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The Epic That Never Was: Tuesday's Documentary


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Written and produced by Bill Duncalf.
Starring Charles Laughton, Merle Oberon, Flora Robson, Emlyn Williams

In 1937, shooting began at Denham Studios on the late Sir Alexander Korda's masterpiece I, Claudius, from the book by Robert Graves. The story of why it remains unfinished is told by Dirk Bogarde with scenes from the original London Films Production.
Also appearing: Josef von Sternberg, Robert Graves, Eileen Corbett, John Armstrong

"Brilliantly compiled, it contains all the news of the great fiasco that's fit to print" (Observer)
"A work of outstanding interest and merit" (Daily Mail)
"The most marvellous thing... weird and wonderful" (Sun)

In 1937 Sir Alexander Korda of London Films embarked on a spectacular project-an epic that was to overshadow all others and enshrine him for ever as the saviour of the British film industry. Robert Graves's classics, I, Claudius, and Claudius the God told the story of how, by allowing his enemies to think him an idiot, an apparently imbecilic cripple overthrew Caligula, became Emperor of Rome, and was finally 'appointed' a god by the Roman Senate. Korda had a star-laden cast lined up: Charles Laughton, Emlyn Williams, Merle Oberon, and Flora Robson, and the legendary Josef von Sternberg was engaged as director.
Filming began, but after a month's shooting-a month fraught with difficulties, according to von Sternberg-Merle Oberon was involved in a car crash and the entire project was shelved.
It was not until twenty-eight years later that BBC-tv producer, Bill Duncalf, came across some tins of film in the Denham studio vaults and realised that they comprised a unique document. The rescued 'rushes' were edited, and together with filmed interviews with people who remembered working on the production, were made into an intriguing documentary. Tonight at 9.5 you have another chance to see this highly acclaimed film.


Writer/Producer: Bill Duncalf
Narrator: Dirk Bogarde
Interviewee: Josef von Sternberg
Interviewee: Robert Graves
Interviewee: Eileen Corbett
Interviewee: John Armstrong
Author (I, Claudius sequences): Robert Graves
Producer (I, Claudius sequences): Alexander Korda
Claudius (I, Claudius sequences): Charles Laughton
Messalina (I, Claudius sequences): Merle Oberon
Livia (I, Claudius sequences): Flora Robson
Caligula (I, Claudius sequences): Emlyn Williams

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The Epic That Never Was: Tuesday's Documentary

BBC One London, 25 February 1969 21.05

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