Julius Caesar (1953 film)

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Julius Caesar
Julius caesar.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by John Houseman
Written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
William Shakespeare (Play)
Starring Marlon Brando
James Mason
John Gielgud
Louis Calhern
Edmond O'Brien
Greer Garson
Deborah Kerr
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Edited by John Dunning
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 4, 1953 (1953-06-04)
Running time
121 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,070,000[1]
Box office $3,920,000[1]

Julius Caesar is a 1953 epic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the uncredited screenplay, and produced by John Houseman. The original music score is by Miklós Rózsa. The film stars Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Louis Calhern as Julius Caesar, Edmond O'Brien as Casca, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia.


Many of the actors connected with this film had previous experience with the play. John Gielgud had played Mark Antony at the Old Vic Theatre in 1930 and Cassius at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1950, James Mason had played Brutus at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in the 1940s, and John Hoyt, who plays Decius Brutus, also played him in the Mercury Theatre's 1937 stage version. Gielgud later played the title role in the 1970 film with Charlton Heston, Jason Robards and Richard Johnson (as Cassius) and in a stage production directed by John Schlesinger at the Royal National Theatre. John Houseman, who had produced the famous 1937 Broadway version of the play starring Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre, also produced the MGM film. By this time, however, Welles and Houseman had had a falling out, and Welles had nothing to do with the 1953 film. P. M. Pasinetti, Italian-American writer, scholar, and teacher at UCLA served as a technical advisor.

Brando's casting was met with some skepticism when it was announced, as he had acquired the nickname of "The Mumbler" following his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).[2] Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz even considered Paul Scofield for the role of Mark Antony if Brando's screen test was unsuccessful.[3] Brando asked John Gielgud for advice in declaiming Shakespeare, and adopted all of Gielgud's recommendations.[4] Brando's performance turned out so well that the New York Times stated in its review of the film: “Happily, Mr. Brando's diction, which has been guttural and slurred in previous films, is clear and precise in this instance. In him a major talent has emerged.”[5] Brando was so dedicated in his performance during shooting that Gielgud offered to direct him in a stage production of Hamlet, a proposition that Brando seriously considered but ultimately turned down.[6] During filming, James Mason became concerned that Brando was stealing the audience's sympathy away from him and his character, Brutus, so Mason appealed to Mankiewicz, with whom he had bonded earlier while making the film 5 Fingers, requesting that the director stop Brando from dominating the film and "put the focus back where it belongs. Namely on me!"[7] The subsequent shift in directorial attention didn't escape Brando, who threatened to walk off the film if Mankiewicz "threw one more scene to Mason", alleging a ménage à trois among Mankiewicz, Mason and Mason's wife Pamela.[7] Despite the feuding, production continued with only minimal disruption, thanks to what Gielgud called, "Mankiewicz's consummate tact that kept us together as a working unit."[8]

O. Z. Whitehead is listed on the Internet Movie Database as having played Cinna the Poet in the film and not receiving screen credit, but his one scene was deleted before release, and it is not included in any DVD or video releases of the film. (However, Cinna the Conspirator does appear; he is played by actor William Cottrell.)



The film received highly favorable reviews.[10] In the second volume of his book The Story of Cinema, author David Shipman pointed to Gielgud "negotiating the verse as in no other Shakespeare film to date except Olivier's".[11] The film currently has a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[12]

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

Box office[edit]

According to MGM records the film earned $2,021,000 in the US and Canada and $1,899,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $116,000.[1]


Intrada Records released an album featuring a 1995 re-recording of the film's score. The re-recording was performed by the Sinfonia of London and conducted by Bruce Broughton.[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar trailer.jpg
James Mason in Julius Caesar trailer.jpg

The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno, Edwin B. Willis, Hugh Hunt), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Best Picture.[15] Brando's nomination was his third consecutive for Best Actor, following 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire and 1952's Viva Zapata!. He would win the following year for On the Waterfront.

Julius Caesar won BAFTA awards for Best British Actor (John Gielgud) and Best Foreign Actor (Marlon Brando), and was also nominated for Best Film. It was Brando's second of three consecutive BAFTA Best Actor awards, for Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954).

The National Board of Review awarded Julius Caesar Best Film and Best Actor (James Mason), and it also won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Vaughan, Alden T., and Virginia Mason Vaughan (2012). Shakespeare in America. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-19-956638-9. 
  3. ^ Kanfer, Stefan (2009). Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando. New York: Random House. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-4000-7804-2. 
  4. ^ Gielgud, John (1979). An Actor and His Time. New York: Applause Books. p. 130. ISBN 1-55783-299-4. 
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley (5 June 1953). "Julius Caesar and Two Other Arrivals; Shakespeare Tragedy, Filmed by M-G-M With a Notable Cast, Unfolds at Booth". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  6. ^ DiMare, Philip C. (2011). Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 582. ISBN 978-1-59884-296-8. 
  7. ^ a b Porter, Darwin (2006). Brando Unzipped: A Revisionist and Very Private Look at America's Greatest Actor. Staten Island NY: Blood Moon Productions. p. 385. ISBN 978-0974811826. 
  8. ^ Thompson, Howard (16 November 1952). "Gielgud on Cassius". New York Times. 
  9. ^ Freese, Gene Scott (April 10, 2014). Hollywood Stunt Performers, 1910s-1970s: A Biographical Dictionary (2nd ed.). McFarland & Company. p. 75. ISBN 9780786476435. 
  10. ^ "Julius Caesar". Julius Caesar (1953) Movie Review – MRQE. Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  11. ^ David Shipman The Story of Cinema: Volume II: From Citizen Kane to the Present Day, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984, p.852
  12. ^ "Julius Caesar". rottentomatoes.com. 3 June 1953. Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  13. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19. 
  14. ^ "Julius Caesar". Intrada Records. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  15. ^ "NY Times: Julius Caesar". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
  16. ^ "Winners of the Golden Leopard". Locarno. Archived from the original on 2009-07-19. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 

External links[edit]