The Landmark Theatre – Special Screening
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Liz and Dick. Their antics on and off the set, outrageous even for the 60s, completely overshadowed the film at the time. An entertaining spectacle, the restored version looks and sounds as good as I remember from my first viewing fifty years ago.
What may be forgotten is that Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) is Cleopatra’s first lover. Harrison is excellent as a very British Caesar, played with just enough detached irony. Trying to keep the secret of his epilepsy is worse than the illness itself. Taylor’s first appearance, being rolled out of a carpet for his benefit, is one of the great entrances in cinema.
Cleopatra was co-written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz [All About Eve (1950)]. Alex North [Spartacus (1960)], no stranger to epic films, gives his orchestral score an exotic edge. The costume design for men is by Vittorio Ninovarese and for women, Rénie. Producer Walter Wanger wrote a book, republished this month, about the making of Cleopatra, the movie that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox.