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
The budget for Elizabeth Taylor's costumes, $194,800, was the highest ever for a single screen actor. Her 65 costumes included a dress made from 24-carat gold cloth. See more »
In one point Caesar talks to Cleopatra about Rome's interest in Egyptian maize. Ancient people had no idea about it, since maize was originally cultivated in prehistoric Mesoamerica and spread worldwide only in the 15th and 16th centuries. See more »
I have always thought it was one of the most underrated Hollywood epics.First of all,it's only partially an epic:most of the scenes are intimate,generally two characters who are constantly tearing each other apart.Joseph L. Mankiewicz,one of the most intelligent director of his time,rewrote the dialogue during the shooting,night after night ,and the results are stunning,considering the difficulties he encountered with his budget and his stars.Cleopatra's dream is perfectly recreated,much better than in De Mille 's version -a good one,though-:It's Alexandre the great 's plan ,this Alexandre from whom she's descended,to make a huge empire,uniting the Orient and the Occident.One of the major scenes takes place near the great conqueror's grave .The second part has Shakespeareans accents:Cleopatra becomes some kind of Lady Macbeth,and Marc Anthony is left alone against the whole Roman army (the Shakespearian trees).The last lines (repeated twice) are some of the finest you can find in an epic movie.And look how Fellini has been influenced by Mankiewicz for the final of his "Satyricon":the photograph turning into a fresco. As for the epic scenes,they are here,of course but they are little over 20% of the movie.And to Cleo's awesome Rome entrance ,you can prefer Ceasar's epilepsy fit.The actors are not as uneven as it's often said.Elizabeth Taylor had already worked with Mankiewicz (the extraordinary "suddenly last Summer") and she learned a lot with him;she's now ready for the great roles of the sixties:"Virginia Woolf","Secret ceremony" "taming of the shrew".Richard Burton had been "Alexander the great" (coincidence!) in a rather academic movie,and here he portrays a clumsy,almost Don Quixotesque Marc Anthony with art.However,Rex Harrison steals the show in the first half.Supporting actors ,including Roddy MCDowall ,a puny but shrewd Octavious,and Richard O'Sullivan ,an effeminate Ptolemy. This visual poem,a feast for the eye and for the mind must be restored to favor.
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