Piling on the Times Critic for ‘Cleopatra’


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June 27, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 36

‘Cleo’ & Crowther, cont.

Dear Sir:

Andrew Sarris is to be commended for the courage and insight he displayed (VV, June 20) in smashing the idol of King Crowther, the sphinx of the nil. Almost all of us who attended the invitational press preview of “Cleopatra” were stunned when we read Crowther’s review two days later.

It was as if he’d seen some other movie while we were suffering through the bore at the Rivoli. Many of my colleagues — who had been more than willing to give the picture the benefit of the doubt when the titles came on, but who found themselves yawning by intermission and sitting on their hands at the end of the 245-minute ordeal — were so amazed that Crowther could have had such high praise for a film crippled by so many obvious flaws and inadequacies that they seriously discussed some unmentionable possibilities. And this wasn’t mere backbiting. To some of them, there seemed no other way to explain Crowther’s ridiculous opinion.

I think, however, that your Mr. Sarris has more correctly stated the case against Crowther. His inept review was occasioned not by a greased palm but by a larded mind. The Cleo piece was, as your man so rightly observes, just another — albeit the most glaring — in a long series of reviews where Crowther has championed middle-brow movie-making and avoided condemning expensive spectaculars while underpraising the experimental, the passionate, the obscure, and the truly tasteful.– Albert N. Podell, Picture Editor, Argosy Magazine

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