Walter Wanger emerged from his four-month jail stint with an eye fixed towards reinvention. Desirous to capitalize on his macho new persona and highlight points surrounding incarceration, the producer remounted his once-catatonic movie profession in a decade of comeback tasks that culminated in what Love Is a Crime cohost Karina Longworth calls “probably the most spectacular, costliest, most talked-about movie of the early Sixties: the Elizabeth Taylor–starring Cleopatra.” She and cohost Vanessa Hope—Wanger’s granddaughter—discover that manufacturing on this week’s episode of Love Is a Crime.
Wanger would produce 4 main movies in his post-prison years: Riot in Cell Block 11, Invasion of the Physique Snatchers, I Wish to Dwell!, and Cleopatra, the ultimate film he made earlier than his loss of life in 1968. He continued to climate private setbacks behind the scenes, together with a largely loveless remaining stretch in his marriage to Joan Bennett and a coronary heart assault, after which Wanger was warned in opposition to working once more.
Evading physician’s orders, Wanger would return to his femme fatale roots for the story of an Egyptian named Cleopatra. However regardless of securing Elizabeth Taylor for the titular function and getting the greenlight at twentieth Century Fox, Cleopatra proved “calamitous from the beginning,” says Longworth. The epic was rushed into manufacturing, then took 5 pricey years to finish. Taylor contracted pneumonia, requiring a prolonged restoration interval. Director Rouben Mammoulian was replaced by Wanger’s accomplice Joseph Mankiewicz. And authentic Mark Antony Stephen Boyd was recast with a Tony-winning Welsh actor named Richard Burton.
By now, Cleopatra is sort of synonymous with the scandal involving Taylor and Burton, who had been each married to different folks once they costarred and fell in love. As defined by Longworth, “Elizabeth Taylor’s affair with Richard Burton on the set of a film about world-beating, bad-idea love would spark a global public dialog about infidelity that exposed how a lot had modified in only a decade since Walter’s personal marriage and Joan’s affair had made front-page information.”
As famous in Love Is a Crime, when it got here time for Fox to handle Cleopatra’s ballooning finances, the studio solid Wanger as their fall man. He was launched from his contract, stripped of his expense account, and never invited to the movie’s premiere. Wanger would flip his betrayal right into a boundary-breaking tell-all referred to as My Life With Cleopatra, written with journalist Joe Hyams. It provided Wanger a buzzy platform for his Hollywood swan music and audiences much more incentive to see Cleopatra.
The movie would go on to be 1963’s highest grossing film, though Cleopatra’s take was nonetheless lower than its remaining finances. Wanger relocated to New York, the place he would fall in love with gossip columnist Aileen Mehle, a lady 24 years his junior. This era was considered one of revaluation for Wanger, as he mirrored on his historical past of exploiting youthful ladies for the sake of an business he had left behind.
Hearken to the episode above, and you’ll want to hear subsequent Tuesday, October 12, for Joan’s post-scandal chapter in Hollywood. Subscribe at listen.vanityfair.com/loveisacrime or wherever you get your podcasts.
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https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/10/love-is-a-crime-podcast-the-rise-and-fall-of-walter-wanger-cleopatra | ‘Love Is a Crime’ Podcast: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger’s ‘Cleopatra’