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
Marilyn Monroe believed that 20th Century Fox fired her from Something's Gotta Give, so that her salary could go toward finishing the troubled Cleopatra. Twenty years later, Elizabeth Taylor revealed to a friend that she had contacted Monroe, and offered to quit Cleopatra unless Monroe were rehired. Monroe deeply appreciated the offer, but declined because she didn't want to make matters worse for either of them. See more »
When Caesar is instructing Caesarion in how to be a king, the child answers in a thick Italian accent. As he has never been to Italy before, he should speak with an English accent, like Cleopatra. See more »
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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