system” was still in very early stages, with some studios (notably Biograph) refusing to acknowledge actors’ names in their films.

You can watch it for free: here