George Bernard Shaw on Film [Criterion Collection] [3 Discs] [DVD]

This 30th edition of the Criterion Collection's monthly Eclipse series - a no-frills, pared-down issue of themed volumes featuring world cinema classics - features three key works adapted from the writings of George Bernard Shaw. The 1941 Major Barbara (co-directed by David Lean, Harold French and Gabriel Pascal) stars Wendy Hiller of Pygmalion and Rex Harrison of My Fair Lady, in a movie version of the Shaw play excoriating the hypocrisy of some Christian charity organizations; the megabudgeted 1946 Caesar and Cleopatra stars Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains, in its period tale of the exotic romance between the two famous rulers; and the 1952 Androcles and the Lion features Shaw in parable mode, with a wryly comic fable about the triumph of benevolence, as a slightly befuddled Christian slave (Alan Young) gets thrown into a pit with a lion, and survives the experience.
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Overview

Synopsis

Caesar and Cleopatra
George Bernard Shaw adapted his own play for the screen in this blithe film version of the romance between Caesar (Claude Rains) and Cleopatra (Vivien Leigh). Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra are merely Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle cast back into ancient times with Caesar doting with admiration and burgeoning love upon Cleopatra and expostulating, "You have been growing up since the Sphinx introduced us the other night." The story is a simple one concerning Caesar instructing Cleopatra on how to act like a queen. But Cleopatra is left cold by Caesar and his blatherings. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Major Barbara
George Bernard Shaw's satiric comedy about wealth and poverty is brought to the screen with wonderful performances by Rex Harrison and Wendy Hiller. Hiller plays Major Barbara Undershaft, a major in the Salvation Army who is also a socialist and stridently attacks capitalists -- in particular her father Andrew (Robert Morley), the head of a munitions plant. In love with Barbara is the young Greek scholar Adolphus Cusins (Rex Harrison), whose attentions go unreturned since Barbara spends all her time on her crusade against wealth. To show up his daughter, Andrew donates 50,000 pounds to the Salvation Army which, to Barbara's horror, the Army's general (Sybil Thorndike) happily accepts. Barbara, in protest, quits her post and it is left to Adolphus to take her on a tour of her father's munitions plant and prove to her the benefits of capitalism. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Androcles and the Lion
With George Bernard Shaw safely in his grave, RKO chief Howard Hughes had no qualms about twisting and bending Shaw's Androcles & the Lion to accommodate his own notions of entertainment. Happier, wiser heads prevailed before the Hughes-commissioned "Vestal Virgins" sequence, complete with near-naked dancing girls, was foisted on the public. Originally, Harpo Marx was to have played Androcles, the simple-hearted Christian tailor whose friendship with a lion saves himself and his friends from martyrdom in the Roman Colosseum. A few days into shooting, however, Harpo was replaced by Alan Young, who was okay but not in Marx's league. RKO habitués Jean Simmons and Victor Mature co-star as, respectively, a courageous Christian girl and the bullheaded Roman captain who falls in love with her. Every Shaw play has one character who acts as the playwright's alter ego; in Androcles, it's none other than Caesar himself, here wittily essayed by Maurice Evans. Director Chester Erskine co-adapted the play for the screen with Ken Englund; serving as producer was Gabriel Pascal. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Vivien Leigh
    Vivien Leigh - Cleopatra
  • Claude Rains
    Claude Rains - Julius Caesar
  • Stewart Granger
    Stewart Granger - Apollodorus
  • Flora Robson
    Flora Robson - Ftatateeta
  • Francis L. Sullivan
    Francis L. Sullivan - Pothinus
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.