I happened upon this Roddy McDowall speech from the godforsaken, all-but-unwatchable Cleopatra earlier today. I’m posting this now because McDowall’s performance as Ceasar Augustus Octavian was probably the best in this otherwise leaden film (along with Rex Harrison‘s, I suppose), and because McDowall, excellent as he was, might have nabbed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar if a clerical error on the part of 20th Century-Fox hadn’t screwed him.

No decent captures of McDowall in Cleopatra/Octavian gear are findable online.

Fox incorrectly listed McDowall’s Octavian as a leading rather than supporting role. When the studio asked the Academy to fix the error (late in the game, apparently), Academy officials said no dice because the ballots had already gone to the printer, or something like that.

The IMDB says that Fox “then published an open letter in the trade papers, apologizing to McDowall: “We feel that it is important that the industry realize that your electric performance as Octavian in ‘Cleopatra,’ which was unanimously singled out by the critics as one of the best supporting performances by an actor this year, is not eligible for an Academy Award nomination in that category…due to a regrettable error on the part of 20th Century-Fox.”.