Cleopatra (1912 film)

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Helen Gardner as Cleopatra.jpg
Directed byCharles L. Gaskill
Produced byHelen Gardner
Based onCléopâtre
by Victorien Sardou
StarringHelen Gardner
CinematographyLucien Tainguy
Edited byHelen Gardner (uncredited)
The Helen Gardner Picture Players
Distributed byUnited States Film Co. (1912)
Cleopatra Film Co. (1918 re-release)
Release date
  • November 13, 1912 (1912-11-13)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

Cleopatra is a 1912 American silent historical drama starring Helen Gardner in the title role and directed by Charles L. Gaskill. It is the first film to be produced by Gardner's production company, The Helen Gardner Picture Players. The film was based on a play written by Victorien Sardou.[1]

Cleopatra is one of the first six-reel feature films produced in the United States.[2] Promoted with the tagline "The most beautiful motion picture ever made", the film was the first to offer a feature-length depiction of Cleopatra,[3] although there had been a short film about Antony and Cleopatra earlier.[4]


In a series of elaborately staged tableaux, it depicts Cleopatra and her love affairs, first with handsome fisherman-slave Pharon, then with Mark Antony.


  • Helen Gardner as Cleopatra - Queen of Egypt
  • Mr. Howard as Pharon - A Greek slave and fisherman
  • Charles Sindelar as Mark Antony - Triumvir and General
  • James R. Waite as Venditius - A Roman soldier
  • Mr. Osborne as Diomedes - A rich Egyptian
  • Harry Knowles as Kephren - Captain of the Guards to the Queen
  • Mr. Paul as Octavius - A Triumvir and General
  • Mr. Brady as Serapian - An Egyptian priest
  • Mr. Corker as Ixias - Servant to Ventidius
  • Pearl Sindelar as Iras - An attendant
  • Miss Fielding as Charmian - An attendant
  • Miss Robson as Octavia - Wife of Antony
  • Helene Costello as Nicola - Child

Production notes[edit]

Cleopatra was the first film produced by Helen Gardner's production company, The Helen Gardner Picture Players, located in Tappan, New York.[5] Gardner created the company in 1910 after finding success in a series of Vitagraph shorts in the early 1900s.[2]

The film's budget was $45,000 (approximately $1,255,000 today) and featured lavish sets and costumes (Gardner also served as the film's costume designer and editor). Gardner used the natural scenery in Tappan for outdoor shots in addition to sets.[2][3]


Upon its release, Cleopatra played in opera houses and theatres. The film was also featured in a theatrical roadshow accompanied by a publicist, manager and a lecturer/projectionist.[6]

In 1918, Gardner filmed additional scenes and re-issued the film to compete with the 1917 adaptation released by Fox and starring Theda Bara.[6]


Film critic Dennis Schwartz described it as "energetic" while giving it a B- rating. [7]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


Like many American films of the time, Cleopatra was subject to cuts by city and state film censorship boards. For the 1918 release, the Chicago Board of Censors required a cut of the two intertitles "If I let you live and love me ten days, will you then destroy yourself?" and "Suppose Anthony were told that she had just left the embraces of the slave Pharon".[9]


The 1912 version of Cleopatra still exists in its entirety. Turner Classic Movies had the print restored and commissioned a new musical score for the film. The restored version aired on TCM in August 2000.[2]


  1. ^ Ball, Robert Hamilton (2013). Shakespeare on Silent Film: A Strange Eventful History. Routledge. p. 19. ISBN 1-134-98098-1.
  2. ^ a b c d Wallace Dickinson, Joy (March 25, 2001). "Early Screen Queen Turns Heads Again".
  3. ^ a b Wallace Dickinson, Joy. "Few Remember Days When Film Queen Lived Among Us". p. 1.
  4. ^ "Cléopâtre (1910)". IMDB.
  5. ^ Everson, William K. (2009). American Silent Film. Da Capo Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-786-75094-4.
  6. ^ a b McCaffrey, Donald W.; Jacobs, Christopher P., eds. (1999). Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 81. ISBN 0-313-30345-2.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  9. ^ "Official Cut-Outs by the Chicago Board of Censors". Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 6 (3): 31. January 12, 1918.

External links[edit]