Tag Archives: Egypt

The Best of Cleopatra

Harvard_Theatre_Collection_-_Sarah_Bernhardt_TCS_2_(Cleopatra)

by Rick Bretz

 

As Egyptian Queens go, my favorite is Nefertiti, a name meaning “A beautiful woman has come.”

http://www.biography.com/people/nefertiti-9421166

In spite of preferences, there was another queen that gets most of the headlines and movie titles.  She would be Cleopatra.  It’s interesting to note that Cleopatra as a movie role has been taken on by many actresses.  She might be the most attempted historic role attempted by actresses, other than Queen Elizabeth I and the current Queen Elizabeth, since the first frame of celluloid was run through a projector. It’s interesting to compare how actresses interpret one personality in history.

The portrayals that stand out in history are delivered by Theda Bera, Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor.  Other actresses have also attempted Cleopatra such as Monica Belucci but I want to concentrate on the five.

The Face of Cleopatra? Find out.

http://www.historyextra.com/article/ancient-egypt/face-cleopatra-was-she-really-so-beautiful

Cleopatra was of Greek Macedonian heritage but quickly learned the Egyptian language and identified with the Egyptian culture. This effort endeared her to the Egyptian people. She was a shrewd politician who maneuvered her way to be the sole ruler of Egypt. Empress Catherine the Great, who ruled Russia in the 1700s, followed this example by learning the Russian language early on in her education and immersing herself in the Russian culture when she came from Prussia to marry the future Peter III.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/who-was-cleopatra-151356013/

The comparison among the five portrayals of Cleopatra is an interesting exercise but for the time they were released they were all noteworthy.

theda bera as cleopatra

Theda Bera-1917

Theda Bera, the silent screen’s first sex symbol, took on the role of Cleopatra in the silent film days in 1917.  This one is a challenge to assess because only a few seconds of her performance exists.  Since she was one of, if not the first, to take on the role of Cleopatra, you have to give her credit.   She set a standard for others to follow.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000847/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWn7L2pL5dI

-claudette-colbert-cleopatra

Claudette Colbert-1934

Claudette Colbert appeared on-screen in “It Happened One Night” and “Cleopatra” in the same year, 1934.  She showed some range that year.  Colbert had to have the look for Cleopatra but also at that time a speaking voice that recorded well for the movies. During the transition from silent film to “talkies” many actresses and actors were left behind due to poor speaking voices or voices that didn’t match their appearances on screen.  She had both, the look and the voice, and her portrayal shows it in the strong personality she shows on film in the Cecil B. DeMille production.  Cecil B. DeMille knew how to stage an epic. Although this film is shot in black and white, the pageantry of it competes with epics of today,  Colbert, however, takes over the screen next to her co-stars and displays a strong national leader from the beginning to the final frame.   In a nod to her hitchhiking scene with Clark Gable for “It Happened One Night”, she essentially did the same thing for Julius Caesar and Mark Antony as they applied their brakes to their horse and carriages to court Cleopatra.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001055/

http://www.cinemagraphe.com/cleopatra-1934.php

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTbs3va862A

 

 

Vivien Leigh-1945

If Vivien Leigh can seduce Rhett Butler, she can certainly do the same with Julius Caesar.  Although she has the look, she is not an actress that you think about when considering for the role of Cleopatra. She seems to play the part more playfully than being a tactful political rival and nation ruler. Leigh’s Cheshire cat smile seems to take away from cunning and ambitiousness.  Leigh does an admirable job as well as the supporting cast, especially Claude Rains as Caesar, but it is not the best of the lot.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038390/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000046/?ref_=tt_cl_t2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzPbWQ1yeZk

 

Sophia Loren-1954

This Italian film is more famous for Sophia Loren playing Cleopatra and the dual role of the slave girl look-alike who tries, with help, to make her way into the royal palace pretending to be Cleopatra.  It’s more of a comedy than a serious epic but Loren as Cleopatra is intriguing.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045712/

 

 

cleopatra Elizabeth taylor

Elizabeth Taylor-1963

Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra is perhaps the most well known or notorious of the actresses depending on your point of view.  The film’s cost over runs due to production problems, actor’s salaries and the cost of building the sets ballooned the budget from 2 million to some reports say 44 million, and that’s 1963 money. Contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t a disaster it eventually made money and garnered 9 Academy Award nominations.  The on-set romance between Taylor and Richard Burton notwithstanding, Taylor’s version of Cleopatra rivals that of Claudette Colbert in its sexual nature and she portrays Cleopatra as a political figure and manipulator.  She captures the film the moment she rolls out of the carpet.  At that time, she was as powerful in Hollywood as Cleopatra was in Egypt and her 1 million plus salary proved it.   Despite the negative publicity it remains an epic to this day.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056937/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra_(1963_film)

http://time.com/3877380/cleopatra-rare-photos-of-liz-taylor-richard-burton-on-set-in-1962/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-IxtDdeL7

https://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/15-things-you-might-not-know-about-the-movie-cleopatra?utm_term=.pboz6AQRx#.vbQEVb7Br

 

The rankings:

  1. Elizabeth Taylor (Because it was shot in color and had terrific sets)
  2. Claudette Colbert ( A close second)
  3. Theda Bera (She was the first)
  4. Vivien Leigh (She ‘s Vivien Leigh, worth a look)
  5. Sophia Loren (Only because it was comedy and not an epic)

 

The Assassinations of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin

Middle East Map עברית: מפה מדינית של המזרח התי...
Middle East Map עברית: מפה מדינית של המזרח התיכון Bahasa Indonesia: Peta yang menunjukkan Asia Barat Daya - Istilah "Timur Tengah" lebih sering digunakan untuk merujuk kepada Asia Barat Daya dan beberapa negara di Afrika Utara (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certain people in history have tried to change the current political climate.  They make an effort to reverse the trend and push the tide in another direction.  Sometimes in their effort to change their corner of the world, they meet with resistance and hate and are killed along with their goals and ideas. Such is the case of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin.  Sadat was the leader and military hero of Egypt and Rabin the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel. Both leaders played an important role in the formation of their country’s development and status in the world.

A military lieutenant, who obtained a Fatwa (an opinion) approving the assassination, cut down Sadat and several others on the stand during a victory parade on October 6, 1981.

A far right-wing religious Zionist who despised the Oslo Accords signing killed Rabin during a rally supporting the Oslo Accords on November 4, 1995.

Despite the best efforts of people who have a chance to make a difference, there are others who want to create disharmony.

Similarities

Anwar Sadat

Yitzhak Rabin

Nobel Peace Prize Winner (1978) Nobel Peace Prize Winner (1994)
Assassinated by over zealous internal military officer   (1981) Assassinated by over zealous internal citizen (1995)
Military Officer Military Officer
Served in other government positions before assuming top government post Served in other government positions before assuming top government post
Respected by western leaders for taking a stand for peace Respected by western leaders for taking a stand for peace
Saw peace negotiations as a way to prevent further casualties in his country and bring stability to the country Saw peace negotiations as a way to prevent further casualties in his country and bring stability to the country
Astute Politician Astute Politician
Leader in modern formation of Egypt Leader in modern formation of Israel

Muhammad Anwar El Sadat

(25 December 1918 – 6 October 1981)

Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter und Anwar Sadat i...
Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter und Anwar Sadat in Camp David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anwar Sadat served as President of Egypt for 11 years and during this time he moved away from the principle of Nasserism by promoting the multi-party government system and changing the economic policy.   He was a member of the Free Officers Group that overthrew the Muhammed Ali Dynasty in 1952.

He assumed the Presidency in 1970 after Gamel Abdel Nasser.  He led Egypt in the October War in 1973 against Israel.  Afterwards he engaged in peace negotiations with Israel and signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1979.  This earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. This led to Egypt and Sadat becoming unpopular within the Arab community and the Arab League, despite wide support among Egyptians.

Sadat was breaking away from pan-Arabism espoused by his predecessor, Nasser.  In addition, he was moving away from the USSR as an influence and towards a more friendly relationship with the United States.  All of these events led to Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli leading a charge toward the VIP stand during the annual victory parade and assassinating Sadat along with several others including a Cuban Ambassador and an Omani General on October 6, 1981.

Vice President Hosni Mubarak and four US military liaison officers were wounded in the barrage of gunfire.  Islambouli was sentenced to death and executed in April 1982.  Hosni Mubarak assumed the duties as President after the assassination.  Sadat’s funeral was attended by three former Presidents (Ford, Carter, Nixon).

Yitzhak Rabin

(1 March 1922-4 November 1995)

Yitzhak Rabin served two terms as Israeli Prime Minister, from 1974-1977 and 1992-1995, when he was assassinated.  He did not  finish his policies

Israeli generals Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon...
Israeli generals Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon in 1949. Česky: Izraelští generálové Jicchak Rabin a Jigal Allon v roce 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

during his second term due to a far right religious Zionist who was angry about Rabin’s peace negotiations.  Yigel Amir, a law student, fired several shots at Rabin after a rally in support of the Oslo Accords at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995.  Rabin died at the hospital less than an hour later.

Rabin was a fighter for Israeli statehood from the beginning. He rose to take command of the Heral Brigade in the military and served as an Israeli General.  Under his command of the IDF, the Israeli gained significant ground against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the Six Day War in 1967.  During his first term as Prime Minister, Rabin successfully ordered the rescue of hostages by an Israeli commando unit after an airline hijacking in Entebbe, Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

According to many theories, the assassin Amir had come to believe that Rabin was a rodef, meaning a “pursuer” who endangered Jewish lives. Amir believed he would be justified under Jewish law by killing Rabin and removing a threat to the Jews.  Apparently, this is a misinterpretation of the law.  The law applies to removing a “pursuer” where they may be a threat to an individual.  Moreover, the law does not apply to elected representatives because if a person removes the elected official, that person would have to remove each voter who elected the government official.  The assassin acted  under flawed logic and reasoning concerning Jewish law.  Thinking about it, most assassination attempts begin under flawed logic to begin with, except in the cases of taking out someone who is evil personified such as Adolf Hitler.

Monument marking the site of the assassination...
Monument marking the site of the assassination: Ibn Gabirol Street between Tel Aviv City Hall and Gan Ha'ir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rabin was buried the day after the assassination on November 6, 1995, at the Mount Herzl  Cemetery in Jerusalem, where 80 heads of state attended the funeral.  A monument to Rabin rests at the location of the assassination. The monument erected with broken rocks that represent the political destruction the assassination brought to the peace process.

In other notes concerning the assassination, Rabin’s pocket carried a blood-stained paper with the lyrics of an Israeli song “Shir Lashalom” (“Song for Peace”). The song was used at the rally and outlines the futility of bringing a dead person back to life.  This means that peace should be foremost in everyone’s mind. The Knesset has set the 12th of Heshvan, the assassination date according to the Hebrew calendar, as the memorial day of Rabin.  What is your opinion? Make a comment and I will respond.