“Cleopatra Was No Different!” says Cecil B. DeMille (1934) 🇺🇸
For ages the seductive Circe of the Nile has been branded by historians as a wanton siren. Judged by modern standards, she seems no worse and no better than the average woman of to-day.
by Cecil B. DeMille
For over 2,000 years Cleopatra has had a reputation she doesn’t deserve.
The jealous Romans of her time started a whispering campaign against her. That resulted in the spicy tales of historians who paint her as a ruthless woman, beautiful, debauched and merciless in her lust for lovers.
But in the light of 1934 modernism, Cleopatra does not shine out as a wanton siren. The fact is, by modern standards, she seems to be quite an average woman.
Cleopatra actually was no worse and no better than the average girl or woman of the present time.
She had but two lovers, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, and she married both of them.
That record certainly would not rate her as distinctive in Hollywood, where numerous stars have had three and four husbands.
I made a very thorough study of the life and personal habits of Cleopatra for the picture I have just made in which Claudette Colbert plays the role of Cleopatra. By much time in research I discovered many little-known facts about this glamorous woman of history.
Cleopatra resorted to the same beauty aids and enticing costumes that women seek today.
She took milk baths, butter baths, and had innumerable scented oils and lotions which she used to beautify her skin. She may not have had flavored toothpaste, but she used ground pumice stone to whiten her teeth. Nor is that all.
Cleopatra was a great artist in the matter of make-up. She used powders, rouges and paints of various kinds. And she was particularly fond of eye shadow. Frankincense, antimony or burnt almonds were used in mixtures to stain the eyelids.
For that matter eye shadow was not confined to the Egyptian women. The men used it too!
What is more, Cleopatra was fully aware of the charm of beautiful hands and feet. She painted and polished her fingernails and toenails. And superfluous hair was carefully shaved from her body.
She also was a great lover of perfumes. Attar of roses, myrrh and other rare and expensive scents were important items in her toilet accessories. Some of the ancient perfumes of Cleopatra’s day have been discovered in old tombs during recent years, and even after 2,000 years they send out a fragrance of rare loveliness and strength.
Remember that Cleopatra made use of all these beauty aids 2,000 years ago. But it was not until about twenty years ago that modern American women decided they must do something to enhance and perpetuate their beauty. Before that, beauty aids had been condemned as sinful. Nice women avoided them.
So, if Cleopatra’s spirit should come back to earth today, she would marvel to find that women are beautifying themselves in the manner she did centuries ago. She probably would be a little scornful because modern women have not made more progress in the field of beauty.
It may be a coincidence, but I suspect our modern fashion designers have been delving into a secret study of Egyptian relics to seek inspiration for their 1934 creations. Our great designers have announced that stream lines are the vogue for 1934.
That would make Cleopatra smile. For Cleo discovered the flattering effect of stream lines long ago.
The wardrobe that she collected would make a modern woman green with envy. Her evening gowns were countless and glittered with precious stones which were used in bands of trimming. Diaphanous materials, fashioned in slinky lines, frequently had flowing or trailing scarfs, even as the 1934 evening gowns.
She also had quite a collection of sports clothes, for Cleopatra was no clinging vine. She played at games with Caesar and Antony, and she went to war with them.
But in the evening, presiding over great feasts and entertainments, she was at her best. Then she made an elaborate and careful toilet. She started with a milk bath, followed by a massage with scented oils and lotions, until her body was aglow with youth and fragrance.
On her body went a gown of costly fabric, encrusted with precious gems. On her feet went tiny bejewelled sandals. And in her hair were placed jewelled pins and hair ornaments. Powder, rouge and eye-shadow beautified her face.
Her toenails and fingernails glittered with a fresh manicure. An aroma of seductive perfume wafted from her. In short she was a perfect specimen of the carefully groomed woman of 1934.
Cleopatra was beautiful, after a fashion. But her beauty was not so striking as to dazzle men by any means. That is why she employed so many beauty aids. Of course she had sex appeal and was a master in the art of love. But you can find many women today who equal her combination of beauty and sex appeal.
However, beauty and sex appeal cannot fascinate men any more than beauty and sex appeal can make stars in motion pictures. Success comes only when beauty and sex appeal are combined with brains.
You may rest assured that Cleopatra had extraordinary brains. When she set out to charm a man she used every ounce of brain power at her command. She worked continually to amuse the man she loved, and she developed great knowledge of every topic that interested him.
Peggy Hopkins Joyce, who has had four husbands to Cleopatra’s two, understands this same secret for attracting men. When an interviewer asked Peggy her technique in attracting men, she said, “Be a pal.” And that is exactly the technique that Cleopatra used. Plutarch, the historian, says of her:
“She had at any moment some new delight or charm to meet his (Caesar’s) wishes. She played at dice with him, drank with him, hunted and fished with him, and when he exercised in arms she was there to see... she also fascinated him by the art of love.”
To attract a man is one thing. But modern women have come to realize that it is more difficult to hold a man once they have attracted him. And the woman who can be an unfailing pal to a man will have no difficulty holding his love.
Man’s life, you know, is divided into three different parts. First there is his everyday business life, then his sports life and finally his love life.
Cleopatra, by using her brains and natural charms, became a perfect pal in all three of these divisions. She made love a business, and eventually she succeeded at it. She never acted spoiled, petulant or out-of-sorts. No matter what her inner feelings might be, she always appeared affable around the man she loved.
However, Cleopatra was not always victorious over the men of her affections. She loved Caesar passionately, but he never returned her love with the same ardor.
Caesar, you see, had been married four times when he met Cleopatra, who was then an unplucked rose. Caesar taught her the ways of love, but he did not return her love. He merely pretended to be fascinated by her charms because he saw that through Cleopatra he could obtain the vast wealth and territory of Egypt for the Roman Empire.
Cleopatra, on the other hand, was flattered by the attention of Caesar. He was a fine gentleman, a great warrior and a famous statesman. And he probably was not loath to accept her love, but he never lost sight of his goal to control the vast wealth of Egypt.
So, you see, Cleopatra was not infallible with men. She was deceived by Caesar even as women before and since have been deceived by men.
The manner in which Cleopatra managed to meet Caesar is amusing. Ptolemy, her brother, was in command of Alexandria when Caesar conquered the city. Cleopatra had been driven from the palace by her brother, but when she heard that the great Caesar had captured the city, she determined to visit him.
To escape discovery, she had herself concealed in a roll of bedding and carried into the city on the back of a faithful servant. The servant placed the bedding before Caesar, and out sprang Cleopatra. There she was, a fugitive at Caesar’s mercy. And what happened?
One historian says: “They talked all night that night and before the sun rose Caesar had decided to put Cleopatra back on the throne.”
You might guess that their talk covered a lot of territory!
The Romans were very bitter against Caesar because he tarried so long in Egypt with Cleopatra. And after Caesar was assassinated, his successor, Marc Antony, ordered Cleopatra to come before him. Antony intended to put her in chains and lead her through the city as a disgraced captive.
But here’s what happened. Cleopatra “came sailing up the river Cyndus, in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps. She herself lay under a canopy of cloth of gold, dressed as Venus in a picture, and beautiful young boys, like painted Cupids, stood on each side to fan her. Her maids were dressed like sea nymphs and Graces.”
Antony immediately fell in love with her. Instead of taking Cleopatra to Rome as his prisoner, Cleopatra took Antony to Egypt as her captive of love. And he lingered so long in loving her and feasting with her that the Romans finally overthrew him.
Although she lived 2,000 years ago, Cleopatra really wasn’t much different from the women of today. She employed much the same beauty aids and love technique.
She loved but two men and married both. And she had children by them and was loyal to them even unto death. She was not ravishingly beautiful, but she learned to make the most of what nature had given her.
Alexandria, where Cleopatra lived, is described as a city of sun, cool ocean breezes and white buildings. There was always a blaze of flowers, so we are told. English hollyhocks, fox gloves and stock grew side by side with plants of southern Europe.
Why, ancient Alexandria might have been modern Hollywood and Cleopatra might easily have been a movie star!
Cleopatra, as portrayed by Claudette Colbert, in the Paramount production directed by Cecil B. DeMille, based on the life of the most famous queen of the ancient world. In the panel, Warren William, as Julius Caesar, mighty statesman of Rome
A scene from the picture showing one of the large bathing pools that were common in ancient days. In this reproduction are two old-time favorites: Bryant Washburn and Jack Mulhall (at extreme left) and in the center Gertrude Michael, as Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife. On the right, seated, is Ferdinand Gottschalk.
The picture at the right illustrates the elaborate care Cleopatra gave to her toilette. She took daily oil massages and cool milk baths, used perfumes and scents, painted and polished her nails, wore slinky gowns and rugged sports clothes, was a brilliant conversationalist, was an ardent sportswoman and was a proficient hunter and fisher, never acted spoiled or out-of-sorts and always appeared affable when around the man with whom she was in love.
Source: The New Movie Magazine, July 1934