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
Breathtaking photography, fabulous costumes, wonderful lead and supporting role performances, a dual love story that is timeless - the romance with Caesar for power and the romance with Marc Antony for love, unmatched music by Alex North, that's what's in Cleopatra. From the time that it came out, I have remained a person who has not been afraid to say that I have loved it.
Elizabeth Taylor's legendary beauty is very evident here. My favorite scenes of hers are Cleopatra's anguish upon finding out about Marc Antony's [Richard Burton] marriage and the closing scene with her reunited with the dying Marc Antony. Similarly, Caesar's [Rex Harrison] opening war scene, Marc Antony's gut-wrenching soliloquy as a broken man after the defeat at Actium , Octavian's [Roddy McDowall] harsh scolding of an officer that let him know of Marc Antony's death, Sosigenes' [Hume Cronyn] death scene, Apollodorus' [Cesare Danova] support for Cleopatra, and Rufio's [Martin Landau] support for Marc Antony are all permanently etched in my memory.
The shear lushness of the production has to be seen to truly believed. Remember, this was released in 1963 far before the gimmickry of computer enhanced effects. The crowds in these scenes are real, the buildings are real, this is not a movie that was put together with the smoke and mirrors of computers. I truly do hope that restorers are able to eventually find the footage that was deleted, primarily due to Zanuck's influence and not Mankiewicz's desire, so that we may see more of what Mankiewicz had in mind.
I also strongly recommend that one view the DVD release. The included documentary about putting the film together helps one get a good perspective about the real headaches involved in getting this film made.
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