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Mankiewicz Fired from “Cleopatra,” Taylor and Burton Outraged

Oct. 23, 1962 - Writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz (center) has been dismissed by Darryl F. Zanuck, the new president of Twentieth Century-Fox. He will not be allowed any hand in the editing and cutting of “Cleopatra,” a film that he wrote and directed. Mr. Mankiewicz said today that he intended “by every means available to regain the right to finish my work and hopefully to prevent ‘Cleopatra’ from becoming ‘The Longest Night.’” The remark was a barb at Mr. Zanuck’s recently released film “The Longest Day.” Elizabeth Taylor, the star of the film, was reached by telephone and minced no words about the dismissal. She said: “What has happened to Mr. Mankiewicz is disgraceful, degrading, and humiliating. I am terribly upset. He’s done a marvelous job. Mr. Mankiewicz has put two years of his life into ‘Cleopatra.’ He took it over when it was nothing — when it was rubbish — and he made something out of it. He certainly should have been given the chance to cut it. It is appalling.” Richard Burton, who played Mark Antony to Miss Taylor’s Cleopatra, also supported Mr. Mankiewicz. The actor said: “It is just a matter of good manners. What was done was vulgar. I think Mr. Mankiewicz might have made the first really good epic film. Now, ‘Cleopatra’ may be in trouble.”

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