Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Back to 1963: Cleopatra

I have been back in Ancient Egypt and Rome twice this last week, as CLEOPATRA (which I have on the 3 dvd set) was run again by our TCM, so it was fun to record it and go through my favourite bits again, not once but twice ... I am still staggered by the lushness and opulentess of it all - that Fox colour and the lavish sets and crowd scenes - no cheap CGI effects here, like EL CID, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE etc those crowds and sets were really there ... there may have been some matt proccess shots in that marvellous panorama across the port of Alexandria as Caesar arrives, but it still works a treat. All the elements combine here: the photography of Leon Shamroy, the great score by Alex North, Irene Sharaff's costumes for Cleo, Hermes Pan's choreography and of course Mankiewicz writing it by night and shooting by day .... and the terrific cast that includes Pamela Brown as the very effective seer, with Gwen Watford and Jean Marsh as discarded Roman wives ... Michael Hordern adds value too as usual.

The most expensive movie ever made by 20th Century Fox, it very nearly sent the studio into bankruptcy, it is certainly the biggest version of the story of the Egyptian charmer's life and it identified Elizabeth Taylor with the role more than any of her predecessors (helped by some off-camera happenings...). There's a lot of spectacle and some good acting throughout particularly Rex Harrison as a very incisive Julius Caesar.
There is so much I like here, it was marvellous seeing it on the big screen on its initial general release in 1965, the first half with Caesar has some marvellous scenes as the cast relish Mankiewicz's script. I like that scene too as Cleopatra returns to Egypt and Alex North's score takes us to the end of the first half. That entry into Rome too still dazzles ... and the final scenes in the tomb. The dvd extras are good too with some good documentaries on its making with footage of Finch and Boyd before they were replaced by Harrison and Burton when the production closed down at Pinewood and shifted to Rome ...  in the age if cheap CGI spectacles CLEOPATRA seems even better than ever.
There is also that risable scene when Cleo gets Marc Anthony to kneel before her as a supplicant - and her hilarious line "I asked it of Julius Casear, I DEMAND it of you". Then there's that barge which seems immensely huge inside '60s pal Stan had the soundtrack album which we played a lot then...


  1. Michael - your beautiful words bring a film classic back to life! This is also one of my favorite films...I look forward to reading more of your wonderful blog!
    Here's my take on the film, to add to the Cleo-patter:

    1. hi Angelman - thanks for your knd words, which I have only seen now. Your blog is terrific too, I must go through it, but a quick glance shows I have also covered items like those Dolls, I could go on Singing, Monroe etc. Great minds think alike! Any way of following your blog? I shall have to make a note to look in regularly ....

  2. great post !
    This is such a good Projector! Not something I'd spend my money on but still so cool :)