Many aspects of the 1963 portrayal of Cleopatra have changed with later representations. In the 1963 film, an imperious Cleopatra is somewhat idealistic, speaking of ‘a single world culture’, echoing the rhetoric of contemporary leaders, suggesting the United State’s insecurity and the leading issue of attaining world peace. However, in the 1999 film, Cleopatra is portrayed as a feisty, proactive leader who actively engages in combat, castrating a Roman soldier, a metaphorical and literal thrust at her Nemesis. In the 1964 “Carry on Cleo” Amanda Barry’s Cleopatra parodies Taylor’s, with both actresses appearing visually similar. However, carrying on from Taylor’s incongruous wink to Caesar in the final scene of the 1963 film, Amanda Barry plays Cleopatra as not only overtly sexual, but also flirty and über-feminine - unlike Taylor’s, who is formidable, intelligent and in command at all times – thus inducing the deliberate (and obligatory) ‘Carry On’ treatment. In essence, Hollywood used a hefty budget to fuel the West’s preconceptions of the Orient, aiming to bring the past alive, whilst the Carry On film deliberately embraced the flaws in so doing.
Cleopatra’s physical image also evolved during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, from a “siren of the Nile” in the 1963 film with lavish costumes and make-up designed to enhance her seductive assets, through to an earthy, fecund and ultimately devious Cleopatra in a homespun tunic, sporting cropped hair and a knowing smile in the 2005 series, “Rome”. Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes echo the affluent and then acceptable jet-setting ethos of the early 1960’s, whilst the low-key au naturale image of the 2005 Cleopatra reflects a more austere time when it was imperative to focus on far more serious issues. Closer attention has also been paid to race and ethnicity, with a move away from the stereotypical white Anglo-American Cleopatra in the most recent on-screen interpretations.
Yet throughout each of these late 20th...