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Alexander the Great Movie Review

burton robert philip father

1956 – Robert Rossen – 3

An epic only in that it covers the life of one of the greatest men in history, Alexander the Great grinds away at a glacial pace. The legendary Greek conqueror of the fourth century B.C. apparently had time to kill. Alexander (Richard Burton) is a product of a bizarre upbringing—or to draw a modern-day parallel—a dsyfunctional royal family. His father is Philip, King of Macedonia, portrayed with stoic dignity by Fredric March. Haunted by the fear that his son may prove greater than he, Philip is often gone when Alexander is a child, and the boy is reared by his mother (Claire Bloom), who believes that he is a god.

The original live fast, die young historic icon, Alexander's maturation is marked by vicious fighting in both his family and in Macedonia, a tangle of schemes that leads to a potentially tangled plot. He is taught logic and science by none other than Aristotle (Barry Jones) and receives the best physical training in the known world. His father returns and makes him a regent, but Alexander, spurred by his mother, begins to make bold moves that further threaten his father. Philip, who hates Alexander's mother, sends her away and marries another woman after which Alexander is exiled, and a new heir to the Macedonian throne is born. However, Alexander acquires the skills of a leader and military strategist and returns. He is renewed in his father's favor, but a friend of his murders Philip. After Alexander slays the friend and becomes the new King of Macedonia, he attempts to unite the Greek city states so that he may resume his father's war with Persia. Alexander's greatest trial now becomes his clash with Persia. In a cunning and daring attack, he defeats the Persian King Darius (Harry Andrews) and assumes the Persian throne. In the end, Alexander dies at 33, and his wish is for all of Persia and Greece to live in peace. For all that, the movie is lacking in epic scale, with music and cinematography as unexceptional as the acting. (Some of Robert Krasker's best cinematographic work may be found in El Cid).

Alexander is one of Burton's earliest roles, and his ringing voice and confident swagger can't help coming across, as perhaps they are meant to, as somewhat pretentious. The young Burton shouts his way through the film, leaving the impression that playing the greatest, most powerful man in the world, one who is convinced that he is a god, is not that much of a stretch, just a bit of typecasting. Burton's colorfulness is offset by the underplaying of March and Bloom.

Cast: Richard Burton (Alexander), Fredric March (Philip of Macedonia), Claire Bloom (Barsine), Barry Jones (Aristotle), Harry Andrews (Darius), Stanley Baker (Attalus), Niall MacGinnis (Parmenio), Peter Cushing (Memnon), Michael Hordern (Demosthenes), Danielle Darrieux (Olympias), Marisa de Leza (Euridice), Gustavo Rojo (Cleitus), Ruben Rojo (Philotas), Peter Wyngarde (Pausanias), Helmut Dantine (Nectenabus), William Squire (Aeschenes), Frederick Ledebur (Antipater), Virgilio Teixerira (Ptolemy), Teresa del Rio (Roxane) Screenwriter: Robert Rossen Cinematographer: Robert Krasker Composer: Mario Nascimbene Producer: Robert Rossen for United Artists Running Time: 135 minutes Format: VHS, LV.

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