Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Year 9, Day 44 - 2/13/17 - Movie #2,544

BEFORE: I forgot to mention that I'd be heading off to Atlantic City for a couple of days, my wife and I like to drive down there every few months, and we get these Groupon deals if we stay Sunday through Thursday, instead of the more popular Friday through Sunday.  She originally wanted to go on the previous weekend, but I requested a raincheck since I didn't want to miss the Super Bowl - though we made the plans a few weeks before, I had a hunch the Patriots would make it.  So I'm glad we pushed the trip forward to pre-Valentine's weekend.

I wasn't sure I'd be able to watch movies there, fortunately my wife brought her laptop and even though it's a PC, it decided to work for me.  My back-up plan was to just skip a day and watch this film after getting back, which would have scheduled it late on Feb. 14 - that would have worked for me, too, because the reasoning here is that Cleopatra is one of history's most famous lovers.  And after studying caveman love, I'm sort of working my forward through history now - next stop, the Roman Empire.

And obviously, Elizabeth Taylor carries over from "The Flintstones" - once again, I feel like I'm the only person who would ever entertain the notion of watching these two very different films back-to-back, just because they share an actor.  But that's where I find myself.

By the time I get back and post this, it will probably be too late to help you, but here's the Valentine's Day line-up for TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" programming:
6:15 AM Kismet (1944)
8:00 AM Kiss Me Kate (1953)
10:00 AM Kisses for My President (1964)
12:00 AM Kitty Foyle (1940)
2:00 PM Knights of the Round Table (1953)
4:00 PM La Ronde (1950)
6:00 PM Lady Be Good (1941)
8:00 PM The Lady Eve (1941)
9:45 PM Libeled Lady (1936)
11:45 PM Lili (1953)
1:15 AM The Little Fugitive (1953)
2:45 AM A Little Romance (1979)
4:45 AM Little Women (1933)

Ah, I see what you did there. Kismet, Kisses, Ladies, Romance - it's very on point.  Someone had fun putting this together.  Unfortunately I've seen none of these films, but I am recording "Knights of the Round Table" to go on a DVD with "Camelot".  If I count that, another 1 out of 13 films leaves me at 59 seen out of 153.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Julius Caesar" (Movie #2,005)

THE PLOT: The triumphs and tragedy of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra.

AFTER: It's too bad we're not staying at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City - I suppose that would be too much to ask, right?  No, Caesar's is on the boardwalk strip, and we're not even headed down that far on this trip.  It's too cold to walk down the boardwalk anyway.  I think we went to the buffet at Caesar's once, it was all right.  This trip we're staying at Harrah's, and after the Sunday night Harrah's buffet (which we nearly missed out on, because the line was so long...) we dined mostly at the Borgata, because their breakfast buffet is spectacular, and then we had dinner reservations at Wolfgang Puck's American Grille - more on that tomorrow.

I should probably read up a bit on the real Cleopatra, and not depend on a Hollywood epic that's also regarded as one of the biggest financial failures in film history to give me a history lesson.  (Hey, already this year I've watched "Reds", "Ishtar" and now this...I spot a theme!)  But let's take a look at Tinseltown's take on this Ptolemaic queen.  She was the last Egyptian pharaoh, the daughter of Ptolemy XII, and the sister of Ptolemy XIV, who she married (according to Wikipedia) and she claimed to be the living incarnation of the goddess Isis.  But then Julius Caesar came along and she married him, and later had a relationship with Marc Antony, who was part of the triumvirate that succeeded Julius.

This film is divided into two parts, neatly covering her two relationships, the one with Julius Caesar and the one with Marc Antony.  IMDB lists the running time as 3 hours and 12 min., but the version I got off of TCM clocked in at just over 4 hours, and the TCM host said that there was also a 6-hour cut, which they considered releasing as two 3-hour films.  Woof.

But let's take the first part first - something odd happened as I was watching, and maybe because it's all this Trump news going around, but I started to notice the similarities during the giant, grand ceremony and parade when Caesar returned to Rome and is made dictator of Rome for life.  You might think of it as Caesar's inauguration day, and perhaps he likewise accused the Roman media of under-reporting the attendance.  And it's also true that Caesar divorced his 2nd wife, Pompeia, and was technically still married to Calipurnia when he presented Cleopatra, a foreigner to Rome as his mistress, basically, and the mother of his son.

(Marriage was apparently a little different in ancient Rome - sometimes these politicians married the sister of an ally or a rival for some kind of political gain, and it's also implied here that many of these marriages were just for show, and that some of the politicians, like Octavian, probably preferred the company of other men.)

And then I couldn't help notice other similarities between Caesar and Trump - trouble getting his agenda approved by the Senate, for example.  And although Rome was a republic, Caesar was able to seize power by swearing to stop political corruption.  I think I even may have heard Caesar refer to Rome as a "swamp" in this film.  But then, of course, he got himself made dictator and could do whatever he wanted.  I bet he went around the Senate and issued a ton of executive orders.  Now, people have been making the easy comparisons between Trump and Hitler, but could it be possible that everyone's been making references to the wrong dictator?  Should we be thinking of him as a Caesar-type instead?

More research is probably required here - but if my analogy holds, it gives me hope, because you may recall that the Roman Senators eventually stood up to Julius Caesar, and in fact it didn't end well for him.  I'd honestly settle for an impeachment, which would be a more metaphoric version of Caesar's fate at the hands of the Senate.

The second half of the film is devoted to Cleo's on-again, off-again relationship with Marc Antony.  He was married at least three times, too, before spending time in Egypt with Cleopatra.  (History says he had three children with Cleopatra, none of which are mentioned in this film...)  But when he returns home to Rome he marries Octavian's sister, and you could say that Cleopatra doesn't take that well - you'd think a queen who married her own brother would understand, but it turns out, not so much.

Octavian, of course, later became known as Augustus Caesar, and considered himself the spiritual heir to Julius, and thus Julius' son with Cleopatra, Caesarion, was not considered in line for the throne, even though he was Caesar's true heir.  This did not go down well with Cleopatra either, and she was forced to flee Rome and return to Egypt.  Eventually Antony did return, and by this time the Roman Empire was so fractured that his troops ended up fighting Octavian's troops at sea during the Battle of Actium.

Though Cleopatra flees the battle, assuming that Marc Antony is dead, she's followed by Antony, who is NOT dead, but shames himself by leaving the battle to pursue Cleopatra.  Damn, what kind of a hold this this Egyptian queen have over Roman leaders?  Eventually Octavian's forces invade Egypt, and that's when good Roman leaders are expected to do the honorable thing and fall on their swords.  And Cleopatra, as you may have heard, famously commits suicide by snake.

The real winner here, though, was Elizabeth Taylor, who got a $1 million salary to play Cleopatra, but after a lawsuit and a counter-suit, ended up earning over $7 million, and that was in 1960's money!  Taylor and Burton ended up getting married, divorced, and re-married, and made 10 more films together after this one.  Perhaps that love story was, in its own way, just as epic as the one between Antony and Cleopatra.

Also starring Rex Harrison (last seen in "Doctor Dolittle"), Richard Burton, Martin Landau (last seen in "Edtv"), George Cole, Hume Cronyn (last seen in "The Parallax View"), Roddy McDowall (last seen in "Macbeth"), Andrew Keir, Cesare Danova, Carroll O'Connor (last seen in "Marlowe"), Gwen Watford, Robert Stephens, Francesca Annis, Richard O'Sullivan, Michael Hordern (last seen in "Barry Lyndon"), John Hoyt (last seen in "Julius Caesar"), Jean Marsh, Gregoire Aslan, Martin Benson, John Cairney, Andrew Faulds, Michael Gwynn, John Doucette, Kenneth Haigh.

RATING: 6 out of 10 dancing slave girls

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