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
When the historical Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, killed herself with a cobra bite, Egypt became a province of Rome. See more »
Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II and Ptolemy Philadelphus are all missing, and no mention is made to the Donations of Alexandria. See more »
[Kicks cushion from throne to Caesar, to get him to kneel]
You have such bony knees.
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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 »
Joseph L. Mankiewicz laughed the last. His goal a diptych to be released separately, rich in Shakespearean's tragic force, ample in scope, but intimate in tone- was betrayed by 20th Century Fox's chairman Darryl F. Zanuck, who butchered it into a four-hour film. In spite of all the troubles surrounding its production, "Cleopatra" defined big cinematic spectacle for me: I was 12 years old and saw it on a Cinerama screen. It was huge, and it was grandiose. Elizabeth Taylor carried the movie on her back, but she had not developed into a full dramatic actress yet; and Leon Shamroy's Oscar-winning cinematography ranged from dramatic lighting to flourishes of color that resemble the light show of a cabaret in La Habana. But the story was compelling, and everybody gave their best. It also became the entrepreneurial model for pre-selling movies before the cameras rolled. It did not have very good reviews, and 1960's yellow press, which had nothing to do with Mankiewicz's reflection of power and love, tarnished its values. By the 1980s a tendency to reevaluate the movie had grown, and moreover it became an icon of the big historical Hollywood spectacle. Not a masterpiece by scholars' standards, it is nevertheless the big opus in the career of Mankiewicz, maker of "All About Eve."
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