Never has there been a storyline as robust as Cleopatra. The backstory, that is! The 1963 movie received nine Oscar nominations, but garnered mixed reviews from film critics. However, the reason movie fans rushed to theaters to see Cleopatra was not simply to view a movie, but instead to see the phenomenon that had been filling gossip columns for more than a year.
No film production has ever rivaled Cleopatra for publicizing Hollywood culture. The unrivaled backstory has it all! It was the most expensive movie ever filmed prior to 1963, almost bankrupting 20th Century-Fox. The most alluring actress in the world, Elizabeth Taylor, earned the highest salary ever awarded to an actress, $1,000,000. More importantly, she earned the affections of co-star Richard Burton. Both Burton and Taylor were married at the time, making their public affair all the more gossip-worthy. To add to the drama, Taylor suffered a serious illness during the filming and surgery was required to save her life.
The original director, Rouben Mamoulian, was fired after filming commenced andwas replaced with Joseph L. Mankiewicz. After filming was completed, Mankiewicz was fired and then rehired when it became clear that no other person would be able to edit the footage into a theater-worthy movie. Rex Harrison, who played Julius Caesar, was the only actor who received an Oscar nomination for a performance on the screen. We know, however, that the screen is not where the real action occurred.
The director’s cut of Cleopatra is more than five hours in length. Much shorter versions are available. However, the elaborate sets, the Oscar winning costumes, and the outstanding cast make the director’s cut the clear choice for an unbeatable film experience.
California-based blogger John Greanias regularly shares his love of classic cinema at his John Greanias Film Review site.