Sunday, 12 June 2022

you dare ask the proconsul of rome to kneel—i asked it of julius caesar. i demand it of you

Among the most successful sword-and-sandal epics filmed in Cinecittร  and lavished with well-deserved critical acclaim—though not a commercial success and nearly bankrupting the studio, the Joseph L. Mankiewicz adaptation of the 1957 historical novel The Life and Times of Cleopatra by Carlo Maria Franzero (with additional material from Plutarch and Shakespeare) featuring the acting talents of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Roddy McDowall opened in US theatres on this day in 1963. After decisively suppressing rebellion in Greece and earning the title of dictator for life, Julius Caesar travels to Egypt as the executor of the late pharaoh’s estate, where Cleopatra successfully petitions Caesar to restore her to the throne and banish her younger brother the usurper. Both with imperial ambitions, they marry and have a child, Caesarion, publicly proclaimed as Caesar’s heir—disquieting for the Senate as the idea of returning Rome to a heredity monarchy is an anathema for democracy. Stemming from this fear, a conspiracy of senators assassinate Caesar, precipitating a revolt, put down by an alliance formed by Octavian (Caesar’s adopted son and to Cleopatra’s betrayal named in the will as opposed to their child), General Mark Antony and Marcus Ameilius Lepidus. Mark Antony, short on funds after the civil war, turns again to Egypt and forges his own personal allegiance with Cleopatra.