THE REAL CLEOPATRA. 23 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

When I first wrote about Cleopatra I was considering making her blonde.

Many historians had suggested she was fair. Her Macedonian heritage made it entirely possible.

But you can’t! my editor told me, when I first suggested it. Everyone knows she was a brunette with a bob!

Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony

She was referring of course to the woman people still consider the ‘real’ Cleopatra – Elizabeth Taylor.

It’s fifty years since that iconic movie was released and the film itself contained as much drama and tragedy as there was in its namesake’s lifetime.

Here are some things you should know:

1. The movie was the highest grossing film of 1963, it was sold out
 for four months and earned US $26 million - yet it almost 
bankrupted Fox Studios - because it cost $44 million to make (the 
equivalent of about a third of a billion today.). The original 
budget was 2 million. Dang!

2. It was originally intended as a vehicle for Joan Collins. Audrey Hepburn, Susan Hayward and Dorothy Dandridge were also mooted. The first choice for Caesar was Peter o’Toole with Marlon Brando as Antony.

3. When Taylor’s husband Eddie Fisher answered the phone and called 
out to her that Fox wanted her to play Cleopatra, she said, as a 
joke: "Sure, tell them I'll do it for a million dollars." Fox took 
her seriously and paid up.

4. Elizabeth Taylor was the first woman to be paid one million dollars for a movie. After extra payments for delays in the shooting schedule, she pocketed seven million, the equivalent of almost fifty million today.

5. Taylor fell ill during shooting in London and almost died. 
Surgeons performed an emergency tracheotomy to save her life. The 
scar can be seen in some shots.

6. Filming began in London but it was too cold and wet. All the exotic plants died so the shooting was relocated to Rome. The set was finally used for the British comedy, Carry on Cleo.

7. When they sacked the first director, Rouben Mamoulian, the 
studio wanted Hitchcock to replace him. He made The Birds instead.

8. Burton showed up on the first day of shooting so badly hungover that Taylor had to help him drink a cup of coffee. At first he couldn’t stand her – he referred to her as ‘Miss Tits.’

9. The production required so much lumber that building 
materials became scarce throughout Italy.

10. A group of female extras who played Cleopatra’s slave girls went on strike to demand that the Italian male extras stop pinching their butts. The studio eventually hired a guard to protect them.

Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony

11. Fox had chilli from Chasens in Los Angeles air freighted to 
Italy for Taylor, just to keep her happy.

12. Taylor and Burton began an adulterous love affair on the set, and it soon made headlines around the world. Even the Vatican weighed in.

13. In Mark Antony's bath scene, you can see a bright yellow 
plastic sponge floating on the water. (At least it wasn’t a rubber 
duck.)

14. Filming of Cleopatra’s triumphant entry into Rome, requiring thousands of extras, had to be re-shot because one of the extras could be seen selling ice cream.

15. While building the set of Alexandria in Anzio, several 
construction workers were killed by an unexploded mine left over 
from World War II.

16. Egypt initially refused to let Elizabeth Taylor into the country because she was Jewish. They relented when they realized how many dollars they could make out of it for themselves.

Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony

17. The scene showing Cleopatra's navy required huge numbers of 
ships. It was said at the time that Twentieth Century-Fox had the 
third largest navy in the world.

18. Taylor and her female extras went through eight thousand pairs of shoes in the course of the year while shooting the movie. (Beat Kim Kardashian by one!)

19. There is no final battle sequence because Fox ran out of money.

20. Director Joseph Mankiewicz was fired after shooting but rehired for the editing because no one else could work out how to cobble the six hour mess of a movie together.

21. Taylor won a Guinness World Record for most costume changes in 
a film, which she held until Madonna pipped her thirty three years 
later in 'Evita'.

22. The finished script was as thick as the Beverly Hills phone book.

23. The original cut of the movie was 6 hours long. Mankievicz 
wanted the film released as two separate pictures, "Caesar and 
Cleopatra" and "Antony and Cleopatra,’ each of 3 hours, but the 
studios wanted to cash in on the moral outrage over Burton and 
Taylor’s affair. The film shown at the premiere was just over four 
hours. The other two hours are now missing.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, WHY NOT SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG? I POST THREE TIMES A WEEK.

AND EVERY MONTH, IF YOU SUBSCRIBE TO MY EMAIL LIST, YOU’LL GET THE CHANCE TO WIN ONE OF MY BOOKS, LIKE ‘CLEOPATRA’ …

JUST FILL IN YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS HERE!

Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Egypt

“This is the riveting story of Egypt’s last and greatest queen … creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman who thrived and triumphed in a world ruled by men.”

- Publishers Weekly

AMAZON buy3._V192207739_Nook_BuyiBookstore_buybuy6._V192253028_

Holy Week, Easter, Spain

COLIN FALCONER

Category: Product #: Regular price:$ (Sale ends ) Available from: Condition: Good ! Order now!
Reviewed by on. Rating:

About colin_falconer_author@hotmail.com

Colin Falconer is the bestselling author of thirty novels, translated into over twenty languages worldwide.
This entry was posted in HISTORY and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to THE REAL CLEOPATRA. 23 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

  1. Reblogged this on Official Site of Alex Laybourne – Author and commented:
    Interesting Facts about Cleo (and Liz)

  2. Julia Robb says:

    Frank Langella wrote a memoir a few years ago in which he recounted (among other things) his romance with Elizabeth Taylor. This is where we relearn actors and actresses are often out of touch with reality and lead dysfunctional lives.

  3. Anita Harvey says:

    Very Interesting blog about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I’m a student of Ancient History and Scriptures. I can appreciate the knowledge about Mrs. Taylor, she was indeed a great actress. Cleopatra, however, was recent history and she was infamous during the last days of ancient Rome but she was not the ‘last greatest Queen’ of Egypt. Because of her mixed ethnic Macedonian heritage the Egyptian government has never recognized her dynasty the ‘Ptolemies’. They considered them to be ‘foreigners’. We in the west recognize the ‘Ptolemies’ but it’s not our country. It’s known as ‘cultural relativism’ in Anthropology(the study of humans) to insert your values and beliefs into another culture. Learn to accept a country or cultures ‘aboriginal’ facts about their ‘Land’. How would you feel if Russian tried to re-write American History?

Leave a Reply