Cleopatra Movies

Cleopatra is the name of several movies about the last Egyptian queen of the same name. Movies of this title were released in 1912, 1917, 1920, 1934, 1963, and 1999.

1917 Film

Theda Bara as Cleopatra

Another Image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra

The 1917 Fox film was directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starred Theda Bara in the title role. Fritz Leiber played Julius Caesar and Thurston Hall played Marc Antony.

It was one of the most elaborate Hollywood films ever produced up to that time, with particularly lavish sets and costumes. The story of this silent film was very loosely based on the plot of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Theda Bara appeared in a variety of fantastic costumes, some quite risqué. The film was a great success at the time. Years later with the imposition of Hollywood's Hays Code the film was judged too obscene to be shown, and no surviving prints are known to exist.

1934 Film

The 1934 film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and won for cinematography (Victor Milner). It was written by Bartlett Cormack, Vincent Lawrence, and Valdemar Young and was directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It starred Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra, Warren William as Julius Caesar, Henry Wilcoxon as Marc Antony, Joseph Schildkraut as King Herod, and Ian Keith as Octavian.

Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

with Vivian Leigh as Cleopatra


1963 Film

The 1963 film was also nominated for Best Picture and won for cinematography, art direction, costumes, sets, and special effects. It was written by Sidney Buchman, Ben Hecht, Ranald MacDougall, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz from a book by Carlo Mario Franzero and was directed by Mankiewicz. It starred Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Richard Burton as Marc Antony, and Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar (nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor). Cleopatra premiered at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City on June 12, 1963.


The 1963 film is infamous for bankrupting 20th Century Fox. It was made at a cost of $40 million -- an impossibly extravagant figure for that time; in todays dollars it can be priced at $270 million. It was not a box-office flop, but it did not perform nearly as well as Fox hoped, and took several years to break even and the financial loss from the film forced the studio to file for bankruptcy. Supposedly, the film is still listed as a negative cost for Fox today, which means that, technically, the movie still has not made back its initial investment. The suit of golden armor worn in the movie by Elizabeth Taylor was made from real gold, at a cost of about $1 million. It was so heavy that she could only wear it for short periods of time.


Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (1963)

1999 Film

Billy Zane (American of Greek descent) as Antony

The 1999 Cleopatra: starred Leonor Varela (Cleopatra), Timothy Dalton (Caesar), and Billy Zane (Antony). Based on the book Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George and more faithful to history than the earlier versions, it was shown first on television and then released on videotape.

Olivia's Line

On May 12, 2003, tied in with the 40th anniversary of the 1963 film, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 45-minute romantic comedy, written by David Varela (no relation to Leonor) called Olivia's Line. The play is set during the location shoot in Rome. Incidental music is taken from the 1963 film's score. For more information about the play, and information on how you can listen to it online visit: http://www.davidvarela.com/ftvr_olivia.html

Links

Cleopatra on the Web : Movies (http://www.isidore-of-seville.com/cleopatra/13.html) (Tim Spalding)

The Cleopatra Costume on Stage and in Film (http://www.davidclaudon.com/Cleo/Cleopatra1.html) (David Clauson)

Ancient Greece in the Cinema (http://www.rhul.ac.uk/Classics/NJL/films.html) (Nick Lowe)

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