Release of the Film “Cleopatra”
The release of the film “Cleopatra” in 1963 was a major event in cinema history, known for its lavish production, record-breaking budget, and the infamous love affair between its two stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
“Cleopatra” was a historical epic directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on the life of the famous Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII. The film starred Elizabeth Taylor in the title role, with Richard Burton as Mark Antony and Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar. Production began in 1960, with the film initially set to be directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
The production of “Cleopatra” was plagued with difficulties from the start, including multiple script rewrites, director changes, and illness. Elizabeth Taylor suffered from severe pneumonia during the shooting, which led to a tracheotomy and halted production for months. These delays, coupled with the extravagant sets, costumes, and visual effects, caused the film’s budget to skyrocket. At the time, “Cleopatra” became the most expensive movie ever made, with a final cost of over $44 million (equivalent to over $350 million today).
While the film was in production, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began a highly publicized extramarital affair. The scandal generated intense media coverage and added to the film’s notoriety.
“Cleopatra” premiered in New York City on June 12, 1963. Despite mixed critical reviews, the film was a box-office success, grossing over $57 million in its initial release. However, due to its astronomical production costs, it took several years for the film to break even.
In terms of pop culture relevance, “Cleopatra” is remembered not only for its lavish production and extravagant budget but also for the off-screen romance between Taylor and Burton, which captivated the public’s attention. Their love affair and subsequent marriages and divorces became one of the most famous Hollywood romances of all time. The film also influenced fashion trends, with women emulating Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra-inspired eye makeup and hairstyles. Today, “Cleopatra” is considered a classic of Hollywood’s golden age and a landmark in the history of epic filmmaking.