Vivien Leigh in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

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1945: Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967) in her costume for George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, directed in Technicolour by Gabriel Pascal at Denham Studios via

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1945: Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967) in her costume for George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, directed in Technicolour by Gabriel Pascal at Denham Studios via

A Collection Vintage Photos Feat. Amazing Ballerina Ida Rubinstein

Ida Rubinstein was a famous Russian ballerina, actress, patron and Belle Époque figure. An idol of the fin de siècle renowned for her beauty, mimetic powers and enormous wealth. She was a significant patron and she tended to commission works that suited her abilities, works that mixed dance with drama and stagecraft

She was born in Kharkiv 1885, Ukraine, but was orphaned at an early age. The family was wealthy, cultured and Russified, a merchant-banking clan that had moved up the social ranks; her father’s title, Hereditary Honorary Citizen, conferred gentry status.

Rubinstein is not considered to be in the top tier of ballerinas; she began her training too late for that to have been a possibility.  Tutored by Mikhail Fokine, she made her debut in 1908. This was a private performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, in which she stripped nude in the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils. After the play was banned, Rubinstein performed the dance alone as a concert number.

Salomé brought Rubinstein to the attention of Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929), who included her in the earliest Paris seasons of his celebrated Ballets Russes. Because of her limited dance training, she was cast in “mime” roles such as Cleopatra (1909) and Ta-Hor in Schéhérazade (1910), which capitalized on her dark, exotic looks and stunning stage presence. Both ballets were choreographed by Fokine, and designed by Léon Bakst. Her partner in Scherazade was the great Nijinsky. Scherezade was admired at the time for its racy sensuality and sumptuous staging, but these days it is rarely performed; to modern tastes, it is considered too much of a pantomime and its then fashionable Orientalism appears dated.

Rubinstein left the Ballets Russes in 1911. World War I was a watershed in Rubinstein’s life. Although twenty years would elapse before she became a French citizen, by the 1920s she had become a grande dame of the French theatre. In 1928 Rubinstein formed her own dance company, using her inherited wealth, and commissioned several lavish productions. Her last performance was in the play Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher in Paris, 1939. In 1940 she left France during the German invasion, and made her way to England via Algeria and Morocco. She later returned to France, living finally at Les Olivades at Vence, where she lived in strict seclusion, reading the Bible and occasionally visiting the Abbey of Cîteaux. She died in 1960 and was buried nearby.

Ida Rubinstein via

Ida Rubinstein, 1920s via

Ida Rubinstein in Phaedre, 1923 via

Mme Ida Rubinstein

Mme Ida Rubinstein by Léon Bakst, 1910 via

Theda Bara in Lavish Silent Picture “Cleopatra” (1917)

Cleopatra was a 1917 American silent historical drama film which is considered lost, as no known complete negatives or prints of it survive. It starred Theda Bara, the screen’s first sex symbol, as Cleopatra. Only Brief fragments of footage from the film are known to exist today. After the Hays Code was implemented in Hollywood, Cleopatra was judged too obscene to be shown. The last two prints known to exist were destroyed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and unfortunately in the fires at the Fox studios in 1937 along with the majority of Theda Bara’s other films for Fox (Bara made over 40 films, sadly only 2 complete features are known to exist).

Cleopatra was one of the most elaborate Hollywood films ever produced up to that time, with particularly lavish sets and costumes. According to the studio, the film cost $500,000 (approximately $8.3 million in 2009) to make and employed 2,000 people behind the scenes. The film was based on H. Rider Haggard’s 1889 novel Cleopatra and the plays Cleopatre by Émile Moreau and Victorien Sardou and William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The story told was about the epic romances between Cleopatra and the greatest men of Rome, Julius Caesar and Antony.

 Theda Bara

Between 1915 and 1919, Bara was Fox studio’s biggest star and Cleopatra became one of Bara’s biggest hits. In promoting the film Fox Studio publicists noted that the name Theda Bara was an anagram of Arab death, and her press agents claimed inaccurately that she was “the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara. It was popular at that time to promote an actress as mysterious, with an exotic background. The studio even called her the Serpent of the Nile and encouraged Bara to discuss mysticism and the occult in interviews. This is perhaps why Bara claimed to have the same astrological sign as the real Cleopatra as a marketing ploy for the film. In reality Cleopatra was a Capricorn and Bara was a Leo. Even though no known prints of Cleopatra exist today, numerous photographs of Bara in costume have survived.

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

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Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917

Surviving Fragments of Cleopatra