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Cleopatra (1963, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton)

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Still (in relative terms) the most expensive film ever made and famous for bringing Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton together in what was to become one of the world’s most famous on-off-on relationships, Joseph L Mankiewicz’s film almost defines the word ‘epic’. Taylor plays Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, who uses both her political wiles and her body to first woo Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) then Marc Antony (Burton) to protect and even expand her realm.

As history tells us, she was to meet untimely end but it is in the sumptuous telling that the film is so successful, with sets more extravagant than seen before (Cleopatra’s triumphal entry into Rome is a pre-CGI masterpiece). Burton, Harrison and Taylor, none of whom were first choices (imagine Stephen Boyd, Peter Finch and Joan Collins) all produced some of the best work of their careers and despite its epic length, it never flags.

production details
USA | 248 minutes | 1963

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Script: Carlo Mario Franzero Joseph L. Mankiewicz Ranald MacDougall Sidney Buchman

cast
Michael Hordern as Cicero
Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
Richard Burton as Marcus Antonius
Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar
Pamela Brown as High Priestess
George Cole as Flavius
Hume Cronyn as Sosigenes
Cesare Danova as Apollodorus
Kenneth Haigh as Brutus
Andrew Keir as Agrippa
Martin Landau as Rufio
Roddy McDowall as Octavian – Caesar Augustus
Robert Stephens as Germanicus
Francesca Annis as Eiras
Grégoire Aslan as Pothinus
Martin Benson as Ramos
John Doucette as Achillas
John Hoyt as Cassius
Carroll O’Connor as Casca
Andrew Faulds as Canidius
Michael Gwynn as Cimber
Peter Grant as Palace Guard (uncredited)
Marne Maitland as Euphranor
Richard O’Sullivan as Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII
Gwen Watford as Calpurnia
Douglas Wilmer as Decimus
Marie Devereux as Bacchanal Reveler
Herbert Berghof as Theodotos
Jacqueline Chan as Lotos (as Jacqui Chan)
Isabel Cooley as Charmian (as Isabelle Cooley)

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