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 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 4:40 PM   
 By:   filmo   (Member)

i first saw this movie just over fifty yuears ago at the University Theatre in Toronto in glorious widescreen coloour when it was first released. it's one film that had a profound effect on me and i'm sure eveyone else when they first saw it. the acting was superb especially by richard burton andrex harrison and it'sone movie that i have too see many times over to get the full feel of it. anyone have similar experiences where they where when they first saw this movie?

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 7:19 PM   
 By:   robprince   (Member)

I saw it when I was in 9th grade at the BOYD THEATRE in Philadelphia. I was in the center orchestra sweet spot for TODD-AO. I never forgot it. This was the original roadshow version that clocked in at four hours. I still have the full color program with the amazing cover art.

The film still holds up....I watched it again last week in blu ray. It is really well-written and well-acted. I prefer it to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 7:19 PM   
 By:   robprince   (Member)

I saw it when I was in 9th grade at the BOYD THEATRE in Philadelphia. I was in the center orchestra sweet spot for TODD-AO. I never forgot it. This was the original roadshow version that clocked in at four hours. I still have the full color program with the amazing cover art.

The film still holds up....I watched it again last week in blu ray. It is really well-written and well-acted. I prefer it to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 7:27 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this film.

I saw it in Australia in 1963 when I was 13. The whole thing was big, in every sense of the word. The music by Alex North is simply magnificent. I just purchased the double CD of the score recently. It's mixture of melody and dissonance means that North was ahead of the curve, IMO.

Having seen the film again in the last few years I'd like to make some general comments: firstly, the script of Joe Mankiewicz is absolutely first rate; too good for the finished film, IMO. It was loaded with poetry and meaning but often delivered poorly, except for Rex Harrison. Taylor wasn't much as an actress, IMO - she had two 'speeds'; flat out yelling or sultry and upset. Burton wasn't half as good an actor as most people believed, delivering in that "Oh Titus, bring your friend hither" faux-Shakespearean style of his. It didn't work and made him seem, at best, one dimensional and, at worse (especially in Alexander the Great) as ridiculous (in that toga!!).

"Cleopatra" hasn't aged well, for me. It looked good, but was over-long and it went flabby in parts with unnecessary scenes. The production problems undoubtedly lead to all these issues. The parts of this film, in short, are much greater than the whole.

If one is to make a comparison between Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Cleopatra", I would have to say the former film is actually outstanding and one of the greatest films ever to come out of the UK (and, to be fair, that doesn't mean much since British cinema has an appalling track record). Apart from a dozen great films, I wouldn't walk next door to see a British film made before 1970. This doesn't include Hitchcock as I consider him an "Americanized" director. "Lawrence" had the incomparable Lean touch and one of the most phenomenal performances one is ever like to see on the screen - O'Toole as Lawrence. Simply marvellous and Shariff wasn't far behind. I love this film with all my heart.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 8:48 PM   
 By:   pp312   (Member)

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this film.

I saw it in Australia in 1963 when I was 13. The whole thing was big, in every sense of the word. The music by Alex North is simply magnificent. I just purchased the double CD of the score recently. It's mixture of melody and dissonance means that North was ahead of the curve, IMO.


Except that that particular curve never existed outside of North himself with scores like Dragonslayer. Unless of course there's a whole range of dissonant scores making up a "curve" completely outside the range of my experience, which is not impossible.

Agree about the merits of Cleo v. Lawrence. To me Cleo had more potential than realisation. As Orson Welles once said to Charlton Heston: "If you haven't got a great Cleopatra you've got nothing", and Taylor was not a great Cleopatra. As for Burton, I believe he once won the Golden Turkey award or something as the worst actor of all time. That's of course absurd ("Virginia Woolf" anyone?) but I can see the point: when he was bad he was terrible. But really the problem with Cleo was in the lack of unity. A mishmash of acting styles, flippant, throwaway dialogue ("Oh, it's you!") sitting uncomfortably next to stilted stuff like, "The sun does shed its grace too brightly". (They should have had an Australian version where he says, "Geez, mate, it's bloody hot out here! Could cook a bloody egg on my breastplate!"). That's the one thing Wyler was firm about with Ben-Hur: that there be a unified vision and a consistency of style. It's also what helps makes Lawrence so great.

Sorry to the OP for dissing what is obviously a favourite, but it happens to all of us sooner or later. Whatever anyone else says about it, Cleo's a very respectable film and, compared to a lot of the stuff coming out today, well worth the $40 million it cost.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 9:36 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Some excellent points here. I think the film cost significantly more than $40M; if memory serves it bankrupted Fox.

And I'm an Australian female who doesn't use the (male) venacular!! You must think we're an uncouth lot here - please don't confuse us with our very common female ex Prime Minister.

When I said North was ahead of the curve, I meant he was ahead of 'everybody' up to that time. Rosenman used dissonance in his scores, as I recall, but I still think North's was way better.

I laughed about your comments on the mixed styles in "Cleopatra". So true. Joe was a great writer, but there were 2 others on the film with him - Ranald McDougall and Sidney Buchman. And Joe directed the film after Rouben Mamoulian had been fired - a litany of problems with the film which ultimately reflected its production values.

Disagree that Burton was a great actor in "Who's afraid of...". He was merely being himself - they both were. Total narcissists caught up in a mutually destructive relationship - they merely suited Albee's material, that's all.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 11:44 PM   
 By:   Sigerson Holmes   (Member)

My favorite style inconsistecy in the film is in the scene in which Rex Harrison is trying to teach his son the quality of mercy. The child actor hired was obviously a local Italian boy, with a thick Italian accent. Rex would say, "I pardon you," and gesture to the boy, who would repeat after him, waving his sceptre, "Ay parrr-doan yoo." One almost wishes it were Henry Higgins instead of Julius Caesar tutoring the future emperor.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2013 - 11:56 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Disagree that Burton was a great actor in "Who's afraid of...". He was merely being himself - they both were. Total narcissists caught up in a mutually destructive relationship - they merely suited Albee's material, that's all.

Gotta chime in with pp312 on this one. I do think WAOVW was brilliantly acted by all concerned, and this was the finest performances by both Burton and Taylor (though I also thought Liz was terrific in GIANT several years earlier). Burton was capable of greatness but too often "phoned in" his performances because he could throw on that Shakespearian schtick and get away with it. Unfortunately he was more interested in drinking and screwing than acting, and it frequently showed. Elizabeth Taylor was cursed with a grating voice and had limited range as an actor. She was particularly dreadful in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, a particularly dreadful film all around. And then there was ASH WEDNESDAY...

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 12:23 AM   
 By:   pp312   (Member)

Disagree that Burton was a great actor in "Who's afraid of...". He was merely being himself - they both were.

Wow. If Burton and Taylor's real-life relationship really resembled "Woolf" then...words fail me. But in any case they weren't being themselves; they were following an emotionally complex (and somewhat devastating) script, so acting was called for. Taylor won the Oscar, which I'm not convinced she deserved, and Burton won the BAFTA, which I'm positive he deserved. You could almost feel the world-weariness coming off him like B.O.; that rumpled old cardigan sat on him like he'd inhabited it all his life. To me it was just a wonderful performance, fully the equal of Schofield's in "Man for all Seasons" which took the Oscar that year.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 1:57 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Of course, both were tied to a script. I'm simply saying the performances were inspired by their own love-hate relationship. They fought like gladiators during most of their (two) marriages, so they were extremely well suited to the parts of Martha and George. Same with "Taming of the Shrew". You can call that acting if you want.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 2:58 AM   
 By:   pp312   (Member)

Same with "Taming of the Shrew". You can call that acting if you want.

Wow! You mean they argued in iambic pentameter at home! Cool!

(Just kidding).

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 3:42 AM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

What can I say Regie, you're wrong, wrong, wrong!

Cleopatra didn't bankrupt Fox, & know one knows the true budget. Richard Burton was a great actor (although he was in a LOT of crap films). And...appalling track record of British cinema - is just empty headed rubbish smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 3:52 AM   
 By:   KonstantinosZ   (Member)

I wish i had seen this at the cinema!
But, i was born in 1980!
I also love this movie and I'm very impressed by it!
It's an Easter tradition TV broadcast here in Greece.
The entrance of Cleopatra in Rome is one of my favourite scenes ever..

I bought the Bluray, and although i haven't seen it yet, just from a quick browsing, it's a reference quality and a must buy for anyone who loves the film!

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:06 AM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

My favorite style inconsistecy in the film is in the scene in which Rex Harrison is trying to teach his son the quality of mercy. The child actor hired was obviously a local Italian boy, with a thick Italian accent. Rex would say, "I pardon you," and gesture to the boy, who would repeat after him, waving his sceptre, "Ay parrr-doan yoo." One almost wishes it were Henry Higgins instead of Julius Caesar tutoring the future emperor.

Yeah, I noticed that when I saw it a month or so ago (I did see it at the cinema all those years ago), I was wondering where he'd got that accent from, no one else in the film had it! And when the body Julius Caesar is outside just prior to being burnt, Mark Antony uncovers his face & the bloke laying there looks nothing like Rex Harrison! Both Richard Burton & Roddy McDowall filmed their parts in The Longest Day while filming Cleopatra, something to do in those weeks & months of hanging around.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:10 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

What can I say Regie, you're wrong, wrong, wrong!

Cleopatra didn't bankrupt Fox, & know one knows the true budget. Richard Burton was a great actor (although he was in a LOT of crap films). And...appalling track record of British cinema - is just empty headed rubbish smile


Insults won't create a debate. I have post-grad qualifications in film and have worked in television plus read and researched a lot. The British quota quicky system in the 1930's led to the most appalling films. Also, they adopted an inferior sound system to the USA and paid for it - most of their films are inaudible up until the mid 40's. Then there are the stereotypical, stiff-upper-lipped English gentlemen, Oxford and Eton, performances! Think of Anna Nagle and Michael Wilding, just as a couple of examples - these were appalling films IMO. "Brief Encounter" = soap.

Vast numbers of their actors headed to the USA - even before the war. Read what I said, "films before 1970".

Apart from 12 very very good films - "Room at the Top", "The Red Shoes", "Hobson's Choice", "Great Expectations" and some more of P&P's films - all in all about 12 to 14 top draw films, including early David Lean - the rest are pretty much landfill. And the older I get the worse THEY get. Today I watched "The Long and the Short and the Tall". Richard Todd - give me a break!! Laurence Harvey was usually very good, but he over-acted in this film very badly. Richard Harris was OK in it, but he was usually stereotyped as the one with the big chip on his shoulder.

Dirk B was an outstanding actor and I saw him in a very good film, early 1950's, about a man who was homosexual at a time when it wasn't safe to be one. (That's one of the good films, btw!!) When you compare the Brits with the Italians and French they come up a very poor fifth!!

We'll have to disagree about Richard Burton. As it happens, IMO the greatest actor alive today in film is British - Daniel Day-Lewis. "In the Name of the Father" is one of those exceptional, outstanding films post 1970 which I haven't even yet discussed. They redeemed themselves after 1970. That's another topic.

You can continue to insult or offer an alternative view based on argument. Read some books about the history of 20th Century Fox and the making of "Cleopatra" and don't just rely on Wiki for your information.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:12 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Same with "Taming of the Shrew". You can call that acting if you want.

Wow! You mean they argued in iambic pentameter at home! Cool!

(Just kidding).


Don't laugh; I wouldn't put it past them - their behaviour was loud and embarrassing, in private and in public. Brawling 101.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:36 AM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

What can I say Regie, you're wrong, wrong, wrong!

Cleopatra didn't bankrupt Fox, & know one knows the true budget. Richard Burton was a great actor (although he was in a LOT of crap films). And...appalling track record of British cinema - is just empty headed rubbish smile


Insults won't create a debate. I have post-grad qualifications in film and have worked in television plus read and researched a lot. The British quota quicky system in the 1930's led to the most appalling films. Also, they adopted an inferior sound system to the USA and paid for it - most of their films are inaudible up until the mid 40's. Then there are the stereotypical, stiff-upper-lipped English gentlemen, Oxford and Eton, performances! Think of Anna Nagle and Michael Wilding, just as a couple of examples - these were appalling films IMO. "Brief Encounter" = soap.

Vast numbers of their actors headed to the USA - even before the war. Read what I said, "films before 1970".

Apart from 12 very very good films - "Room at the Top", "The Red Shoes", "Hobson's Choice", "Great Expectations" and some more of P&P's films - all in all about 12 to 14 top draw films, including early David Lean - the rest are pretty much landfill. And the older I get the worse THEY get. Today I watched "The Long and the Short and the Tall". Richard Todd - give me a break!! Laurence Harvey was usually very good, but he over-acted in this film very badly. Richard Harris was OK in it, but he was usually stereotyped as the one with the big chip on his shoulder.

Dirk B was an outstanding actor and I saw him in a very good film, early 1950's, about a man who was homosexual at a time when it wasn't safe to be one. (That's one of the good films, btw!!) When you compare the Brits with the Italians and French they come up a very poor fifth!!

We'll have to disagree about Richard Burton. As it happens, IMO the greatest actor alive today in film is British - Daniel Day-Lewis. "In the Name of the Father" is one of those exceptional, outstanding films post 1970 which I haven't even yet discussed. They redeemed themselves after 1970. That's another topic.

You can continue to insult or offer an alternative view based on argument.


Wow, I had no idea you had...post-grad qualifications in film! So your opinions are...fact! I do apologize.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:45 AM   
 By:   DavidRayner1947   (Member)

The name of the child actor who played Julius Caesar's son was Loris Loddi, who was born in Rome in December, 1957, and would have been about five years old when his scenes in "Cleopatra" were shot. He mostly made Italian films, although he did play Dax as a young boy in "The Adventurers" (1969)...and yes, his accent in "Cleopatra" is totally at odds with those of his screen parents.

As for the quality of British films pre-1970, they weren't all run-of-mill programmers. What about Carol Reed's three classics from the late 1940s, "Odd Man Out"; "The Fallen Idol" and "The Third Man"...all of which still look as marvelous today as they did back then. Or David Lean's "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and Carol Reed's multi-Oscar winning "Oliver!"

The Americans also produced their fair share of run of the mill programmers which kept the cinemas supplied with product in between the more elaborate productions. After all, you can't turn out a classic every time.

As for Richard Burton, he was a fine actor who was as good as his material. Some say that "Prince of Players" (1955) was his finest role, where he played a 19th century Shakespearian actor and which gave him the opportunity to do what he did best on the stage at the Old Vic. But the film is unobtainable on video or DVD and, as I've never seen it, I can't pass comment on it.

The production of "Cleopatra" was such a mixed up mess that it's surprising that the finished film played so well. However, Alex North's beautiful score enhanced it considerably and made it seem far better than it actually was. It gave the film an identity that was totally lacking in the script.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:47 AM   
 By:   Doug Raynes   (Member)

There seem to be attempts recently to rehabilitate the reputation of CLEOPATRA and rewrite history about reaction to the film. The first half is just about passable but after that – it becomes a huge lumbering bore. When I was watching it in 70mm at the Dominion, London all those years ago I was forever looking at the auditorium clock (whatever happened to those?) to see how much longer it could possibly go on for! I’ve subsequently tried to reassess the film on VHS, DVD and Blue-ray, to no avail.

The only positive thing I can say is that it can certainly be praised for its production values; it’s one of the most opulent films ever made and one can at least one can see on-screen where some of that money went.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 29, 2013 - 4:58 AM   
 By:   CinemaScope   (Member)

There seem to be attempts recently to rehabilitate the reputation of CLEOPATRA and rewrite history about reaction to the film. The first half is just about passable but after that – it becomes a huge lumbering bore. When I was watching it in 70mm at the Dominion, London all those years ago I was forever looking at the auditorium clock (whatever happened to those?) to see how much longer it could possibly go on for! I’ve subsequently tried to reassess the film on VHS, DVD and Blue-ray, to no avail.

The only positive thing I can say is that it can certainly be praised for its production values; it’s one of the most opulent films ever made and one can at least one can see on-screen where some of that money went.


I saw the film at the cinema twice, first time on general release, & the second time in the 70's when it was on over Christmas at the Odeon Marble Arch (great cinema). I enjoyed it both times. I found the DVD a bit draggy, & the last time I saw the Blu, I did the unforgivable & started skipping chapters in the second half, I was losing the will to live! The next time I get the Blu out (& it'll be a long time), the first half only. I do listen to the great soundtrack regularly.

 
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