In 48 B.C., Julius Caesar (Sir Rex Harrison) pursues Pompey from Pharsalia to Egypt. Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (Richard O'Sullivan), now supreme ruler after deposing his older sister, Cleopatra VII (Dame Elizabeth Taylor), attempts to gain favor with Caesar by presenting the conquerer with the head of Pompey, borne by his governors, Pothinus (Grégoire Aslan) and Achillas (John Doucette). To win Caesar's support from her brother, Cleopatra hides herself in a rug, which Apollodorus (Cesare Danova), 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 (Loris Loddi), 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 (Richard Burton), Caesar's protégé, beholds Cleopatra...Written by
When Antony visits Cleopatra on her boat, the long red curtain behind him is closed. A few seconds later, the curtain is open. See more »
And so it fell out that at Pharsalia, the great might and manhood of Rome met in bloody civil war, and Caesar's legions destroyed those of the great Pompey... So, that now only Caesar stood at the head of Rome. But, there was no joy for Caesar as in his other triumphs... for the dead which his legions counted and buried and burned were their own countrymen.
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Premiered at a length of 243 minutes. A week after the premiere, the film was reduced to 222 minutes, and edited further to 194 minutes for general release. The 194-minute version was the default broadcast television version for years; home video and cable television releases are of the full-length cut. See more »
Regarded as the biggest flop (at least until "Ishtar") in motion picture history, "Cleopatra" has been given the short end of the stick since it first premiered in 1963 but it still is a great film. True, it did plague 20th Century Fox to the point of near bankruptcy (until "The Sound of Music" saved it in 1965) and Elizabeth Taylor's health overshadowed the film schedule but there are more good things about the film than there are bad, the backlashing of the film has just blown itself all out of proportion. Richard Burton and Elizabeth's much-publicized offscreen love affair grew to such a feverishly fiery degree that it made their onscreen relationship as Antony and Cleopatra all the more genuine. Rex Harrison as Caesar is first-rate as well and yet he was the only one out of the entire cast that received an Oscar nomination (Richard Burton was one who should have been in the running as well... his performance is equal to his earlier work in "The Robe" and later in "Becket" and "Anne of the Thousand Days"). Miss Taylor is very commanding in the role of her career and as a result few remember Claudette Colbert's earlier turn as Egypt's most memorable ruler in Cecil B. De Mille's 1934 version. The one point I want to make is that the film should have gotten more praise than it did... like "The Wizard of Oz", "Fantasia" and "It's a Wonderful Life" it seems to get more appreciation by it's second generation than it did it's first.
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