‘CLEOPATRA; A ROUBEN MAMOULIAN JOINT?

I knew that the beginnings of the 1963 Burton and Taylor ‘Cleopatra’ were a bit more murky than the famously catastrophic shoot itself (the making of the ill-fated behemoth has been well documented over the years in any of a number of books about Burton/Taylor/Mankiewicz/Zanuck/Fox etc.) It’s common knowledge (in certain intensely geeky circles, that is) that Joseph L. Mankiewicz was not the original director. Rouben Mamoulian, fresh off his firing by Sam Goldwyn from “Porgy and Bess” originally had the job. I also knew that because Mamoulian was stranded with a sick Liz Taylor who couldn’t report for work he managed to shoot only a few costume tests before being sacked by 20th Century Fox (for reasons still unclear to me) and replaced by Mankiewicz. But what I didn’t know, until I found the above clip from some unknown doc, was that Mamoulian actually shot quite a bit more than just costume tests. Big shots of big sets with men on horses and stuff, for instance. Not to mention Taylor descending into a hot sauna with a towel not quite covering her lusciously pulchritudinous bottom. Unfortunately the above four minute clip seems to be part of a longer and more thorough doc that I cannot seem to locate–I can’t even tell you the name of it, so obscure is it. If anyone has any info on the doc I’d love to have it. The aborted Mamoulian ‘Cleopatra’ is precisely the kind of abandoned film (even though it was eventually made) that I delight in. The remains of the existence of cancelled movies is cinema archeology that I have a real and abiding soft spot for. Which brings me to my long planned and often discussed D.O.A. Film Festival…

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