Based on Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives, William Shakespeare’s play follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra’s suicide. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony’s fellow triumviri and the future first emperor of Rome. The tragedy is a Roman play characterised by swift, panoramic shifts in geographical locations and in registers, alternating between sensual, imaginative Alexandria and the more pragmatic, austere Rome.
Steely jawed, hard bodied, terse in speech, Charlton Heston was an American man’s man, an epic unto himself. While he played modern men, he was at his best when portraying larger-than-life figures from world history, preferably with his shirt off. He was born John Charles Carter on October 4, 1924 and originally trained in the classics in Northwestern University’s drama program, gaining early experience playing the lead in a 1941 filmed school production of Peer Gynt. He also performed on the radio, and then went on to serve in the Air Force for three years during WWII. Afterwards, he went to work as a model in New York, where he met his wife, fellow model Lydia Clarke, to whom he remained married until his death. Later the two operated a theater in Asheville, North Carolina where Heston honed his acting skills. He made his Broadway debut in Katharine Cornell’s 1947 production of Anthony and Cleopatra and subsequently went on to be a staple of the highly-regarded New York-based Studio… read more
Heston’s directorial debut oversees a production technically able, also grand in the way of the biblical, sword-and-sandal epics of bygones past - DeMille’s Ten Commandments, Spartacus by Kubrick, even a possible throwback to a scene of a younger Heston’s from Ben-Hur. The Bard’s play - one lesser-known - is, rather, treated to a fairly meandering recital here, if a doable one still. But on the whole, a minor Shakespeare film 'tis.