In 1937 Alexander Korda and Josef von Sternberg set out to turn Robert Graves’s novel I, Claudius into an epic movie with Charles Laughton as Claudius, Merle Oberon as Messalina and Flora Robson as Livia. But the production seemed to be jinxed and production was abandoned after Merle Oberon was injured in a car crash. A few scenes survived from the unfinished movie and they were not seen until nearly thirty years later in the 1965 documentary The Epic That Never Was. Fortunately, these included a couple of scenes of Flora Robson – then aged around thirty-five – playing the aged Livia; I’m not sure if scenes with the younger Livia were never shot or just didn’t survive.
It took nearly forty years before I, Claudius reached the screen: as a highly acclaimed BBC mini-series. A new movie version was announced in 2008 but appears to be stuck in ‘development hell’.
George Blackler was the makeup artist; Flora’s makeup used cotton-wool eye-bags, colloidion, and latex.