Julius Caesar (1953 film)

Julius Caesar

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 dates
  • 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 between 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.)


[Note: The names in brackets are the full Roman names of the historical individuals portrayed in the film.]

Dramatis personae

in the order of their appearance

and as citizens of Rome


The film received highly favorable reviews.[9] 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".[10] The film currently has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[11]

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

Box office

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.[13]

Awards and nominations

The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno, Edwin B. Willis, Hugh Hunt), and was nominated for the 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.[14] Brando's nomination was the third time in three consecutive years that he was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award. He was nominated in 1951 for A Streetcar Named Desire and in 1952 for Viva Zapata!. He would win the following year for On the Waterfront.

It also won two BAFTA awards for Best British Actor (John Gielgud) and Best Foreign Actor (Marlon Brando). It was also nominated in the Best Film category. Brando won the BAFTA Best Actor award in three consecutive years for Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954).

It won the Best Film and Best Actor Award for James Mason from The National Board of Review. It also won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.[15]

Julius Caesar on Turner Classic Movies

Julius Caesar has had regular showings on Turner Classic Movies. On August 11, 2014, it was one of the features spotlighting Marlon Brando in the annual "Summer Under the Stars" series and, on February 15, 2015, was screened as part of another annual tradition, "31 Days of Oscar".

Introductory comments (August 11, 2014)

"Hi, I'm Robert Osborne. One of the things that fascinated moviegoers about Marlon Brando early in his movie career is you never knew in what guise he was gonna show up. The only thing that seemed consistent about him was the fact that he mumbled a lot. He mumbled in his very first film — Stanley Kramer's The Men — he mumbled even more in his second and third films, A Streetcar Named Desire and Viva Zapata! So imagine the jokes that went around when it was announced that film number four for Marlon Brando was gonna be a movie version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Brando, the mumbler, speaking Shakespeare? I mean — ya gotta be kidding. But, indeed, soon up there on the big screen, was Brando playing Mark Antony, delivering the famous funeral oratory, for his great assassinated friend, Julius Caesar, speaking his lines clearly and brilliantly, and surprising everybody yet again.

Well, our movie has many assets beyond Marlon Brando. Julius Caesar was directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and boasts an all-star cast that includes James Mason, John Gielgud, Edmond O'Brien and Louis Calhern. And, for the first and only time in the same film, Greer Garson who, after ten years as the queen of the MGM studios, was on her way out, and Deborah Kerr, Garson's successor as MGM's first lady was even more solidly in. This was quite a defining film for Marlon Brando, particularly though. It showed everybody that Brando was indeed an actor capable of classical work as well as so-called kitchen-sink dramas which were so popular at that time. Well, here's the movie which MGM premiered in New York not in a regular cinema house, but a legit theater, just like a stage play. Here's Julius Caesar."

Robert Osborne's closing comments (August 11, 2014)

"Hail Caesar! You know, since the works of William Shakespeare were never your ordinary sell in movie houses, the producer of this film, John Houseman, and its director, Joseph Mankiewicz, had to sell MGM on letting them make Seez… Julius Caesar as a movie — convincing them that it would best be done by casting the film with star names — by also keeping the budget of the film very low. The sets, for example, were recycled from the MGM film Quo Vadis, which had been made two years earlier, in Rome, after which, many of its sets were sent back to Hollywood. After making this film, Greer Garson, who played Calpurnia, made one more film at MGM, called Her Twelve Men, then she left the studio after sixteen years in MGM's employ. She later had a great movie success and received another Academy Award nomination, seven years later, for a film she made at Warner Brothers, Sunrise at Campobello. For Deborah Kerr, Portia, her great days in films were just ahead. From Here to Eternity, The King and I, An Affair to Remember, Separate Tables and five more Oscar nominations for Deborah. But for us right now — more Brando. Joined again by John Gielgud, this time also with George C. Scott, Marthe Keller and Beatrice Straight." [the film is The Formula (1980)]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 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. External link in |publisher= (help)
  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. 1 2 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. "Julius Caesar". Julius Caesar (1953) Movie Review – MRQE. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  10. David Shipman The Story of Cinema: Volume II: From Citizen Kane to the Present Day, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984, p.852
  11. "Julius Caesar". rottentomatoes.com. 3 June 1953. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  12. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  13. "Julius Caesar". Intrada Records. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  14. "NY Times: Julius Caesar". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  15. "Winners of the Golden Leopard". Locarno. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
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