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.
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
By June 6, the Italian shoot was spending nearly $70,000 per day, and the movie cost $3 million more than Ben-Hur (1959). See more »
Cleopatra was around 19 or 21 years old (depending on the source) when she became involved with the 50 or 52 year old Caesar (again, depending on the source). Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) was 30 when the movie was made; Rex Harrison was 2 or 4 years older than Caesar. 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 »
This is not a perfect movie. No one has ever suggested it is. That said, it is much better than you may have been led to believe. Technically, it is superb, with sets, costumes, cinematography, music, etc., apparently unattainable by today's filmmakers. If you doubt this, watch "Gladiator" immediately after watching "Cleopatra". The technological weaknesses of the former are stark and unavoidable when compared to this film. The first act, especially, is without equal. Rex Harrison, as Caesar, dominates the screen and gives the performance of his life (Henry Higgins not withstanding). He earned his "Best Actor" Oscar nomination, and then some. The second act suffers, more likely than not due to the merciless re-editing by the studio that saw two hours of film hit the cutting room floor, and major roles like those of Cronyn and McDowall reduced to little more than bit parts (Mankiewicz originally envisioned this as two films, not one), from an occasional lack of cohesion I tend to think was not in Mankiewicz' screenplay. While La Taylor is ravishing throughout, she sometimes appears to be in a bit over her head. Again, this is more apparent in the problemmatic second act. There has been an active search for years by the Mankiewicz estate, and others, to find the missing elements from his original cut and restore "Cleopatra" to what he envisioned. This may yet happen. I hope it does. In the meantime, this newly restored roadshow version is most welcome.
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