DATELINE: Streaming & Steamy History
Richard Dempsey as Octavian!
A real surprise is a British documentary a few years ago, now on Amazon Prime for free, called The Real Antony and Cleopatra.
Imagine a British doc that never mentions the Shakespearean plays, nor quotes from them. Instead, we have a series of experts and scholars sitting on a stuffed Roman chaise lounge, somewhat uncomfortably. No, they do not recline as they drop morsels and bombs about the famous duo.
Did we say duo? It’s almost like the casting crisis of the 1963 Joe Mankiewicz movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Rex Harrison felt slighted and left out, and he sued the studio to add his image to the suitors around the bed of Cleopatra.
The Egyptian queen was fond of murdering her younger brothers, and she was really Greek, descendant of Ptolemy. As an attractive 20-year old, she seduced the 50-year old Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony.
Cleopatra was all you might expect. She was a showgirl who knew how to stage publicity stunts better than Jussie Smollett. And, she was “attractive,” meaning she made the most of her plain looks. She was fluent with tongues (speaking six) and apparently used the tongue talent too in the boudoir.
Romans were aghast at Cleopatra’s morals, which may tell you something, considering the loose attitudes of the Romans.
As if to prove her sexuality, she had one child by Caesar and two more by Antony. He had a mixed manhood, being thought of as nearly exclusively homosexual, unless political marriage was involved. This film also lets you know he was well-endowed both on and off the battlements.
The real surprise here is the delightful re-enactors. Marina Morgan flashes eyeshadow as well as Miss Taylor, but the real delight here is young Octavian. He reportedly slept with Julius too in order to be adopted as a nephew. As a 19-year old rival to Antony, Richard Dempsey is the golden-haired boy.
Octavian outmaneuvers Cleopatra militarily, but her symbolic death by snake bite left Augustus Octavian the one with the punctured ego.
This is an off-beat historical documentary that will tantalize all the fake news you learned from Hollywood Cleopatras.