You’ve heard about the enormous budget, you know the stars, you’ve seen the gold lamé. Let’s do this!
We start with Rome finishing up a civil war, and Caesar is victorious.
Caesar heads to Egypt, where Cleopatra’s lil’ bro Ptolemy is being a whiny bitch.
The Egyptians give Caesar a fancy gift. Caesar seems embarrassed he forgot to bring something in exchange.
Someone sends Caesar another gift. Dang, he really should have thought about bringing a bottle of wine.
Ta da! It’s Cleopatra herself! Not the most comfortable way to travel.
Caesar and Cleo do some wheeling and dealing.
Cleopatra thinks important thoughts while doing her makeup. Also, half nude.
Next day, lounging around, Cleopatra decides to give Caesar a treat in her bath.
Machinations continue, and the Romans burn the Library at Alexandria. Cleo gets pissed.
There’s some more boring battles and armor, blah blah blah. But meanwhile, Cleopatra practices her eyeliner on fake heads, and I’m kind of obsessed with this scene (OK, really, it’s about her brother trying to poison her, but check these details!).
Ptolemy’s overdressed eunuch is sentenced to death for trying to poison Cleopatra.
After the trial, Cleopatra takes pity on Rex / Ceasar.
At least that snoozy kiss gets Cleo the crown she wants.
Time for some boring post-coronation boning.
To continue the least sexy date ever, let’s visit the tomb of Alexander the Great.
Back in Rome, Antony tells Ceasar’s wife she’s been ditched.
Time for a pagan ritual!
Cleopatra and Caesar have a baby, destined to wear pleather and gold lamé. Back in Rome, the people get cranky at these developments. Roddy McDowell, getting typecast as a sneaky bastard, stirs the pot.
Caesar has to leave Egypt and fix shit in Rome.
Good news! Caesar is declared dictator for life, so Cleo makes a beeline for Rome.
Arriving in town, Cleopatra sends in her advance team, consisting of…
Cleopatra and her kid settle in Rome, thinking Ceaser-as-dictator is gonna work out in their favor.
But lots of boring political crap in Rome and equally boring costumes mean bad juju is coming for Cleo.
The conspiracy in the Roman Senate turns on Caesar (‘Et tu, Brute?‘), and Rex Harrison is out of the picture. So Cleopatra has to GTFO and head back to Egpt.
Sneakily little Roddy McDowell claims Ceaser as a title, while Marc Antony does the hard work as he pines for Cleo. In Egypt, Cleopatra puts on her big hat and gets down to business.
Marc Antony wants to meet her again. She debates the merits of this idea while in the bath.
She’ll meet him on her terms, natch.
Marc Antony wears his turquoise and leopard armor for the occasion.
The sparks fly between Marc and Cleopatra at dinner.
Marc Antony gets drunk while watching half-naked girls dance.
He finally goes around to find the real Cleopatra in bed, bored and unimpressed. He kills more screen time getting a lot of stupid man-stuff off his chest about Caesar before he and Cleo can makeout.
They do the deed, and he dilly-dallies about returning to Rome.
In Rome, Octavian finagled a political marriage for Marc Antony. Uh-oh.
Marc Antony returns to Egypt to fix things with Cleopatra. Good luck, mister.
Finally, he gets some private time with her. OK, watch the costumes. First, Cleopatra is in red and purple with a gold fully beaded wig, while Marc Antony is in white armor.
Now, practically mid-word, they’re in a different room but with different costumes. And it happens TWICE!
WE’RE STILL TALKING HERE.
Back in the Egyptian throne room, it’s all shiny.
Egypt and Rome are gearing up for a fight. Octavian’s still out there somewhere causing trouble.
We get one last wacky Cleo costume during the battle, but mostly it’s all smoke and armor.
Cleopatra leaves the battle when she thinks Marc Antony is dead, but, of course, he isn’t and he’s gonna hold that against her.
Tedious Octavian is still advancing, so there’s some court biz to deal with.
One last argument and cuddle, then Marc Antony is gone (this is gonna be a pattern with Burton-Taylor).
Cleopatra sends her son off to get killed while she contemplates her own lack of a future.
Marc Antony does the manly thing and falls on his sword.
Octavian takes over Egypt, and his pals take a bath.
While Cleopatra gets it on with an asp.
Geezuz, that was four hours and a lot of lurex! And I only focused on Elizabeth Taylor’s record-setting 65 costumes. You can click on some of these pix to enlarge them and get all the super-shiny details.
Have you managed to make it all the way through Cleopatra? What did you think?
Go back to the 2nd picture. Why is there a Vulcan in a white robe? Maybe the bill for Cleo’s wardrobe was — out of this world? “Carry On Cleo” was probably more authentic. BTW, the Metropolitan has a few surviving remnants of linen from the era. White, of course.
If I had another 4+ hours to kill, I could do a Vulcan count — bec. it’s off the hook! I bet there’s a few Romulans sneaking in there too.
We have to cover the “Carry On…” episodes some day. They used a lot of costumes recycled from shows like “Elizabeth R” and “Anne of the Thousand Days.”
This might be your Magnum Opus, T.
*curtseys* And to think, it was all bec. I laid down after a migraine one day.
No mention of the bullet bra action in the 4th to last shot? And bangs!
So many bullet bras, so little time!
You caught that as well, eh? I had to blink a few times to make sure. (The bullet bra look, that is!)
“Cleopatra” is one of my go-to background movies for sewing marathons: it’s interminable, easily ignored, and has ALL THE COLORS.
All the colors of the rainbow!
Haven’t watched this in years, thanks for reminding)) The headgear of the guy delivering rugged-in Cleo looks rather 14th century AD to me. And Mr Guy J Caesar in the “Mr. Mansplainer drones on” pic is wearing a black turtleneck sweater, if I see correctly. Beatle boots stayed out of the frame, obviously.
I thought I saw a ‘puddy cat’, but seriously folks wasn’t there a ocelot or cheetah in one of the scenes? Costumes screen 1960s and not in a good way. Supposed all the corsetry had to hold up La Liz’ rack. I preferred the Taming of the Shrew, costumes by Danilo Donati. He also is Zeffirelli’s go-to costumer. Romeo and Juliet with Olivia Hussey is one-night my all-time favourites.
Only thing they got right, sort of, was Cleopatra VII’s language skills.
I didn’t find any big cats, just their skins (faux, I hope!). But it’s a long-ass movie, & I do get bored during these things ;-)
Unlike the Zeffirelli Shakespeare in the ’60s, which I’ve also reviewed (use the search box or menus to find ’em here!).
This movie is pure campy costuming fun! The acting is overblown and melodramatic enough to suck the air and life out of an otherwise interesting story. At least they had the good sense to keep the corset UNDER La’Liz dresses. Nothing frosts my flakes more than a movie with the leads just running around in corsets and shifts. I’m looking at you Kiera Knightly! Because women were just running around court and the countryside willey-nilley in their underwear.
This has done nothing but reinforce my long-held belief that Richard Burton was the hottest thing, and that he and Liz must have had universe-exploding, mind-altering sex.
Yup. This was the flick where they started having an affair, while both were married to other ppl. The scandal of the times!
Probably not, Sarah. People who are so self-absorbed as those two don’t usually have much left over for anyone else. If there were a mirror in the room, it probably got more attention from either of them.
The movie takes place in an African country and multinational empire, yet anyone darker than beige is relegated to an extra. It was so then and continues to be in Hollywood.
Also, it seems the costume department spent a lot of time highlighting Taylor’s bust.
For further exploration of Hollywood’s colour line, check out “Toms, Coons, Mullatoes, Mammies and Bucks” by Donald Bogle.
I have never been sure exactly what race/ethnicity the ancient Egyptians were. It has been the fashion among revisionist historians to claim Cleopatra was black, but history says she was a Greek, the great-great-granddaughter of Ptolemy. We know that the Egyptians used slaves, including Jews and probably any other group of people they could get their hands on. The Nubians, the next big country over, were definitely black African, as was Balchis, the Queen of Sheba. So, yes, the background in Cleopatra should have been a lot darker.
Even if her ethnicity is what you say, Greeks tend to have browner skin than Taylor shows.
Greeks CAN have darker skin,just like they can have even lighter skin than Taylor. European mediterranean people in general can be of every skin shade from the palest pale to quite dark tan,depending on region,genetics,lifestyle (sun exposure) and even age. Even if we accept that most ancient Greeks were darker than Taylor,Cleopatra wasn’t simply Greek,she was of Macedonian ancestry,and Macedonian Greeks were often noted to have extremely light skin and even hair (Olympias,mother of Alexander the great is described as a pale redhead). Furthermore,even in the multicultural environment of Egypt and Ptolemaic Alexandria (it is true that ancient Egyptians,although not “African” the way we envision African people today,were surely darker and had in general different features from european people of the age), it is extremely unlikely that Cleopatra was of any mixed ancestry,as the Ptolemaic dynasty practiced rigorous incest to preserve their “divine” blood and ancestry.Even Cleopatra was married to her brother! Any extrafamiliar marriage would have been rare and several generations in the past,and even then they tended to marry other Hellenistic Greeks,especially from the rival Greek dynasties of the Balkans and the Near East.So while it is true that Hollywood purposefully downplayed and erased for decades,including in this film, the other ethnicities and skin tones which would certainly have existed and played a crucial role in such multiethnic and diverse historical settings, Cleopatra and her family most certainly were never meant to be African or even genuinely Egyptian.
And now we know why 20th Century Fox was nearly brought down… ;-)
So. Many. Wigs!
Over budget, overheated, and overhyped. Massive delays because of the antics of Burton and Taylor.
Random pointless anecdote: My mother’s neighbor’s brother worked on the costumes for this film. I begged him for details when I found this out in my teens, but sadly, I can’t remember shit about what he said. Although he did say he kept a suit of armor.
So, yeah. Useless tidbit there.
Loved the costume blow by blow! Ha :) but Cleopatra will always be one of my favourite movies (I’m a sucker for anything ancient Egypt) and not all her costumes were terrible. I find many of the details, including the lame, easier to swallow than the metal painted collars in Tut. Now I need to watch this movie again (when I have 4 hoirs to spare) :)
Also: Mark Antony’s epic miniskirts. At least that’s historically accurate :D
I didn’t think Burton and Taylor had any chemistry when I saw this movie. Harrison and Taylor did, but that may just be my point of view. But my GOD, Taylor was so beautiful. And the last scene when she is preparing herself for suicide…it moved me. And yeah, I figured none of the outfits had a lick of authenticity.
The miracle is that ‘Cleopatra’ ever got to the screen at all. 20th-Century Fox was in melt-down mode and made one stupid decision after another; such as originally planning to shoot the picture in grey, rainy England and only giving up when actors supposedly in Alexandria were filmed with their breath vaporizing in the frigid temperatures.
Director Joseph Mankiewicz shot two movies, ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, and planned to release them separately, with a gap of about a year. But Fox, wanting to capitalize on the Taylor/Burton romance took 6.5 hours of film and cut it down to 4 hours. No wonder many of the scenes make no sense, and chunks of the story are missing! The director who gave us classics such as ‘All About Eve’ should have been given free reign, but Fox prevailed. (Mankiewicz even said at the New York premiere that ‘Cleopatra’ was the toughest two pictures he’d ever shot”.)
All that aside, what’s on the screen is gorgeous. No CGI in those days. The Alexandria Palace and the Roman Forum were the concrete creations of a lot of very talented people. And Taylor manages to look pretty spectacular, despite some ghastly costumes. (Though the real-gold Isis gown and crown she wears entering Rome is one of the most fabulous costumes ever created for a motion picture.)
I loved Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar; but Liz & Dick as Cleopatra and Antony bored me. Maybe because historical Cleopatra was a young woman and Liz Taylor seemed nearly middle-aged and matronly (though actually she was 30).
My head aches just looking at those weighty hair-dos and headresses. I mean you know those beads had to weigh a ton.
And I just love Cleo’s bedroom/bath/living room combo.
The original open floor plan!
“Come in, have a seat, fix yourself a drink. I’ll just completing my ablutions in my bath in the middle of the room. While you’re waiting, draw some cat’s yes on those Barbie heads over there.”
I’m just circling back to this conversation.
That has got to be the best Entrance ever committed to celluloid in the history of popular entertainment.