Alexander the Great (1956) - Richard Burton Stars

Everything you need for a sword-and-sandal epic of the mid-20th century -
  • Big budget.
  • Location shooting with lots of dirt and fighting.
  • At least one star from the UK 
  • Warriors or slaves in short tunics.
  • Historical accounts fictionalized.
  • A stirring musical score.

Alexander the Great (1956) has it all.

Macedonian king, Alexander (Richard Burton), must unite and lead the Greeks against the Persian Empire. Meanwhile, he has problems at home with his mother Olympias (Danielle Darrieux), who...

You know what? It doesn't matter.

In movies like this, it doesn't matter who does what to whom or how historically accurate it is. It is a fantasy, basically, with famous names. They are not going for accuracy, but for pulse-racing, adrenaline-pumping action. The down times are there for exposition, for people to read lines with Shakespearean gravity and to tell you what's at stake before another fight or battle begins.

Burton has a mix of sophistication and earthiness that always works for roles of high-born, ancient characters. When playing modern men, he seems confined, ready to burst out of his suit. He's free in a tunic.
The intensity, the volatile nature of Burton makes him a dangerous man. You quake in your sandals when he snarls at someone. He's not bluffing.

Watch this film for the tension, the fights, the spectacle. Read a book for the history.



  1. Super blond Burton! I think that preposterous dye job alone would be worth the price of admission, how cute is he?! Thanks for the rec, this is one of the few films of his I haven't seen.

    1. Ha! The blonde isn't working for him, that's for sure.

      At least they didn't go full-on Harpo Marx white-blonde (which was done to Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity). With Burton, his hair is similar to his skin tone here. Not too shabby, but bring back the brunette, I say.

      Still, he is fierce.


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