In 48 B.C., Caesar pursues Pompey from Pharsalia to Egypt. Ptolemy, now supreme ruler after deposing his older sister, Cleopatra, attempts to gain favor with Caesar by presenting the conquerer with the head of Pompey, borne by his governors, Pothinos and Achillas. To win Caesar's support from her brother, Cleopatra hides herself in a rug, which Apollodorus, her servant, presents to Caesar. The Roman is immediately infatuated; banishing Ptolemy, he declares Cleopatra Egypt's sole ruler and takes her as his mistress. A son, Caesarion, is born of their union. Caesar, however, must return to Italy. Although he is briefly reunited with Cleopatra during a magnificent reception for the queen in Rome, Caesar is assassinated shortly thereafter, and Cleopatra returns to Egypt. When Mark Antony, Caesar's protégé, beholds Cleopatra aboard her elaborate barge at Tarsus some years later, he is smitten and becomes both her lover and military ally. Their liaison notwithstanding, Antony, to ... Written by
I'm pleased to read all the positive reviews of this film, which I first saw when it was released and have seen perhaps five times since. In 1963 the movie was almost universally condemned by critics, and I was just about the only person who admitted that I loved it. Part of that, though, had to do with the Taylor/Burton affair and the scandal it created. Liz Taylor in 1963 was not only considered the most beautiful woman in America, she was also thought of as a serial home-breaker and a real threat to the morals of the American Republic.
Why? I don't agree with many positive comments about the acting. Taylor and Burton were not too bad, but they didn't handle the pompous dialogue as well as Rex Harrison, Hume Cromyn, Martin Landau and especially Roddy McDowell, who was perfection itself and, I believe, accurately portrayed as the very young, ambitious and unscrupulous, but brilliantly intelligent Octavian (later the emperor Augustus).
Sure, some of the dialogue stinks, and the movie seems too long (perhaps because so much of it was cut to fit into fours hours). Nevertheless, for sheer magnificence and recreation of a most critical time in the history of two vanished high civilizations it has never been, and probably never will be, surpassed.
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