‘…The sea had for
Centuries bitten nothing at
Than the hempen shroud, Since
Cleo fled the harbor of Actium
And an empire changed hands;
Ah, Herculenum got the prize
Unbreached till now;
A perfect torso and a head to match
Loveliness that once fled the terrors
Of death and a name sullied
By the living and the dead kings
Along the banks of Luxor, She is
the Venus observ’d but no one can
Remember the brave impetous fellow
Who lost and his love for the throw of a dice’.
Posts Tagged ‘Cleopatra’
‘…The sea had for
History is the march of events in a perspective.
History is made in context of something else.
History is made by man on whom other life forms as well as inanimate objects can also work. Socrates ended his life drinking hemlock and Cleopatra by a bite of asp are but a few examples. A man like Caesar afflicted with falling sickness might in time lose his judgment and that might hasten his end in an unexpected manner. In short man who makes history can never be seen isolated from his world.
History is made in time and space.
Since history is made by man certain primary impulses in man would always take the steering wheel. Championing the cause of the weak for example. In ancient Rome around 113 BC the Grachii brothers stood for land reforms that would have given land to the veterans who served the republic in wars. Then as now. The vested interests of those who had plenty of land saw to that the brothers were done away with. (ref:note below)
These two brothers were concerned with the underlying injustice of the political system but in a space of decade had to appeal to two different sets of people viz., plebians and publicans. Our basic impulses have to lock in with time and place in order to be relevant.
History is correct timing.
( to be continued)
Note: Historical background
The Gracchi brothers were a pair of tribunes in 2nd century BC who attempted to pass land reform legislation in Ancient Rome that would redistribute the major patrician landholdings among the plebeians.
In 133 BC, two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, became agents of reform. They were both well connected with the ruling elite and descendants of Scipio Africanus. The political issue was land reform. The small peasant farmer was being pushed off the land by rich landowners.
When Tiberius Gracchus’s proposal came to a vote, masses of rural people, seeing opportunity for economic advancement, entered Rome to support the proposal. In addition, as head of this movement, Tiberius found himself necessarily replacing an opposing tribune already in office. The proposal passed and the situation returned to almost normal, except that Tiberius was going to need re-election to stay in office.
When the day of election arrived Tiberius’s supporters were lacking and, worse, his opponents caused a fight in the assembly and killed Tiberius Gracchus.
Ten years later, Tiberius’s brother, Gaius, took the same office as his brother, as a tribune for the plebeians. Gaius however, appealed to a different set of supporters, the publicans. They were in charge of tax-collecting in Asia and of contracting for construction projects. The equestrian class would get to control a court that tried senators for misconduct in provincial administration. In effect, the equestrians replaced senators already serving at the court. Thus, Gaius became an opponent of senatorial influence.(ack:wikipedia)
Posted in anecdotes, tagged battle of the sexes, Cleopatra, Dorothy Parker, Eleonara Duse, Helen Hayes, Herbert Spencer, Lalande, Laurette Taylor, Mark Antony, Mrs. Fiske Mme.de Stael, Napoleon on May 4, 2008 | Leave a Comment »
Mark Antony had done his best to entertain Cleopatra and was peeved by her taunts as to the quality of his table. He was perplexed too. When she remarked that she would in one supper spend ten million sesterii Antony laid a wager that it was impossible.
When she laid out her table Mark Antony checked each item against the bill and he had to laugh at her presumption. But she promised that not only she will keep her promise but that the supper would cost 60m.Sesterii.
For the second course a goblet of vinegar of special quality, strong enough to dissolve pearls was brought in. For the occasion she was wearing two most precious pearls in the world. Before his eyes she took off one and dropped into the vinegar. Making sure it was dissolved she downed her goblet. She would have done the same with her second pearl had not Plancus the referee stopped her from it. He pronouncedher to have already won the wager.
Turning to a crest-fallen Antony she murmured,”No soldier is a match for a woman.”
In the German state of Würtemberg, the town of Weinsbeg crowns a hill overlooking surrounding vineyards. In the Romanesque church over there one may see a tablet dedicated to the memory of faithful wives. In the vicinity are the ruins of Weibertreu castle or Castle of the Faithful Wives.
Who were these women?
In 1140, Emperor Conrad III seized the town and had surrounded the castle where the townsfolk had sought refuge. Only the women were allowed to leave carrying whatever they considered most precious of their possessions. At that each woman loaded her husband onto her back.(L’echo de la Mode. France.)
Empress Josephine wife of Napoleon was once giving a party to which she heard that a woman she detested also would be present. Having been informed that the guest would, for the occasion wear a dress of deep green she hastily redecorated her drawing room in a shade of blue that would make her dress seem vulgar and gaudy.( E.A Rheinhardt-“Josephine, the wife of Napoleon.)
Philospher Herbert Spenser (1820-1903)remained a bachelor by default: he could not find one suitable. His well meaning friends for long tried to pair him off with their candidates without success. At last one woman who they described as having not only beauty but a great mind was introduced to the great man. After spending several hours in her company the philosopher informed his matchmaker that she was undoubtedly beautiful. As for her great mind he found it was ‘a small mind in constant activity.’
During rehearsal Laurette Taylor (1884-1946) was told by the director,”This is your scene, Miss Taylor and I feel you should have the centre of the stage for it.”
She replied with her characteristic hesistant tone,”You know, this may seem odd to you but I always thought where I was- that was the centre of the stage.”( Guthrie Meclintic(?)- Me and Kit-Little, Brown)
When Helen Hayes, the actress addressed the Senate on a bill to admit refugee children to the U.S.A one senator heckled her,”Do you mean to say you’d adopt a child unseen?”
The actress replied:”I never saw my own child until it was delivered.”(World Digest.)
The range of Eleonara Duse(1858-1924) as a dramatic actress was as astounding as her ability to live and breathe the role she currently played off stage as well. In Trieste she once played Odette and the dramatist Marco Prago found her sitting on the floor of her hotel room, tears running down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong?”he asked in alarm.
“Nothing,”she replied between sobs,”But tonight I am playing Odette and if I don’t cry a bit now, I shall weep too much in the fourth act.”
Eleonara Duse admitted no one to her dressing room during a performance except her personal maid. One when she was performing in Stuttgart, the king of Würtemberg wanted to visit her during the interval and sent a message in advance and she politely refused since ‘all visits shatter the illusion I need.’ Undeterred the king went and knocked on her door. Duse was adamant. The next day
She and her troupe were ordered out of the country.
Eleonara Duse was possibly goaded to excel herself by Sarah Bernhardt who was performing in Alexandre Dumas’latest play ’The Princes of Baghdad’ at Turin. She night after night watched her all the while learning from her. The day after the Divine Sarah left town she announced to her producer she shall not appear tomorrow except in the role her rival had triumphed. Finall she had her way and her performance was a success.
These two great divas were once in London drawing crowds and George Bernard Shaw after watching them praised Sarah for her beauty, skill and extra-ordinary personality and wrote thus,”Sarah Bernhardt… is always the same. She does not enter into the leading character, she substitutes herself for it. All this is precisely what does not happen in the case of Duse, whose every part is a separate creation.”
Mrs. Fiske, American actress
Once Margaret Anglin left this message stuck in the mirror in Mrs.Fiske’s dressing room. ’Margaret Anglin says Mrs.Fiske is the best actress in America.” Mrs.Fiske read it,added two commas, stuck it in an envelope and sent it back to Miss Angline. It read, ”Margaret Anglin,says Mrs. Fiske, is the best actress in America.”
Dorothy Parker(1893-1967)critic and humorist once bumped into a lady in the doorway of ’21’. She stepped back and motioned for for Dorothy to exit first, saying,”Age before beauty.” Pat came her retort,”Pearls before swine”as she went out.
Dorothy once owned an isolated country house. Asked if she could describe it in two words she said,”Want it?”
Dorothy Parker was once at a dinner honouring a governor. During the speeches a man next to her let out a belch and showed his embarrassment. She leant over to whisper,”Never mind. I’ll let the governor to pardon you.”
At a party she was asked by a bore if she had her ears pierced. She murmured,”No but I have often had them bored.”
Danseuse Yvette Guilbert(1865-1944) the subject of countless sketches, paintings and posters by Toulose Lautrec, was once savaged by Sarcey a formidable critic of the day and she forced her way into his study. She said,”You are an insolent cad…“.
“I regret,”he said and pointed to a pile of papers that needed to be filled before noon,”and if we have no more to say to each other…”
At this the fiery tempered danseuse seized the brass inkstand and overturned it on the sheets saying,”they were to be dirtied, they are dirtied.”
Germaine Coty, wife of Rene Coty the former president of the French Republic was a warmhearted lady. On the night her husband was elected as the President the hall-porter fell on her neck,”Oh madame! We are so happy…. but also sad to see you leaving us.” “Yes,”Mme Coty sighed,”to think that I have ordered fuel for the whole winter!” That remark endeared her instantly to the French houswives who could count on her as one of them.
Madame de Staël(1766-1817)
Germaine de Staël, the French writer called on Napoleon Bonaparte one day and insisted on seeing him. His orderly told her that the Citizen-General was in his bath. ”That is unimportant,” she exclaimed,”Genius has no sex.”
When Napoleon told Madame.de Staël that women had no business being interested in politics, she replied,”In a country where women have been decapitated, it is only natural for other women to ask why?”
Seated between the beautiful Mme.Recamier and the plain Mme. de Staël, the astronomer Lalande said,”How happy I am to find myself between beauty and wit.”
“And without possessing either,”came her prompt reply.
Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!
Perhaps the most famous Bette Davis line, from a movie stuffed with great lines. Mankiewicz gives us acerbic dialogue, sharp and glittery as a knife throwing display. One might wonder if the lines made the actors scintillate better or the other way round. George Sanders especially was a surprise, dripping acid as the penetrating self-aware critic, Addison DeWitt – a name that might have been lifted from a Restoration Comedy.
I’m Addison DeWitt. I’m nobody’s fool, least of all yours.
Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) manages to worm her way into the world of her idol, Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). She works her way up from personal assistant to understudy to star. She is not always as nice as she seems. But she has what is needed to suceed in the “theatuh”.
Wherever there’s magic and make-believe and an audience – there’s theater. Donald Duck, Ibsen, and the Lone Ranger. Sarah Bernhardt and Poodles Hanneford, Lunt and Fontanne, Betty Grable, Rex the Wild Horse, Eleanora Duse – they’re all theater. You don’t understand them, you don’t like them all – why should you? The theater’s for everybody – you included, but not exclusively – so don’t approve or disapprove. It may not be your theater, but it’s theater for somebody, somewhere…
All About Eve got 14 Oscar nominations, a record not equalled until Titanic, forty-seven years later. Showered with Oscars, this wonderfully bitchy (and witty) comedy written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz concerns an aging theater star (Bette Davis) whose life is being supplanted by a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing ingenue (Anne Baxter) whom she helped. This also introduced audiences to a new young actress called Marilyn Monroe(sadly, she would die 10 years later) who, for all her sex-symbol status shall be clueless to acting to the end.
I mention this rather uncharitable remark since this movie is all about acting, and Monroe is way behind others in that department. We get three sterling performances from Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and from George Sanders and each delineate character differently and the film greatly takes off as a result.
It’s true that Bette Davis has the showier role in ALL ABOUT EVE, and she bites into her role and never lets go. Whereas Anne Baxter, in an understated, more subtle performance, really had the more difficult role and even Bette herself admitted so when talking about the film. Actually, Bette–in real life–was a lot like the diva Margo Channing. It was no great stretch for her to play the role as brilliantly as she does. There are stories about the behind-the-scenes making of the film indicating how Celeste Holm refused to speak with her except on camera and poor George Sanders was subject to one of her hissy fits at a party celebrating the film after he won his Oscar. A classic from Mankiewicz, a legendary screenwriter and the brilliant director of A Letter to Three Wives,The Barefoot Contessa, and Sleuth,Thelma Ritter also gets a chance to speak some dazzling lines.
Relish the climatic post-Award dinner scene in Eve’s apartment, after Margo has told her “You can always put that award where your heart ought to be.” Enter young actress, Barbara Bates, another “Eve” who worships the actress. The scene where she drapes Eve’s cape over her shoulders, Sara Siddons Award in her hands, admiring her reflection in a three-paneled mirror hinting of the sly ingénue who is out to climb over Eve given a chance.
The movie is an unforgettable study of a few women and their men. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and perceptive show biz dramas Hollywood ever made. (ack: Tom Keogh)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Bette Davis Margo Channing
Anne Baxter Eve Harrington
George Sanders Addison DeWitt
Celeste Holm Karen Richards
Gary Merrill Bill Sampson
Hugh Marlowe Lloyd Richards
Gregory Ratoff Max Fabian
Barbara Bates Phoebe
Marilyn Monroe Claudia Casswell
Thelma Ritter Birdie Coonan
Walter Hampden Aged Actor (Speaker at Dinner)
Running Time: 138 minutes
* Best Film
* Best Director
* Best Supporting Actor (Sanders)
* Best Screenplay
* Best Costume
* Best Sound
* Best Actress (Baxter, Davis)
* Best Supporting Actress (Holm, Ritter)
* Best Art Direction
* Best Cinematography
* Best Editing
* Best Music