Caesar and Cleopatra
theatrical release poster
Directed byGabriel Pascal
Written byGeorge Bernard Shaw
(play {uncredited}, scenario and dialogue)
Produced byGabriel Pascal
StarringVivien Leigh
Claude Rains
CinematographyF. A. Young F.R.P.S.
Robert Krasker
Jack Hildyard
Jack Cardiff
Edited byFrederick Wilson
Joan Warwick (uncredited)
Music byGeorges Auric
Distributed byEagle-Lion Films (UK)
United Artists (US)
Release date
11 December 1945 (London)
6 September 1946 (US)
16 September 1946 (UK)
Running time
128 minutes (UK)
123 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom
BudgetUS$5.2 million[1] or £1.3 million[2][3]
Box officeUS$2,250,000 (US rentals)[4]
815,007 admissions (France)[5]
£350,000 (US$1.4 million) (UK)[3]

Caesar and Cleopatra is a 1945 British Technicolor film directed by Gabriel Pascal and starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains.[6] Some scenes were directed by Brian Desmond Hurst who took no formal credit. The picture was adapted from the play Caesar and Cleopatra (1901) by George Bernard Shaw, produced by Independent Producers and Pascal Film Productions, and distributed by Eagle-Lion Distributors.

Upon release, Caesar and Cleopatra failed to earn back its then colossal budget. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction for John Bryan.[7]


In this philosophical coming-of-age film, an aging Julius Caesar takes possession of the Egyptian capital city of Alexandria, and tries to resolve a feud between young Princess Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy. During the resulting sometimes-murderous court intrigues, Caesar develops a special relationship with Cleopatra, and teaches her how to use her royal power.


Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra
Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra


Filmed in Technicolor with lavish sets, the production was reported to be the most expensive film ever made at the time, costing £1,278,000 (or £49.8 million at 2019 value), or US$5.15 million (or US$59.1 million at inflation-adjusted value) at contemporary exchange rates.[8] Caesar and Cleopatra held that record until Duel in the Sun.

Pascal ordered sand from Egypt to get the right cinematic colour. The production also ran into delays due to being filmed during World War II.[9] During the shoot, Vivien Leigh tripped and miscarried her pregnancy from husband Laurence Olivier. That incident triggered Leigh's manic depression, leading to her emotional breakdown, and halted production for five weeks.[1]

The film was described as a "box office stinker" at the time and almost ended Pascal's career. It was the first Shaw film made in colour, and the last film version of a Shaw play during his lifetime. After Shaw's death in 1950, Pascal produced Androcles and the Lion, another Shaw-derived film, in 1952.


Box Office

According to trade papers, the film was a "notable box office attraction" at British cinemas.[10][11] According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winner' at the box office in 1946 Britain was The Wicked Lady, with "runners up" being The Bells of St Marys, Piccadilly Incident, The Road to Utopia, Tomorrow is Forever, Brief Encounter, Wonder Man, Anchors Away, Kitty, The Captive Heart, The Corn is Green, Spanish Main, Leave Her to Heaven, Gilda, Caravan, Mildred Pierce, Blue Dahlia, Years Between, O.S.S., Spellbound, Courage of Lassie, My Reputation, London Town, Caesar and Cleopatra, Meet the Navy, Men of Two Worlds, Theirs is the Glory, The Overlanders, and Bedelia.[12]

The film earned $1,363,371 in the United States, making it one of the more popular British films ever released there.[13] It did, however, fall short of initial expectations. Variety estimated that Rank lost $3 million (or $30.5 million at 2019 value) on the film after marketing, distribution, prints, insurance, rights, and wages are taken into account.[3]

See also



  1. ^ a b Steinberg, Jay S. "Caesar and Cleopatra" (article)
  2. ^ "The London Letter: Loan Vote Prospects" The Scotsman [Edinburgh, Scotland] 13 Dec 1945: 4.
  3. ^ a b c Staff (30 October 1946) "'Cleo' $3,000,000 in the red", Variety, p.3
  4. ^ Staff (8 January 1947) "60 Top Grossers of 1946" Variety p,8
  5. ^ Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  6. ^ "Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)". Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  7. ^ "946 (19th) Art Direction (Color) Caesar and Cleopatra John Bryan"[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Noteworthy Films Made In U.K." The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 17 January 1953. p. 27. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1945) home video review,
  10. ^ Murphy, Robert (2003) Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 p.209
  11. ^ Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 258.
  12. ^ Lant, Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 232.
  13. ^ Street, Sarah (2002) Transatlantic Crossings: British Feature Films in the USA, Continuum, p.94