Alexander the Great (1956)

137, 141 or 143 mins | Biography, Drama | April 1956

Writer:

Robert Rossen

Producer:

Robert Rossen

Cinematographer:

Robert Krasker

Editor:

Ralph Kemplen

Production Designer:

Andre Andrejew

Production Companies:

Rossen Films, S.A., C.B. Films
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HISTORY

The film's pressbook and reviews offer various spellings of some of the characters' names. The cast and character list above reflect the screen credits whenever possible. Opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: “Grateful acknowledgement is made of the co-operation shown by the Spanish government, its Army, the Ministry of Informacion y Turismo, and to the officials and people of the various localities in Spain in which this film was made: Madrid, Manzanares, El Molar, Rascafria, Segovia and Malaga.” Robert Rossen's screen credit appears as "Written, Produced and Directed by Robert Rossen." The film is preceded by the following written prologue: "It is the year 356 in a troubled, exhausted, divided, bloody Greece." The film opens with a scene in Athens, in which the Greek statesmen "Aeschenes" and "Demosthenes" are making public speeches about the conqueror "Philip of Macedonia"'s legacy. The setting then shifts to a flashback of Philip's campaigns, leading up to Battle of Chaeronea.
       A voice-over epilogue, which states "Wonders are many but none is more wonderful than man himself," is a quotation from Sophocles' play Antigone (440 B.C.). The film follows the basic facts of the life of Alexander the Great (356--323 B.C.), as well as other details, including his murder of his friend Cleitus, and the emperor's belief that he was a god. According to historical record, Alexander the Great may have died of influenza or pneumonia.
       Mar and Aug 1954 HR news items indicated that Twentieth Century-Fox was planning a film based on the life of Alexander the Great, titled Alexander the Conqueror , with producer Frank Ross. Author Louis de Wohl ... More Less

The film's pressbook and reviews offer various spellings of some of the characters' names. The cast and character list above reflect the screen credits whenever possible. Opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: “Grateful acknowledgement is made of the co-operation shown by the Spanish government, its Army, the Ministry of Informacion y Turismo, and to the officials and people of the various localities in Spain in which this film was made: Madrid, Manzanares, El Molar, Rascafria, Segovia and Malaga.” Robert Rossen's screen credit appears as "Written, Produced and Directed by Robert Rossen." The film is preceded by the following written prologue: "It is the year 356 in a troubled, exhausted, divided, bloody Greece." The film opens with a scene in Athens, in which the Greek statesmen "Aeschenes" and "Demosthenes" are making public speeches about the conqueror "Philip of Macedonia"'s legacy. The setting then shifts to a flashback of Philip's campaigns, leading up to Battle of Chaeronea.
       A voice-over epilogue, which states "Wonders are many but none is more wonderful than man himself," is a quotation from Sophocles' play Antigone (440 B.C.). The film follows the basic facts of the life of Alexander the Great (356--323 B.C.), as well as other details, including his murder of his friend Cleitus, and the emperor's belief that he was a god. According to historical record, Alexander the Great may have died of influenza or pneumonia.
       Mar and Aug 1954 HR news items indicated that Twentieth Century-Fox was planning a film based on the life of Alexander the Great, titled Alexander the Conqueror , with producer Frank Ross. Author Louis de Wohl was then signed to write the screenplay, and locations were being scouted in India. However, that film was never made and is unlikely to have been connected to Rossen's production. Various contemporary news items reported that Alexander the Great was in development for approximately three years while Rossen completed his copious research. The budget, originally estimated at $2,000,000, grew to a negative cost of $4,000,000 by the conclusion of production. According to a 20 Dec 1955 news item in DV , Spain’s C.B. Films, which, according to copyright records was based in Switzerland, formed a production partnership with Rossen in exchange for Spanish distribution rights. The film was shot entirely on location in Spain. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Spanish extras were used during filming. Life magazine noted that battle scenes included “Madrid mounted police, whose chief played the part of a high priest traveling with Alexander in the film,” and that Spain’s army also contributed three hundred cavalrymen.
       A 24 Apr 1955 article in NYT indicated that Rossen began scouting locations as early as Aug 1954. Various news items and an article in This Week magazine, dated 4 Sep 1955, noted that Rossen had originally planned to shoot on location in Greece, Persia or Yugoslavia, but these countries lacked suitable film production facilities. In addition to the locations noted in the onscreen acknowledgment, the pressbook in copyright records adds the following locations: La Cabrera, as the plains of Axios; La Pedriza, as the setting for the battle of Cheronea; El Vallon, as the public meeting place in Athens and the Palace of Persepolis and Barajas as the setting for the battle of Granicus. As noted in a NYT article dated 24 Apr 1955, Alexander the Great marked Rossen’s first film in CinemaScope. According to earlier news items in Var , the VistaVision process was also under consideration by Rossen, who tested both in England in Nov 1954. Rossen also edited the film in London in 1955 and early 1956, according to a 30 Dec 1955 HR news item.
       The Los Angeles premiere on 28 Mar 1956 was a charity event to benefit the Southern California Olympic Fund. According to a 17 Oct 1956 HR news item, Rossen was nominated for directorial achievement by the Screen Directors Guild for his work in Alexander the Great . In a later interview, Rossen noted that the original running time was approximately three hours, but that studio officials convinced him to edit the picture further to shorten it. A modern source also adds that John Cassavetes was briefly considered for the lead.
       In 2003, filmmakers Oliver Stone and Baz Luhrmann were in production on competing motion pictures about Alexander the Great. Stone's production was released in 2004 and featured Colin Farrell as Alexander, as well as Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie. Luhrmann's production, initially planned for a 2005 release, was still in development as of Jun 2005. The production tentatively will star Leonardo DiCaprio as the emperor, and Nicole Kidman as Olympias. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Beverly Hills Citizen
29 Mar 1956.
---
Box Office
7 Apr 1956.
---
Cue
18 Feb 1956.
---
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1954.
---
Daily Variety
20 Dec 1955.
---
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1956
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Mar 1956
p. 9.
Hollywood Citizen-News
1 Mar 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 1955
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1956
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 1956
p. 2.
Life
Oct 1955.
---
Life
14 Nov 1955.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
28 Mar 1956.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
29 Mar 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Mar 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Apr 1956
p. 851.
New York Times
1 Aug 1954.
---
New York Times
24 Apr 1955.
---
New York Times
11 Dec 1955.
---
New York Times
29 Mar 1956
p. 23.
New Yorker
7 Apr 1956.
---
This Week
4 Sep 1955.
---
Time
16 Apr 1956.
---
Variety
24 Nov 1954.
---
Variety
21 Dec 1955.
---
Variety
4 Apr 1956
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dressing
COSTUMES
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Asst to the prod [and casting supv]
Storyboard artist
Athletic trainer
Athletic trainer
Athletic trainer
Athletic trainer
Athletic trainer
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1956
Premiere Information:
London, England premiere: 22 March 1956
Los Angeles and New York premieres: 28 March 1956
Production Date:
17 February--9 July 1955 at Sevilla Studios, Madrid
Copyright Claimant:
Rossen Films, S.A.
Copyright Date:
22 March 1956
Copyright Number:
LP6410
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
137, 141 or 143
Countries:
Spain, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17782
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

King Philip of Macedonia embarks on relentless brutal military campaigns to conquer all of Greece. While he is away at war, his wife Olympias gives birth to their first son, Alexander, and sends word that the baby is a god. Philip returns to see his son, and is suspicious of the child’s paternity when Olympias’ devoted Egyptian soothsayer, Nectenabus, who is rumored to be the baby's father, reiterates his claim. The king confides in his aides that he is considering having Nectenabus killed, and Parmenio urges him to also kill the scheming Olympias and the baby to avoid appearing like a jealous lover. However, Philip instead proudly displays the new prince to his populace. By the time the highly educated and sheltered Alexander is a young man, he longs for the glory of battle. Philip, meanwhile, more powerful than ever, chafes under the label of barbarian, due to public perception that he is a brutal conqueror but a weak ruler. In time, Philip appoints Alexander to be the regent of Macedonia, against the advice of Alexander’s teacher, the philosopher Aristotle, who believes Alexander is immature. At the palace at Pella, where Olympias resides, Philip warns Alexander that his mother is plotting to destroy Philip and rule Macedonia through Alexander. To that end, she has installed her brother’s army on the Macedonian border. Before he leaves for battle, Philip instructs Alexander to exile Olympias. When Alexander refuses, Philip assigns Antipater to be his son’s political advisor. Alexander, who believes the prediction that he is a god and is destined to die young, eagerly exercises his power by waging war against ... +


King Philip of Macedonia embarks on relentless brutal military campaigns to conquer all of Greece. While he is away at war, his wife Olympias gives birth to their first son, Alexander, and sends word that the baby is a god. Philip returns to see his son, and is suspicious of the child’s paternity when Olympias’ devoted Egyptian soothsayer, Nectenabus, who is rumored to be the baby's father, reiterates his claim. The king confides in his aides that he is considering having Nectenabus killed, and Parmenio urges him to also kill the scheming Olympias and the baby to avoid appearing like a jealous lover. However, Philip instead proudly displays the new prince to his populace. By the time the highly educated and sheltered Alexander is a young man, he longs for the glory of battle. Philip, meanwhile, more powerful than ever, chafes under the label of barbarian, due to public perception that he is a brutal conqueror but a weak ruler. In time, Philip appoints Alexander to be the regent of Macedonia, against the advice of Alexander’s teacher, the philosopher Aristotle, who believes Alexander is immature. At the palace at Pella, where Olympias resides, Philip warns Alexander that his mother is plotting to destroy Philip and rule Macedonia through Alexander. To that end, she has installed her brother’s army on the Macedonian border. Before he leaves for battle, Philip instructs Alexander to exile Olympias. When Alexander refuses, Philip assigns Antipater to be his son’s political advisor. Alexander, who believes the prediction that he is a god and is destined to die young, eagerly exercises his power by waging war against local tribes. In 356 B.C., Greek statesmen Aeschenes and Demosthenes publicly debate Philip's legacy of warfare, and Alexander visits his father’s encampment to join the attack on Athens, but is offended by Philip’s romance with Eurydice, the niece of General Attalus. Philip chastises his son for naming conquered cities after himself, erecting statues devoted to his own image and denuding their tribes of prospective warriors. Philip nevertheless gives Alexander command of a regiment that will attack the Athenian army. Despite Alexander’s reservations about his father, he saves Philip’s life during their victorious battle at Chaeronea, and is hailed as a hero. Fearing assassination and hoping to save Athens from destruction, Philip sends Alexander to arrange a peace treaty. In Athens, Alexander meets Demosthenes, Aeschenes and General Memnon, and becomes attracted to Memnon’s wife Barsine. Demosthenes reluctantly signs the treaty that makes Athens part of Philip’s empire, despite his belief that Athenians have lost their freedom. When Alexander returns to Pella he learns that Philip has divorced and humiliated Olympias. The resentful Alexander dutifully attends Philip’s wedding to Eurydice, but later argues with his father. At the wedding celebration, Attalus loudly suggests that Alexander is illegitimate. Alexander assaults him, then belittles Philip when the king drunkenly stumbles in his attempt to stop the fight. Alexander then awakens his mother and insists they leave Pella immediately. When Eurydice later gives birth to a son, Philip issues pardons and welcomes back exiles, including Olympias and Alexander, who is made an army commander. However, Philip banishes Alexander’s closet friends, Harpalus, Ptolemy, Philotas and Pausanias, as he believes they incite Alexander’s disloyalty. That night, Alexander overhears his mother insinuate to the drunk and embittered Pausanias that he would be famous if he killed Philip. The next day at a religious ceremony, Pausanias assassinates Philip, and is himself killed by Alexander in retribution. Alexander then presents himself to his father’s army, which has the right to elect the next king, and publicly disavows involvement in his father’s murder, and pledges to continue the mission to conquer Persia. Alexander inherits the throne and claims the loyalty of all Greek statesmen except for Memnon, who rejects Alexander’s claim on Athens. Two other rebellious statesmen are stoned to death on Alexander’s orders. Eurydice commits suicide, and Polemias, one of Philip's aides, informs Alexander that Olympias has murdered Eurydice’s child. By the spring of 334 B.C., Alexander has led his vast army through Asia, and begins to work his way to Persia. Memnon, meanwhile, is an advisor to the Persian emperor Darius, who insists on confronting Alexander’s army at Granicus. One morning, Barsine, who is Persian and Greek, pleads with Memnon to avoid battle, and he believes she is in love with Alexander. The Macedonian army wins the first battle at Granicus and, after Alexander refuses to grant Memnon and his troops quarter, they are killed in an ensuing conflict. After solving the riddle of the legendary Gordion Knot by simply slicing the rope in two, Alexander cuts a bloody swath across the land and imprisons any Greek or Athenian who opposes him, except Barsine, who has become his lover. When Alexander receives scrolls proving that Demosthenes has betrayed him to Darius, Alexander is advised to return to Athens and force the Athenians’ loyalty, without which no one believes they can win in Persia. Alexander is haunted by memories of his father and collapses. The next day, he disbands the fleet and grants his army the freedom to return home or remain and fight. Darius later sends a message belittling Alexander, and demanding that he withdraw. Instead, Alexander focuses his attention on killing Darius in battle, as the Persians will not fight without their commander. Alexander’s plan partially succeeds when Darius is wounded, but escapes. Alexander adopts Darius’ family, whom he finds at Darius’ camp, while Darius and a small band of men continue to flee until his men mutiny and murder him. Later, Alexander finds a letter on Darius’ body in which the emperor calls him son, and bids him to wed his daughter Roxane in order to meld their countries. Alexander is moved by the king’s vision and has Darius’ slayer impaled. Despite his victory, Alexander longs for even greater power. In time, he leads his army into India and demands that even his friends address him as a god. When his friend Philotas is heard complaining that Alexander’s ambition leads to bloodshed, Alexander has Philotas and his father slain. Bitterness spreads among Alexander’s most loyal friends. When Cleitus, his most devoted ally, angrily confronts Alexander and accuses him of self-aggrandizement and disloyalty, Alexander stabs him in the back with a spear, then sobs over the body. Exhausted and disillusioned, Alexander marches his remaining troops back to Macedonia. At Susa, a renewed Alexander pledges to conquer the hearts of mankind, rather than their territories, and marries Roxane in a mass wedding between Persians and Greeks. After the ceremony, Alexander makes a toast to his fallen family and friends, and prays for peace. At that moment, Alexander collapses. With his last breath, Alexander urges Barsine to allow his body to disappear into the Euphrates River, so that people will believe that he was a god. Alexander then wills his empire to the strongest among his men, and dies. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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