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    Claire the Conqueror

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Turning 85 today, London-born Claire Bloom has a nearly seven-decade résumé of stage, movie and television roles that few if any working actors can hope to equal. She has collaborated with pantheon directors from Charles Chaplin, George Cukor and Laurence Olivier to Martin Ritt, Robert Wise and Woody Allen, while marvelously essaying indelible roles in the works of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, John Le Carré, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury and Terence Rattigan. Even her television work encompasses a wide spectrum from As the World Turns, Brideshead Revisited and Backstairs at the White House to Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Doctor Who and Doc Martin, making each appearance memorable, however brief or extensive. She’s already entered the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray library via Allen’s acclaimed comedy-drama Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), in which she plays the steely Miriam Rosenthal, the wronged wife of a prominent ophthalmologist (Martin Landau) who is trying desperately to break off his affair with a clinging, unstable woman (Anjelica Huston). But from an earlier time, when she was a new face to movies after being lovingly showcased by Chaplin as the aspiring ballerina leading lady of Limelight (1952) and by Olivier as the ill-fated Lady Anne craftily seduced by his cunning Richard III (1956), comes writer/producer/director Robert Rossen’s epic adventure Alexander the Great (1956), which opened just a month after Bloom (costumed as Lady Anne) appeared on the cover of Life. In prime form, Richard Burton thrillingly plays the title role of history’s great Macedonian conqueror and Bloom was cast as Barsine, the patrician Persian captive who captivates Alexander with her extraordinary beauty and royal pedigree, leading to marriage and the birth of a son. It would be a reunion for the two actors; they played together on the London stage in The Lady’s Not for Burning and Hamlet, would be on-and-off lovers for the next decade and co-star in two of the most impressive screen outings in either’s list of credits, Look Back in Anger (1959) and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). In her memoir Leaving a Doll’s House, Bloom only briefly mentions the making of Alexander the Great (1956) in the context of her affection for Burton (then married to his first wife Sybil Williams), regarding him as “my first – my greatest – love, the only man to whom I have fervently and given all of myself.” Future marriages to actor Rod Steiger, producer Hillard Elkins and author Philip Roth did not change that 1996 assessment. TT’s upcoming 50th-anniversary release of Alexander the Great in its Technicolor/Cinemascope majesty will bring us up to date with the still lovely Bloom, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire as of 2013, who this month recorded a brand-new interview recalling more details about the making of Rossen’s mighty movie exclusively for our disc. Also starring Fredric March (whose 1956 would climax with his Tony®-winning performance in the Broadway premiere of Long Day’s Journey into Night), Danielle Darrieux, Barry Jones, Harry Andrews, Stanley Baker, Michael Hordern and Peter Cushing, Alexander the Great invades Blu-ray in spectacular 1080p hi-def March 15. Preorders open March 3.