Fierce Roman commander Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) becomes infatuated with beautiful Christian hostage Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and begins questioning the tyrannical leadership of the despot Emperor Nero (Sir Peter Ustinov).
Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman), an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie (Dame Elizabeth Taylor). His reunion with his father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives), who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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
Dame Joan Collins was cast in the title role in 1958, but after several delays she became unavailable. After Collins' departure, producer Walter Wanger considered Susan Hayward, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren as replacements. Wanger then called Dame Elizabeth Taylor on the set of her latest movie, Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), and relayed an offer through her then-husband Eddie Fisher, who had answered the phone. At first, she rejected the offer. When Wanger asked again, she thought about it some more and replied "Sure, tell him I'll do it for a million dollars." Wanger agreed, shocking Taylor and Twentieth Century Fox President Spyros Skouras. When the public expressed great interest in Taylor being cast as Cleopatra, Fox sought out to hire her for the movie. On October 15, 1959, Twentieth Century Fox became the first studio to pay a star $1 million for a single role. See more »
As Cleopatra enters Rome, tire tracks appear on a dirt road during the big parade. See more »
[speaking of the Grand Eunuch]
... a position not acquired without some, shall we say, sacrifices?
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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 »
It is extremely difficult to evaluate this film. On the one hand, the presentation is first class: the sets, props, costumes, location photography, and music are all of the caliber befitting the grandiose ambition of the production. I personally found the acting by the truly all-star cast to be uniformly excellent throughout with McDowall's Octavian and Harrison's Caesar deserving special mention. Taylor deserved the million dollars she got for the title role and Burton's occasional scenery chewing didn't detract significantly from his interpretation of Mark Antony. But the question remains over what might have been. I believe any true film buff would want to pass final judgment on this production only after having viewed the 6 hour plus version in order to determine whether the extensive cuts (even in the new 2 DVD four hour version) were justified. I should add that the third disc of extras contributes greatly to the appreciation (especially where the director controversy and Burton-Taylor relationship is concerned) of what was attempted.
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