Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

3.0 2
Director: Robert Rossen

Cast: Richard Burton, Fredric March, Claire Bloom


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The short life and quick death of Alexander the Great is recounted in this literate historical epic. Decked out in a blonde wig, Richard Burton stars as the Grecian warrior who conquered the known world while only in his twenties, then wept because there were no more worlds left to conquer. While the film's 141 minutes are occasionally bogged down by near-existential…  See more details below


The short life and quick death of Alexander the Great is recounted in this literate historical epic. Decked out in a blonde wig, Richard Burton stars as the Grecian warrior who conquered the known world while only in his twenties, then wept because there were no more worlds left to conquer. While the film's 141 minutes are occasionally bogged down by near-existential dialogue sequences (What doth it profit a man etc. etc.), the battle sequences are among the best and most accurate ever filmed. Fredric March and Danielle Darieux costar as Alexander's parents Philip of Macedonia and Olympius, Claire Bloom does what she can with the nothing role of Alexander's wife Barsine, and Michael Hordern and Harry Andrews are cast as Demosthenes and Darrius, respectively. Lensed in Spain and Italy, Alexander the Great conquered no new worlds at the box-office, perhaps because Richard Burton, brilliant though he was, hadn't yet attained "saleability."

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
While it is arguably better than Oliver Stone's more recent remake, the 1956 Alexander the Great is a rather mediocre epic. Part of the problem is simply the passage of time; the fight scenes which might have looked rather realistic in the 1950s now seem to be rather paltry in numbers and lacking in imagination. That lack of imagination is present throughout; it's as if director Robert Rossen all of a sudden found himself behind the camera with neither a real vision nor a real passion for the project. In the right circumstances, Rossen could be a director of insight; that's far from the case here. It's not that his work is actually bad, but an historical epic about a larger-than-life character demands someone at the helm whose direction is equally larger-than-life, if not moreso. Rossen is hampered by a script that thinks it is delving deeper into its characters than it actually is, resulting in some leaden speeches that end up quite platitudinous. Alexander undergoes a tremendous character change, but the psychological depth that would underscore that transformation is missing. Under the circumstances, Richard Burton is left to do little more than declaim in a vague and empty fashion; he does not provide the grandeur that the character demands and that the writers have largely omitted. Much better is Fredric March as his father, practically stealing much of the movie from Burton. Claire Bloom does quite nicely with a nothing part, and the supporting cast is solid throughout. Alexander gets a lot of the facts right, which earns it points; it's just a shame the facts were not presented in a more cinematically engaging fashion.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Burton Alexander the Great
Fredric March Philip of Macedonia
Claire Bloom Barsine
Danielle Darrieux Olympias
Harry Andrews Darius
Stanley Baker Attalus
Niall MacGinnis Parmenio
Peter Cushing Memnon
Michael Hordern Demosthenes
Barry Jones Aristotle
Marisa de Leza Eurydice
Gustavo Rojo Cleitus
Ruben Rojo Philotas
William Squire Aeschenes
Helmut Dantine Nectanebus
Peter Wyngarde Pausanius
Julio Pena Arsites
José Nieto Spithridates
Carlos Martínez Baena Nearchus
Larry Taylor Perdiccas
Jose Marco Harpalus
Ramsay Ames Drunken woman
Mario De Barros Messenger
Ellen Rossen Amytis
Virgilio Teixeira Ptolemy
Riccardo Valle Hephaestion
Frederick Ledebur Antipater

Technical Credits
Robert Rossen Director,Producer,Screenwriter
André Andrejew Art Director,Set Decoration/Design
David Ffolkes Costumes/Costume Designer
Ralph Kemplen Editor
Robert Krasker Cinematographer
Mario Nascimbene Score Composer
Cliff John Richardson Special Effects

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Alexander the Great 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Rossen film on the life of Alexander The Great is rather unimpressive. The subject itself calls for only the most devoted and skilled masters of film which Rossen was not for purposes of this genre. Because Alexander The Great accomplished so much within only 13 years of his 33 years of life, it is virtually impossible to make a good movie on that part alone in less than 3 hours. Richard Burton delivers a strong performance as Alexander but also seems too constrained; Butrton fails to deliver the youthful vigor of which Alexander had so much of. Not only was Alexander a king and conqueror, he was a military genius; a philosopher; a bold explorer; and, in his own mind anyway, a god among mortal men. Burton's performance often seems too grave and reserved and fails to reflect Alexander's dynamic personality. I did like the movie for its focus on Alexander's childhood but that also came short. The parts dealing with Alexander's childhood were too constrained and didn't really reflect the values or world views of that period. There should have been a lot more emphasis on how Phillip, despite being a military and political genius, was a debauched individual who was still considered very barbaric by his Greek neighbors. Olympias was an incessant schemer and manipulator but the movie doesn't really explore this. The movie doesn't really cover the campaign or its battles very well either. Looking at the movie, one barely gets any view as to how Alexander refined his father's tactics of the Macedonian phalanx to its peak; a tactic unmatched until it came against the more fluid ones of the Roman legions almost 200 years later. The same is true as to Alexander's great siege of Tyre in which he built a mile-long jetti into the sea to connect with the City's gates; his hard fought geurilla campaign against Darius' renegade satraps; or his victories against Porus' elephants in India. There are also gross inaccuracies, such as presenting Roxanne as Darius III's daughter: Roxeanne was the daughter of the satrap in Bactria, not Darius' daughter. Now that Oliver Stone is completing a new film on Alexander the Great, perhaps audiences will be presented with a movie that covers more detail and that is presented in a less rigid fashion. In the meantime, we can only look at where others have failed. Roughly paraphrasing Phillip's proverbial statement to Alexander, I would tell viewers, 'Audience, ask for yourselves a greater movie, for that which Rossen leaves you is too small for thee.'
Chevraman More than 1 year ago
Good acting, weak story.