The title Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood is a misnomer. No question the movie had an enormous impact on 20th Century Fox, and the livelihood of many Fox employees. (Chicago American movie critic Ann Marsters told me that while she didnít like the movie, she gave it a rave in an attempt to save her friendsí jobs.) No denying that Lizís contract and benefits became the envy and demand of other stars who followed. But an out-of-control budget was not to become a thing of the past; The Towering Inferno, Heavenís Gate, Waterworld, Titanic and Gladiator, to name just a few, were colossally expensive. There will be more follies and many movie executive heads will continue to roll. Few as ironic as Darryl Zanuckís: taking credit for saving Fox, with just a little help from something called The Sound of Music, by 1968, after Doctor Doolittle and Star! and other disappointments, Fox losses exceeded those of the Cleo years and in 1971 he was dethroned as head of the studio. Another irony, Cleopatra probably had less impact on Hollywood in the long run than its titular star had on America socially and culturally. Lizís second flaunt of adultery was not only a daring provocation, it was a public act of defiance against norms many found not only fascinating to watch but liberating. She became, via her own release from shackles she never accepted, the ultimate symbol of personal liberation as well as its accompanying emblem of excess. She didnít set out to do that; she became accidentally the right star at the right time to smash the taboos by a convergence of circumstances, most of which she had no control over. (Thatís not to say she didnít enjoy the hysteria.) America would never again look at divorce in the same way; and adulterous affairs, made public fodder, would shake only the houses of hypocrites, as clearly evident when Republicans made fools of themselves about a presidentís private life. If the documentary is understandably short on Lizís collision course with American hypocrisy, itís safely informative about Fox, the movie business in general, about producer Walter Wanger (who shot his wifeís lover smack between the legs), about all the travails of making Cleopatra. Whatís been left out is the maze of confusion about the movieís real cost, its real profits, how many contracts did Liz have, the Fox law suits stating claims of fact that, by appearance, contradict the studioís own public information. (See left for more on the money.) Fans of the epic, having waited nearly four decades, finally get to see footage from the aborted made-in-England version. Clips showing Peter Finch as Caesar reveal the hazards of waitingóheís drunk on set. There are letterboxed shots of the first Alexandria built in the gloomy weather of the English countryside, and a few night shots too. Wardrobe tests of Liz are real howlers, especially her arrival-in-Rome getup: Flab City. All scenes available from this first effort to film in London confirm Finch and Liz had legit cause to worry about its puniness; in Rome, the movie got as big as Lizís tits. Previously unseen footage, or rarely seen, from the actual movie might not make you long for whatís missing. For example, absent from the entrance into Rome is the giant mechanical serpent and Burton sottishly clowning with a broad on an elephant. According to narrator Robert Culp, Fox has every intention of finding the lost footage and restore the spectacle the way Mankiewicz envisioned. Donít count on it: the 2012 Blu-ray release updates that all unused footage was destroyed. (In all, 96 hours of film were shot. To get an idea of whatís probably gone forever, go here.) Martin Landau clarifies his Rufio wasnít killed, which is what audiences thought for years, but committed suicide. Zanuck, who cut off funds and fired Mankiewicz only to re-hire him to sort out the task of editing, was likewise a sucker: when viewing the pint-sized opening sequence of Pompeyís defeat at Pharsalia, he demanded a re-shoot. The commentaries by the directorís sons Chris and Tom Mankiewicz on the DVD releases add a measure of insight, but both make sloppy mistakes: Roddy McDowall was neither nominated for nor received an Oscar as best supporting actor, due to Foxís error in improperly categorizing him for nomination consideration, for which the studio ran full page ads in the trades apologizing for the oversight. Included is the long-forgotten TV ad for Revlonís Cleo makeup, with Suzy Parker the spokeswoman.
ROLL OVER IMAGES FROM ABORTED VERSION
ROLL OVER OUTAKES FROM ACTUAL MOVIE