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
Twentieth Century-Fox decided to make "Cleopatra" in mid-1959. Once Walter Wanger came on board as producer, Spyros Skouras, then-president of the studio after Darryl F. Zanuck's departure, ordered the film to be made on a $300,000 budget and allowed six weeks to write the script and find a director, as well as four months to shoot. The plan was then to rush the film to theaters as soon as possible. Wanger was also forced to cast the title role from among the Fox contract actresses. The producer was appalled by what Skouras demanded and protested; he had dreamed of making a film about Cleopatra for years, and didn't want the project to turn into another "sword and sandal quickie". Wanger, then, hired Academy Award-winning production designer John DeCuir (The King and I (1956)) to create exotic, romantic concept sketches and models for presentation to Fox executives. Thanks to his spectacular display of inter corporate salesmanship, Wanger showed the executives, essentially, what they could have if they opened their minds. Where he saw beauty and vision in the film, Fox executives saw the possibility for bigger profits. As a result, the film was no longer considered a B-movie project; the budget had been increased to nearly $5 million and bigger stars would now be considered for the titular role. Susan Hayward, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren were initially considered, but Wanger had another star in mind: Elizabeth Taylor. See more »
When Cleopatra's boat approaches the shore, the white translucent curtains are pulled open. In a view from the shore, they are still closed. See more »
You come before me as a suppliant.
If you choose to regard me as such.
I do. You will therefore assume the position of a suppliant before this throne. You will kneel.
I will *what*?
You dare ask the Proconsul of the Roman Empire?
I *asked* it of Julius Caesar. I *demand* it of you!
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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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