Cleopatra, By Cecil B. De Mille, Cleopatra, By Joseph L. Mankiewcs, And Cleopatra Jones, By Jack Starrett

1490 words - 6 pages

Feminine sexuality and power has been a controversial topic since the dawn of time. In many ancient societies, females exist as the lesser beings. They were meant only to bear children, and to stay loyal to their husband. Cleopatra VI became one of the first prominent females to exert her power. She reigned as queen of the entire Egyptian kingdom and bowed to no one. Cleopatra used her beauty to get what she wanted and needed for her country, and by doing this, she conquered some of the most politically important men of the Roman republic. Yet for many years, the life of this formidable queen was left unrecognized. The story of Cleopatra VI came back into intrigue with the production of three films: Cleopatra by Cecil B. de Mille in 1934, Cleopatra by Joesph L. Mankiewicz in 1963, and Cleopatra Jones by Jack Starrett in 1973. Each of these productions represents the historical Cleopatra in modern glory and power. They meant to appeal to both men and women; to the woman’s want and need for power in a still male-dominant world, and to the man's lust for an intellectual, and beautiful woman. All three of these films served their purpose accurately; they maintained a close connection to the historical context of Cleopatra, yet successfully attracted their target audience.
Claudette Colbert dazzled audiences as the “girl-next-door” actress of the 1930s and this made her role as Cleopatra that much more appealing. In 1934, women still struggled in the United States to escape their set gender role. A sexually charged and intimidating star may have been too much, too soon for the multitudes of this time; Colbert was perfect for the role. “Colbert offered a model of all that was 'tasteful and attractive' in contemporary female sexuality” (Hamer 120). She offered a likeness to Cleopatra without all the sultry seduction that would come in later films. Cecil B. de Mille meant for Cleopatra to charm both genders. For men, it allowed a pleasurable fantasy. They could fantasize about Colbert in the role of Cleopatra, without fearing her power or sexuality. For women, the film presents “an equation between two different degrees of power, the power of the queen and the power of the enfranchised, voting, wage-earning woman” (Hamer 122). The women who attended a viewing of this film could associate with Cleopatra's power in a world ruled mainly by men. For them, Claudette Colbert played a woman worthy of emulating. She seduces the men around her, yet continues to maintain a certain poise. Cleopatra does what she must for the bettering of her country. She represents what women yearn to be in modern society: successful and desirable. Cleopatra of 1934 did not only inspire with the tale of Cleopatra VI's life, it also closely followed the historical information. Such as the early scene in which Cleopatra appears before Caesar wrapped in a beautiful rug. We know from past documents that Cleopatra did in fact sneak into Alexandria in a secretive manner, but we do...

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