Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC) was a Roman general, statesman, Consul, and notable author of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. Caesar's conquest of Gaul, completed by 51 BC, extended Rome's territory to the English Channel and the Rhine. Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both when he built a bridge across the Rhine and conducted the first invasion of Britain.

These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to lay down his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused, and marked his defiance in 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon with a legion, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman territory under arms. Civil war resulted, from which he emerged as the unrivaled leader of Rome.

Although Cleopatra was 21 years old when they met and Caesar was 52, they became lovers during Caesar’s stay in Egypt between 48 BC and 47 BC. Cleopatra claimed Caesar was the father of her son and wished him to name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, choosing his grandnephew Octavian instead. Cleopatra visited Rome in the summer of 46 BC. The Egyptian queen resided in one of Caesar's country houses. The relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar was obvious to the Roman people and it was a scandal because the Roman dictator was already married to Calpurnia Pisonis.

On the Ides of March 44 BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of senators led by Marcus Brutus. A new series of civil wars broke out, and the constitutional government of the Republic was never restored. Caesar's adopted heir Octavian, later known as Augustus, rose to sole power, and the era of the Roman Empire began. [Wikipedia]

Fritz Lieber as Julius Caesar and Theda Bara as Cleopatra (1917), directed by J. Gordon Edwards. One of the great 'lost' films of the silent era, only a few seconds of footage and some stills survive.

Cleopatra (1934) produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, starring Claudette Colbert as the Queen of Egypt, Warren William as Caesar and Henry Wilcoxon as Mark Antony. Nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture, winning for Best Cinematography. 100mins.

Cleopatra: Together we could conquer the world. 
Julius Caesar: Nice of you to include me.

Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) directed by Gabriel Pascal, screenplay by George Bernard Shaw and based on his play, starring Claude Rains as Caesar, Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra, Stewart Granger as Apollodorus and Flora Robson as Ftatateeta. 138mins.

The most expensive British film at the time. Oscar nomination for Art Direction.

Louis Calhern as Julius Caesar (1953) directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, also starring Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and Edmond O' Brien. Nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor (Brando), winning for Best Art Direction. 120mins.

Mark Antony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar.

John Gavin as Julius Caesar in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960), starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov and Tony Curtis. One of the highest rated historical epics, Spartacus was nominated for 6 Oscars winning 4 - Best Supporting Actor (Ustinov), Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design. 197mins,

Caesar: Did you fear him, Crassus? 
Crassus: Not when I fought him, I knew he could be beaten. But now I fear him, even more than I fear you. 
Caesar: Me? 
Crassus: Yes, my dear Caesar, you.

Caesar the Conqueror (1962) an Italian film starring Cameron Mitchell as Caesar, Rik Battaglia, Dominique Wilms and Bruno Tocci. 104mins.

Cleopatra (1963) directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Richard Burton as Mark Antony and Rex Harrison as Julius Ceasar. The production was plagued with problems and took years to finish, costing $44m Cleopatra was the most expensive movie ever made and the top grossing film of 1963 but 20th Century Fox wouldn’t see any profit from the debacle until television sales in the early seventies. 248mins.

Nominated for 9 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Music Score (Alex North), Best Editing, Best Sound and winning for Art Direction, Costume Design, Cinematography and Visual Effects.

Cleopatra: How DARE you and the rest of your barbarians set fire to my library? Play conqueror all you want, mighty Caesar! Rape, murder, pillage thousands, even millions of human beings! But neither you nor any other barbarian has the right to destroy one human thought! 
Caesar: You... a descendant of generations of inbred, incestuous mental defectives, how dare you call anyone barbarian!

Julius Caesar: "Infamy, infamy! They've all got it in for me!"

Carry on Cleo (1964) directed by Gerald Thomas and starring Sidney James as Mark Antony, Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar and Amanda Barrie as Cleopatra, also starring Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims and Jim Dale. 92mins.

Gerald Thomas (1920-1993) directed all 31 'Carry On' comedies.

Mark Antony: "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war."

John Gielgud as Julius Caesar (1970) directed by Stuart Burge, based on Shakespeare's play. Also starring Charlton Heston as Mark Antony, Jason Robards as Marcus Brutus, Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain, Richard Johnson, Diana Rigg and Christopher Lee. 117mins.

Alec Guinness as Caesar in the TV movie Caesar and Cleopatra (1976) directed by James Cellan Jones, also starring Genevieve Bujold as Cleopatra. 75mins.

Karl Urban played Julius Caesar in a number of episodes of the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001) the series starred Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O' Connor as Gabrielle.

Cleopatra (1999) a made for TV movie directed by Franc Roddam and starring Timothy Dalton as Julius Caesar, Leonor Varela as Cleopatra and Billy Zane as Mark Antony. 177mins.

Nominated for 4 Emmy Awards.

Ciaran Hinds as Gaius Julius Caesar in the Emmy award-winning TV series Rome (2005-2207) created by Bruno Heller, John Milius and William J. MacDonald. Starring Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker, Kerry Condon and James Purefoy.

The series lasted 2 seasons and 22 episodes.

Alain Delon as Caesar in Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008) directed by Frederic Forestier & Thomas Langmann, based on characters from the Asterix comic book series by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Starring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix and Clovis Comillac as Asterix. 116mins.

Christopher Plummer as the Roman Emperor in Caesar and Cleopatra (2009) a Canadian film directed by Des McAnuff and based on the play by George Bernard Shaw. Also starring Nikki James as Cleopatra. 130mins.

Spartacus: War of the Damned (2013) TV series directed by Mark Beesley, starring Liam McIntyre as Spartacus, Manu Bennett, Dustin Clare, Daniel Feuerriegel, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Todd Lasance as Caesar.

'War of the Damned' is the third season of Spartacus, the first season subtitled 'Blood and Sand' premiered in 2010 and starred the late Andy Whitfield, the second 'Gods of the Arena' premiered in 2011.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Al Capone

Alphonse Capone (1899 – 1947) was an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate. The Chicago Outfit, which subsequently also became known as the “Capones”, was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal activities, such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931.

Born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City to Italian immigrants, Capone became involved with gang activity at a young age after having been expelled from school at age 14. In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including bribery of government figures and prostitution.

Despite his illegitimate occupation, Capone became a highly visible public figure. He made donations to various charitable endeavors using the money he made from his activities, and was viewed by many to be a “modern-day Robin Hood”. Capone’s public reputation was damaged in the wake of his supposed involvement in the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, when seven rival gang members were executed.

Capone was convicted on federal charges of tax evasion in 1931 and sentenced to federal prison; he was released on parole in 1939. His incarceration included a term at the then-new Alcatraz federal prison. In the final years of Capone’s life, he suffered mental and physical deterioration due to late-stage neurosyphilis, which he had contracted in his youth. On January 25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke. [Wikipedia]

Al Capone (1959) was the very first motion picture based on the life of America's most notorious gangster, the great Rod Steiger bore a strong resemblance to Capone. The film doesn't always adhere to facts and Capone dies of an 'incurable disease', syphilis still a taboo word in 1959. Directed by Richard Wilson and also starring Fay Spain, James Gregory, Martin Balsam and Nehemiah Persoff.

Neville Brand with Barbara Nichols in The Scarface Mob
The Scarface Mob (1959) directed by Phil Karlson, is a TV movie and basically the pilot episode for The Untouchables, a popular 60's series which ran from 1959 to 1963 and 119 episodes. The series was based on the memoirs of Special Agent Eliot Ness (1903-1957) who was played by Robert Stack. Neville Brand played Capone, Brand would play the role again in the movie The George Raft Story (1961).

Jason Robards as Capone in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) directed by Roger Corman and also starring George Segal, Ralph Meeker and Jean Hale. Orson Welles was the first choice for Capone but the studio bosses vetoed the deal saying Welles was 'undirectable'.

The real life massacre occurred in Chicago on February 14, 1929, seven members of the North Side Gang were lined up against the wall of a garage and machine gunned to death by a rival gang, believed to be on the orders of Al Capone though no one was ever brought to trial over the shootings.

Capone (1975) directed by Steve Carver and starring Ben Gazzara as Al Capone, with Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, John Cassavetes and Sylvester Stallone as Frank Nitti.

Al Capone was sometimes referred to as "Scarface" Capone, a nickname he hated, as a young man he was attacked with a knife by the brother of a girl he insulted and was slashed three times on the left side of his face. Capone would tell people that the scars were 'war wounds'.

The Untouchables (1987) directed by Brian De Palma and starring Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro as Alphonse Capone. Screenplay by David Mamet loosely based on the memoirs of Eliot Ness. Music by Ennio Morricone.

Excellent direction from De Palma and a super cast made this one of the most popular films of 1987. Nominated for 4 Oscars winning 1 - Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery).

Capone: I'm gonna tell you something. Somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with him. Somebody steals from me, I'm gonna say you stole. Not talk to him for spitting on the sidewalk. Understand? Now, I have done nothing to harm these people but they are angered with me, so what do they do, doctor up some income tax, for which they have no case. To speak to me like men, no, to harass a peaceful man. I pray to god if I ever had a grievance I'd have a little more self respect. One more thing, you have an all out prize fight, you wait until the fight is over, one guy is left standing. And that's how you know who won.

Titus Welliver as Capone in Mobsters (1991) directed by Michael Karbelnikoff, starring Christian Slater as Lucky Luciano, Costas Mandylor as Frank Costello, Richard Grieco as Bugsy Siegel and Patrick Dempsey as Meyer Lansky.

The working title was 'Gangsters'.

William Forsythe played Al Capone in the TV series The Untouchables (1993-1994), directed by Tucker Gates & Charles Robert Carner, starring Tom Amandes as Eliot Ness.

The series lasted 2 seasons and 44 episodes.

Dillinger and Capone (1995) directed by Jon Purdy, starring Martin Sheen as John Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham as Al Capone. A work of fiction featuring a team up of the two notorious gangsters. Also starring Catherine Hicks and Don Stroud.

Jon Bernthal as 'Al Capone' in the fantasy comedy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams and Owen Wilson.

British actor Stephen Graham as Capone in the award-winning, critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire (2010-2013) created by Terence Winter and starring Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlberg and Gretchen Mol.

There have so far been 4 seasons and 48 episodes, the fifth and final season will air in 2014.