Martin Landau Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra 1963


Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra (1963)

posted by Classic Film alias classic_film on Monday 12th of September 2016 05:02:43 PM

Synopsis, via IMDb: Historical epic. The triumphs and tragedy of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. The lengthy Egyptian/Roman historic/romantic/war epic had it all: lavish scenery (long before CGI effects were in use), gorgeous costumes (Irene Sharaff won an Oscar for designing Elizabeth Taylor's film wardrobe), and a huge cast, which included Taylor as the title character (February 27, 1932 - March 23, 2011), Rex Harrison (March 5, 1908 - June 2, 1990), Richard Burton (November 10, 1925 - August 5, 1984), Martin Landau (b. June 20, 1928), Roddy McDowall (September 17, 1928 - October 3, 1998), Hume Cronyn (July 18, 1911 - June 15, 2003), Kenneth Haigh (b. March 25, 1931), George Cole (April 22, 1925 - August 5, 2015), Andrew Keir (April 3, 1926 - October 5, 1997), Isabel Cooley (July 20, 1924 - January 3, 2000), Cesare Danova (March 1, 1926 - March 19, 1992), and many others. Academy Award-winning dance director Hermes Pan did the choreography. There has been much debate as to where this Twentieth Century-Fox film stands/stood as a box office blockbuster or a financial bust -- while "Cleopatra" cost more at that time than any other Hollywood film had (some sources say it cost $25 million to produce, others say $31 or $40 million), it eventually recouped its expenses. It was the top-grossing film of 1963, but because it cost so much to produce (partially because so many extras were used on location and because production had to be shut down for six months due to Taylor's near-death illness), "Cleopatra" was in the red for several years. Rex Harrison won the National Board of Review award for his performance as Julius Caesar and was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. The film was nominated for nine Oscars and of those, won four. The press went wild over the scandalous love affair that developed during filming between co-stars Taylor and Burton. More "Cleopatra" film trivia, via IMDb: Joseph L. Mankiewicz hoped that the film would be released as two separate pictures, "Caesar and Cleopatra" followed by "Antony and Cleopatra." Each was to run approximately three hours. 20th Century-Fox decided against this, and released the film we know today. It runs just over four hours. It is hoped that the missing two hours will be located and that one day a six-hour 'director's cut' will be available.   During the early filming at Pinewood Studios, the harsh weather conditions of the English winter brought on pneumonia for the fragile Elizabeth Taylor. After a day at the set in which she had to be carried on and off because she was so weak, Taylor eventually collapsed in her hotel room at the Dorchester. The private doctor of Queen Elizabeth II was summoned to her hotel room. According to Taylor, he apparently shook her violently like a rag doll and pounded on her rib cage, provoking no consciousness within her. She was given an hour to live and was said to be in a coma. An emergency tracheotomy was performed successfully at the hospital and Taylor slowly recovered (the scar can be seen in different scenes of the film). Her presence was required for almost every scene, so production closed down. Director Rouben Mamoulian finally resigned on January 3, 1961. He was followed by Peter Finch and Stephen Boyd, who had to honor prior commitments. Filming proceeded a few months later, this time in Rome's hot climate.   With the scandal surrounding the affair between Burton and Taylor, scant attention was paid to Rex Harrison. He got the last laugh when he became the only one of the film's three stars to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance. While filming the sea battle in Iscua, a producer invited Burton and Taylor for lunch on his yacht and placed hidden cameras in their room, in the hope of capturing and then selling pictures of them kissing. Taylor spotted the cameras immediately and Burton had to be restrained from attacking the host.   During the scene in which Cleopatra makes her entrance into Rome, Taylor's life had been threatened, after the Vatican had denounced her scandalous relationship with Burton, by the thousands of Roman Catholics that were the extras. Soldiers packing guns lined the streets with barriers and cables to try and prevent an assassination. As Taylor came through the arch, the crowd broke through the barriers and cables all at once. But as Elizabeth and the film crew feared for her life, she realized that they were shouting "Boccia Liz! Boccia Liz!," declaring their love for the actress. Instead of remaining in the highly strung character of Cleopatra, Taylor began to cry and thank the crowd as she blew kisses. The scene had to be re-shot because of this.   In Anzio, while building the Alexandria set, a few construction workers were killed by an unexploded mine left over from World War II.   Taylor's contract stipulated that her million-dollar salary be paid out as follows: $125,000 for 16 weeks work plus $50,000 a week afterwards plus 10% of the gross (with no break-even point). When the film was restarted in Rome in 1961, she had earned well over $2 million. After a lengthy $50 million lawsuit brought against Taylor and Richard Burton by 20th Century Fox in 1963 and a countersuit filed by Taylor, the studio finally settled with the actress in 1966. Her ultimate take for the film was $7 million.   When the film was cut from six hours to four, 49 pages of re-shoots were required to make sense of the changes.   In the four-hour version, Cleopatra takes Appolodorus as her occasional lover, but these scenes were eliminated in the 194-minute version. Joseph L. Mankiewicz originally wanted black actor James Edwards as Apollodorus and encouraged the actor to physically get in shape for the role. Unfortunately Fox executives were not comfortable with the relationship between him and Cleopatra, so he was replaced by Cesare Danova.   Richard Burton and Roddy McDowall took supporting roles in Fox's "The Longest Day" (1962) purely to relieve the boredom of this film's production.   At the time, all Italian films were dubbed in post-production. Carpenters constantly hammered on the set during filming. Joseph L. Mankiewicz spent hours trying to make it clear to the Italian crew that silence was required on set at all times.   Cleopatra's barge alone cost about $2 million in today's dollars.   Joan Collins, Brigitte Bardot, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Dolores Michaels, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Sue Parker, Millie Perkins, Barbara Steele, Joanne Woodward, and Dana Wynter were considered to play Cleopatra. Yul Brynner, Cary Grant, Curd Jürgens, Fredric March, Noël Coward, John Gielgud, and Peter Sellers were considered for Julius Caesar.   The film is widely regarded as one of the biggest flops of all time. It was actually one of the highest grossing films of the 1960s. Once it opened, it was was sold out for the next four months. In 1966, ABC-TV paid 20th Century-Fox a record $5 million for two showings of the film, a deal that put the film in the black.   The budget for Elizabeth Taylor's costumes, $194,800, was the highest ever for a single screen actor. Her 65 costumes included a dress made from 24-carat gold cloth.   A group of female extras who played Cleopatra's servants and slave girls went on strike to demand protection from amorous Italian male extras. The studio eventually hired a special guard to protect the female extras.   The Roman forum built at Cinecitta was three times the size of the real thing.   According to Rex Harrison's autobiography, Twentieth Century-Fox custom-made his Julius Caesar boots while Richard Burton's boots were hand-me-downs from the previous attempt at making the film. Harrison was amazed that Burton did not complain.   After long days of shooting, Joseph L. Mankiewicz would retire to his private rooms to do rewrites. He initially begged for time off to do a proper rewrite, but Twentieth Century Fox was so deeply in debt that they couldn't allow for yet another delay in production. Mankiewicz resorted to daily injections to keep him going during the day, and different ones at night to help him sleep.   ************ Fair Use Doctrine; if you use this photo, please provide attribution credit; not for commercial use (see Creative Commons license).


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