“There are so many doors to open and I’m not afraid to look behind them.”
(Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011)
People have come to see the wealth, sexuality and power of Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor (DBE) as synonymous with her role as the famed Cleopatra of Egypt.
In the 1963 Hollywood movie Cleopatra, the British-American Hollywood actress and successful businesswoman was paid a record-breaking $1 million. The Hollywood production nearly bankrupted MGM studios were it not for the followup release of The Sound of Music (1965).
The comparisons between Elizabeth and Cleopatra speak to their extramarital affairs, pop-culture status and financial wealth. During the filming of Cleopatra, Elizabeth and Richard Burton began an extramarital affair, much like Cleopatra did first with Caesar, and later Antony.
Cleopatra and Elizabeth ignored the public disapproval that followed and capitalized on the handsome monetary benefits from their relationships. What seems to be forgotten in history is the twenty-two years of peace during Cleopatra’s rule and what it took for a woman to rule in a militarized world.
Cleopatra opened doors that were closed for women in ancient history. Her relationships brought stability to Egypt’s economy and legitimized her reign. In comparison, the Cleopatra movie was a box-office sensation that also catapulted Elizabeth to stardom. Like Cleopatra’s experience, what did it take for women like Elizabeth to be paid as much as men?
We hope to see you all week as we explore Cleopatra’s impact on history: from power broker to celebrity queen, followed by a questioning look at her sexualized historical image.