papyrusbeetle

CLEOPATRA (1963) - why the hate?

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CLEOPATRA has been running this month on MOVIES! channel.

The kind of film that you don't watch, but that watches YOU. You really can't turn it off when it gets to certain points of history. You can't look away. You can't figure out how Liz Taylor can even SEE through that perfect eye makeup. Or, how you can ever breathe again after seeing Richard Burton look so darned CUTE in those.... Well, they had a lot of embossed leather and cool golden accent work available from Italian craftsmen on this picture, and Burton has great legs.

CLEOPATRA is different than QUO VADIS (horror and fear--please don't throw me into the arena with those darned lions!), BEN-HUR (some sort of religious message), and SPARTACUS (extremely fit guys killing each other.)

CLEOPATRA is all "decor". And lots of love. And lots of "style" - death comes from a bowl of fruit with some "movement" in it---oops, later, there's a viper slithering across a dark marble floor. Now THIS is watchable.

and---CLEOPATRA is subtle. You may be whammed over the head with the silk draperies and huge throne  rooms and milk baths in marble, but there are some cool plot-points that are suggested, and stylish.

Has anyone really watched this movie? Certainly not Liz Taylor's biographers. All they seem to record are all the drunken fights between cast members, soon to be ex-spouses, and various facial injuries that Liz and Dick caused each other on their wild nights up and down the Italian landscape after hours. This movie was a wild scene, with time off waiting for Liz's face to return to normal, and for the 2 stars to appear after making love day and night.

A financial nightmare, but wow, does it, and the 2 stars, look GOOD.

 

 

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I've been reading up on it lately as a matter of fact. The production trivia is outlandish and unusual. I can't say I'm compelled to sit through it, though... I appreciate your fanship though Beetle. More power to you..

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It's not the best movie of 1963.  It's not the best English language movie of 1963 (that would be The Great Escape) I haven't seen Lillies of the Field, but a good case could be made that it's the best of the other four best picture nominees.

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I think a lot of the hate started before the film was even released because there was so much industry gossip about cost over-runs and waste. The Burton/Taylor thing titillated some but alienated a lot of others. The Pope himself weighed in, accusing them of "erotic vagrancy", a term which I love to this day. Twentieth Century-Fox itself very publicly wailed about the ruination the movie was bringing upon the studio and, in a fit of what seems to have been frustrated face-saving pique, fired Marilyn Monroe from Something's Got to Give, another Fox production with cost over-runs and star problems, though on a much smaller scale.

Back in the 1990's the AMC channel showed an original two-hour program, similar the their great "Backstory" series, called Cleopatra: The Movie That Changed Hollywood, which was a great overview of the whole sequence of events, both at the studio and on the set. My biggest take-away was that the studio used creative accounting to hide unrelated costs within the Cleopatra budget and that the budget was also saddled with the entire cost of the disastrous London shoot, for which huge sets had been built and many months of preparation and shooting had been expended. There's footage of the mammoth London set being torn down and scrapped, which dramatically shows the scale of that waste. So, before the production set foot in Rome, they were already way into the red. In addition, the program affirms that the movie made back its costs before the decade was over, something which Fox seems to have obscured with all the hand-wringing, preferring to blame the movie rather than studio brass for the studio's woes.

The bottom line for me is that the movie looks sensational; when you look at it you see money well spent, which is doubly amazing since so much more was shot than ever made it onto theater screens. Mankiewicz' vision was of two sequential films and he shot accordingly. Fox wanted to get it into theaters before the American (and world) public got sick of Taylor and Burton, so they demanded cuts and eventually took the movie away from him. Hume Cronyn and others, who were on the payroll for most of a year, found their roles greatly reduced or almost eliminated in that editing process. To top it all off, Fox seems to have no idea of what happened to the footage which was edited out, so that a real restoration seems unlikely. Don't get me started on Fox and their lack of respect for their own legacy.

Anyway, I really like the movie and have watched it start to finish a number of times. Yes, Taylor can read as shrill at times and Burton puffs up almost comically at certain key points, but overall I think it's a fine film which can stand proudly on its own, despite the black sheep status which its own studio helped to thrust upon it.

 

 

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It did eventually turn a profit. Agreed. This is too rarely mentioned.

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Thank you, Dougie B! Right---the money is up there on the screen.

Kind of fun to imagine what taking away all the booze and pills might have meant to this movie, and cast.

According to the Liz Taylor biography (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD BY Ellis Amburn, 2000), the director was on uppers, and all the cast was on downers. Liz could get seriously sick at the drop of a hat (a condition that happened all during her career, though she was a tough bird, living until 79).

Nobody planned a darned thing in the movie (BEN-HUR was meticulously planned for in Hollywood before anyone got to Rome to film it.)

And, funnily enough, (IMHO) Roddy McDowell (Liz and Dick's dear friend) ended up stealing the movie (and the Empire) in the last scenes.

 

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Liz could have been outshone by any number of other stars at the time, if they really wanted an exotic sex bomb in the part. Her face was already beginning to look too fleshy and pouchy. She could have really 'looked the part' maybe ten years earlier.

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1 hour ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Liz could have been outshone by any number of other stars at the time, if they really wanted an exotic sex bomb in the part. Her face was already beginning to look too fleshy and pouchy. She could have really 'looked the part' maybe ten years earlier.

It was apparently originally greenlit with Joan Collins and a decidedly smaller budget, but since Ben-Hur had became both a massive popular hit and a critical darling for MGM, Fox saw the opportunity for something on that same scale. I agree that Liz was phasing out of her prime at that time, but she was still the biggest headline-grabber in the world. The Debbie-Eddie-Liz debacle, as petty and silly as it may now seem, was solid gold for the press, legit and otherwise. Her notoriety guaranteed eyeballs in a way that nobody else of that day could and it must have seemed like a natural to cast her as a conniving man-trap queen. It was while the London shoot was in progress that Liz came down with pneumonia and almost died. At that point it probably would have made the best sense to file an insurance claim and shut it all down, but then came the amazing international outpouring of sympathy for Liz and that became the new wave that Fox wanted to ride. They doubled down, resettled in Rome, and the rest is history, "too fleshy" Liz and all.

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If I remember correctly, from a really great overview that Tom Rothman did on the old Fox Movie Channel, the film made back its costs primarily through television broadcasts. But before it recouped its budget, the studio had to sell off chunks of the backlot to stay afloat...they had to sacrifice a lot of prime real estate in Century City. 

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Totally agree that Liz & Dick were the biggest news-getters of the era; in fact as far as paparazzi feeding-frenzies might ever somehow be rated I wouldn't doubt that theirs still eclipses any in history. Even to this very day. I've heard as much said somewhere by some journalist during a petty Tom Cruise scandal. Today's scandals are truly picayune. Whoever it was speaking (which I'm now recalling), reminded us of the vast difference in scale between then and now. For 'Cleopatra', governments and state departments and embassies were involved; the League of Decency or whatever it was, League of Women Voters, everybody was agog, the whole world was yapping their fool heads off. Even the Vatican weighed in on that story as it was exploding. Nothing Tom Cruise does will ever come within a country mile of the worldwide gape-fest Liz & Dick generated. Epic. Colossal.

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papyrusbeetle, do you ever have it in mind to discuss 'An American Dream' starring Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman?

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Hi!-I can't find this movie on IMDB.COM, and I've never heard of it....

What is the year?

One (made for tv) movie I have never forgotten though, is HOUSE ON GREEN APPLE ROAD (1970), which starred Janet Leigh and William Windom, and was cutting-edge!

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14 minutes ago, papyrusbeetle said:

Hi!-I can't find this movie on IMDB.COM, and I've never heard of it....

What is the year?

One (made for tv) movie I have never forgotten though, is HOUSE ON GREEN APPLE ROAD (1970), which starred Janet Leigh and William Windom, and was cutting-edge!

It's on IMDb under the title See You in Hell, Darling (1966).

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060099/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_2

MV5BMjM1NDk1OWEtNGFhNC00YzEwLWFhNTgtMzNj

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On 2/19/2019 at 3:36 PM, papyrusbeetle said:

CLEOPATRA has been running this month on MOVIES! channel.

The kind of film that you don't watch, but that watches YOU. You really can't turn it off when it gets to certain points of history. You can't look away. You can't figure out how Liz Taylor can even SEE through that perfect eye makeup. Or, how you can ever breathe again after seeing Richard Burton look so darned CUTE in those.... Well, they had a lot of embossed leather and cool golden accent work available from Italian craftsmen on this picture, and Burton has great legs.

Has anyone really watched this movie?

Conversely, have any movie fans really watched this movie, as opposed to getting a little, ahem-cough, too wrapped up in "Liz"'s pop-culture Hollywood iconography, and wishing they could wear that Isis dress? 😓  (Remember, Michael Jackson was a Liz Taylor fan, too...)

It's LONG.  Taylor does a good performance, but this is probably the both the one symbolic good and bad icon for What Happened to the 50's-60's Roadshow Epic.  It could be an hour shorter, but the more money the studio put in, the more they thought they had to deliver, until the opening hype was practically assaulting the audience with its Importance.  Most Roadshow-Epics play better on disk, where you can take a half or hour at a time like a mini-series, with bathroom and seat breaks, than they did for those poor audiences, in the days before reclining seats and cup-holders.

On 2/27/2019 at 9:41 AM, DougieB said:

I think a lot of the hate started before the film was even released because there was so much industry gossip about cost over-runs and waste. The Burton/Taylor thing titillated some but alienated a lot of others. The Pope himself weighed in, accusing them of "erotic vagrancy", a term which I love to this day. Twentieth Century-Fox itself very publicly wailed about the ruination the movie was bringing upon the studio and, in a fit of what seems to have been frustrated face-saving pique, fired Marilyn Monroe from Something's Got to Give, another Fox production with cost over-runs and star problems, though on a much smaller scale.

Back in the 1990's the AMC channel showed an original two-hour program, similar the their great "Backstory" series, called Cleopatra: The Movie That Changed Hollywood, which was a great overview of the whole sequence of events, both at the studio and on the set. My biggest take-away was that the studio used creative accounting to hide unrelated costs within the Cleopatra budget and that the budget was also saddled with the entire cost of the disastrous London shoot, for which huge sets had been built and many months of preparation and shooting had been expended. There's footage of the mammoth London set being torn down and scrapped, which dramatically shows the scale of that waste. So, before the production set foot in Rome, they were already way into the red. In addition, the program affirms that the movie made back its costs before the decade was over, something which Fox seems to have obscured with all the hand-wringing, preferring to blame the movie rather than studio brass for the studio's woes.

The bottom line for me is that the movie looks sensational; when you look at it you see money well spent, which is doubly amazing since so much more was shot than ever made it onto theater screens. Mankiewicz' vision was of two sequential films and he shot accordingly. Fox wanted to get it into theaters before the American (and world) public got sick of Taylor and Burton, so they demanded cuts and eventually took the movie away from him. Hume Cronyn and others, who were on the payroll for most of a year, found their roles greatly reduced or almost eliminated in that editing process. To top it all off, Fox seems to have no idea of what happened to the footage which was edited out, so that a real restoration seems unlikely. Don't get me started on Fox and their lack of respect for their own legacy.

Ah, the days of AMC and Backstory--Fox was using AMC to promote their big prestige DVD releases (ah, the days when studios got excited about their big classic movies premiering on DVD...), and, similar to their Marilyn/Something restoration-doc, used Backstory documentaries to make their own DVD Bonus Featuretttes.  And darn good ones, too.

The budget problems were first remembered for Liz Taylor, who didn't want to do the project, asking for (Dr. Evil finger-bite) one mil-lion dollars in salary to scare them off, and getting it--Like Heaven's Gate, that started the press hype starting the "Over-indulgence" stories, playing up the Dick & Liz gossip, and the audience thought they got two stars' Mediterranean vacation wastefully throwing money at the screen.  It's too good to be compared to HG, but it does have the same problem of the producers going "all-in" to protect their bet the bigger the production got and the more attention spent on set detail, and telling themselves more and more that the appeal of its Stars and its Importance would come to the rescue at the box office.

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Quote

ah, the days when studios got excited about their big classic movies

--EricJ

Too true. Ah, for the days when anyone could really get excited about anything! We have nonstop media today 24/7/365 and yet everyone is as 'lively', 'responsive', or 'excited' ...as a frog pinned to a chilled wax slab in a 7th grad junior high school biology lab. Wonder why!

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Pappy, that Janet Leigh movie seems really choice for your purview. Its over-the-top, lurid, and feverish. I advocate you seeking it out.

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re: SEE YOU IN HELL, DARLING

Wooow!This never came to my town, I know that!

(Probably because of the title!)

I love adorable Janet Leigh, even when she is wielding a whip.

One wonders if (like Tony Perkins) the rest of her career was a post-PSYCHO "makeup" that perhaps went a little too far.

But she's cute in anything. She's quite proper in THE FOG, which is all I ask of her.

She also had the most ladylike VOICE of all actresses. Scarlett Johanssen tried to replicate that a little in HITCHCOCK.

 

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Leigh has a lot of interesting 'looks' from film to film. I recall her in a brunette ponytail and cashmere sweater in some kind of Korean war air ace movie. (Jet Pilot, Test Pilot, Fighter Pilot, Winged Hell Dogs over Korea, something like that).

But as far as her most distinctive films go--'An American Dream' is really the dizzy limit. Not staid or conventional at all. And she's paired with that great, great star of stage and screen --Stuart Whitman. aka, Mr. Broadway, Mr. Eyebrows.

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2 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Leigh has a lot of interesting 'looks' from film to film. I recall her in a brunette ponytail and cashmere sweater in some kind of Korean war air ace movie. (Jet Pilot, Test Pilot, Fighter Pilot, Winged Hell Dogs over Korea, something like that).

But as far as her most distinctive films go--'An American Dream' is really the dizzy limit. Not staid or conventional at all. And she's paired with that great, great star of stage and screen --Stuart Whitman. aka, Mr. Broadway, Mr. Eyebrows.

I agree that The American Dream is "the dizzy limit", and that can be mostly laid at the feet of author Norman Mailer. The opening scene with Eleanor Parker as the purportedly "castrating" ex-wife basically going mad onscreen and finally going out the window to her death is the starkest kind of slander on the female sex I can recall seeing on film. His own foray into directing, Maidstone, which he self-described as "guerilla filmmaking", showed the same almost gleeful descent into misogynistic nuttiness. I've seen The American Dream once and that's enough, and I'm someone who often returns again and again to movies I like.

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Heh heh. Yeah, Mailer was not one to hold back or exercise restraint.

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But I don't think a guy who literally attacks one of his wives --stabbing at her with a ball-point pen nearly resulting in her demise--even deserves to be called a misogynist. That's giving him too much credit.

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Getting back to Cleopatra, I was interested in how much love the Academy gave it and it turned out to have been substantial: 9 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Score, Best Sound and Best Editing, as well as wins for Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. One of my strongest memories of the movie is of Alex North's evocative and haunting score, which seemed to almost hang in the air like perfume during intimate scenes, but could turn into ceremonial pomp for the entrance into Rome or staccato and martial for the naval battle. It's some of his best work.

I was glad to see that Costume Design had won. They were spectacularly detailed, though that seems to have been part of the problem in terms of cost overruns. In the documentary I mentioned above, the British actor (I'm sorry that I can't remember his name.) originally signed to the role Roddy McDowell eventually played said that one of his very elaborate robes was made by dressmakers who had done the Queen's coronation gown and that they had made four. That London shoot was cancelled and who knows what happened to those robes. Hume Cronyn told the story of a very elaborate cane which had been made for actor Herman Berghof, but the actor had difficulty using it and asked Mankiewicz if he could just work without it and finally did. Berghof later told Cronyn that the cane represented what was wrong with the production.

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CLEOPATRA (1963) - why the hate?

 

Maybe because she was a pain in the asp.

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On ‎2‎/‎19‎/‎2019 at 3:36 PM, papyrusbeetle said:

CLEOPATRA has been running this month on MOVIES! channel.

The kind of film that you don't watch, but that watches YOU. You really can't turn it off when it gets to certain points of history. You can't look away. You can't figure out how Liz Taylor can even SEE through that perfect eye makeup. Or, how you can ever breathe again after seeing Richard Burton look so darned CUTE in those.... Well, they had a lot of embossed leather and cool golden accent work available from Italian craftsmen on this picture, and Burton has great legs.

CLEOPATRA is different than QUO VADIS (horror and fear--please don't throw me into the arena with those darned lions!), BEN-HUR (some sort of religious message), and SPARTACUS (extremely fit guys killing each other.)

CLEOPATRA is all "decor". And lots of love. And lots of "style" - death comes from a bowl of fruit with some "movement" in it---oops, later, there's a viper slithering across a dark marble floor. Now THIS is watchable.

and---CLEOPATRA is subtle. You may be whammed over the head with the silk draperies and huge throne  rooms and milk baths in marble, but there are some cool plot-points that are suggested, and stylish.

Has anyone really watched this movie? Certainly not Liz Taylor's biographers. All they seem to record are all the drunken fights between cast members, soon to be ex-spouses, and various facial injuries that Liz and Dick caused each other on their wild nights up and down the Italian landscape after hours. This movie was a wild scene, with time off waiting for Liz's face to return to normal, and for the 2 stars to appear after making love day and night.

A financial nightmare, but wow, does it, and the 2 stars, look GOOD.

 

 

I never hated it, it';s not great, but I understand why all jumped on the bandwagon ever since before t was released. too numerous to go into right now, but I posted something about it on here yrs ago a rumor for 2 stars at the time it was becoming a reality  MADONNA-(no foolin;) THEY WERE CONSIDERING FIOR FOR A MASSIVE REMAKE  MUSTA' BEEN ABOUT 8yrs BACK & THEN *JOLIE WAS THE NEXT CHOICE, THEN IT JUST DIED DOWN?

 

Man,. man, o, man people on here were up in arms when news broke about Louise-(MADONNA) possibly gonna' star in that remake!!!

 

At the time LIZ TAYLOR'S $1m. SALARY WAS THE LARGEST EVER GIVEN TO AN ACTRESS-(this infuriated Marilyn Monroe at the time, also at Fox) That's where you see those now classic photos of MM at the swimming pool, for her & in her mind, she was trying to steal some of Taylor's thunder.  It did take home 4 Academy Award=(all technical) & despite it's then mammoth budget was the highest grossing picture of the year! Liz failed to snag another nomination, only rex Harrison did & this is the head scratcher It was actually up for Best picture for 1963???  I give it (**1/2-out of 4) but the likes of THE GREAT ESCAPE & HUD were not up for the BIGGIE???  Burton was blitzed throughout most of the prod.  As was his usual state, brilliant actor, but only made it to age 58 in 1984 I believe. C,. Hemmorage   Certainly worth a look the film,. but no VIRGINIA WOOLF? Speaking of which of course she won her 2nd Best actress-(richly deserved) Oscar as Martha ion it, but threw a massive backstage tantrum when Burton lost for it! Hollywood went with Paul Scofield in BP sweeper A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS=(swept 6) instead over him.

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