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Theda Bara, 1917

Claudette Colbert in the 1934 Cecil B.Demille film.
Photo: http://wwwcinemastyle.blogspot.se/2010_06_20_archive.html

Elizabeth Taylor in th 1963 film

Angelina Jolie in the James Cameron film

Cleopatra VII Philopator (Ancient Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; Late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC, known to history asCleopatra, was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.

She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greekorigin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great‘s death during the Hellenistic period. The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents such as the Rosetta Stone. By contrast, Cleopatra did learn to speak Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian goddess, Isis.

Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes, and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Julius Caesarthat solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name.

After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son,Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions with her brothers produced no children. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC. She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh by his supporters, but he was soon killed on Octavian’s orders. Egypt became the Roman province of Aegyptus.

Bust of Cleopatra VII, Altes Museum, Berlin

To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare‘s tragedy Antony and CleopatraJules Massenet‘s opera Cléopâtre and the film Cleopatra (1963). In most depictions, Cleopatra is portrayed as a great beauty, and her successive conquests of the world’s most powerful men are taken as proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal. In his Pensées, philosopher Blaise Pascal contends, evidently speaking ironically because a large nose has symbolized dominance in different periods of history, that Cleopatra’s classically beautiful profile changed world history: “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”

Movies:

1899- Cléopâtre is a short silent film about resurrecting the mummy of Cleopatra.

Released in 1899, Cléopâtre was one of the earliest horror films ever made. It was written and directed by Georges Méliès.

Long believed lost, a print was reported discovered in France in 2005.

1912-

 Cleopatra is a silent film created in 1912 by Helen Gardner and the Helen Gardner Picture Players. The film, in which Gardner stars in the title role, was based on a play written by Victorien Sardou.

In a series of elaborately staged tableaux, it depicts Cleopatra (Gardner) and her love affairs, first with handsome fisherman-slave Pharon, then with Marc Antony.

The film features lavish sets and costumes, and tinting in various hues. At just over an hour, it was considered fairly lengthy. The restored version has music by Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida.

1917- 
Original release poster

Cleopatra (1917) was directed by J. Gordon Edwards and starred Theda Bara in the title role. Fritz Leiber, Sr. played Julius Caesarand Thurston Hall played Mark Antony.

It was one of the most elaborate Hollywood films ever produced up to that time, with particularly lavish sets and costumes. According to the studio, the film cost $500,000 (approximately $8.3 million in 2009) to make and employed 2,000 people behind the scenes. 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.

However, years later, with the imposition of Hollywood’s Hays Code, the film was judged too obscene to be shown. The last two prints known were destroyed in fires at the Fox studios and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Only a few fragments in the hands of museums survive to this day.[1]

The picture was filmed on the Dominquez slough just outside of Long Beach, California. The throne prop used in the movie years later ended up in the possession of Leon Schlesinger Productions, the production company behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodiescartoons; its disposition after the acquisition of that company by Warner Bros. is unknown.

1934-

Cleopatra is a 1934 epic film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and distributed by Paramount Pictures, which retells the story of Cleopatra VII of Egypt. It was written by Waldemar Young, Vincent Lawrence and Bartlett Cormack, and produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMilleClaudette Colbert stars as Cleopatra, Warren William as Julius Caesar, and Henry Wilcoxon as Marc Antony.Victor Milner won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. It was nominated for Best PictureAssistant Director (Cullen Tate),Film Editing (Anne Bauchens), and Sound, Recording (Franklin Hansen).1963- Cleopatra is a 1963 British-American-Swiss epic drama film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The screenplay was adapted bySidney BuchmanBen HechtRanald MacDougall, and Mankiewicz from a book by Carlo Maria Franzero. The film starred Elizabeth TaylorRichard BurtonRex HarrisonRoddy McDowall, and Martin Landau. The music score was by Alex North. It was photographed in 70 mm Todd-AO by Leon Shamroy and an uncredited Jack Hildyard.Cleopatra chronicles the struggles of Cleopatra VII, the young Queen of Egypt, to resist the imperialist ambitions of Rome.

In all of cinema history, Cleopatra is the most expensive film ever made (adjusted for inflation). Despite being a box office failure, it received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike praised Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s performance. The movie won four Academy Awards. It was the highest grossing film of 1963, earning US $26 million ($57.7 million total), yet made a loss due to its cost of $44 million, the only film ever to be the highest grossing film of the year yet to run at a loss.

Also:

For more on movie Cleopatras see:  http://wwwcinemastyle.blogspot.se/2010_06_20_archive.html

 

Ps:

When i was making this it looked like Jolie would be playing Cleopatra in a movie by James Cameron. Appearantly she is actually playing Olympias here, mother of Alexander The Great in the movie “Alexander”.

Thank you tiny-librarian for the correction!