Coins from the era* appear too depict Cleopatra as throughly european with her hair tied and knotted in a Hellenistic style known as a melon. Also her nose and eyes seem too lose any eastern appearance and become almost European, making her seem of a western descent is an easy way too make her less of a frightening prospect as queen to the Romans who I imagine would have been very intolerant of a woman gaining any kind of power.
Most of the stereotypes we know about Cleopatra come from roman sources, its almost as if the writers even two hundred or so years after actual events felt betrayed by Mark Antony, Cassius-dio writes about the pair with such venom that its almost impossible to think that ...view middle of the document...
Wherein they reflect there own small periods of history.
For example Theda-Bara's 1917 representation of the queen is much like her previous roles that of a fem-me fatal, this fitted well with morality at the time, powerful women are again something threatening and dangerous this combined with allure of an alien country like Egypt with its strange heliography and powerful pantheon of strange gods and goddesses were the perfect match, she made Cleopatra ominous and powerful but at the same time still accessible to a western audience. looking for thrills and the exotic.
In conclusion I am inclined to belive that the image presented of Cleopatra by the romans is used quite exclusively in the early film and TV incarnations of Cleopatra partly because the reputation of Cleopatra from the roman perspective was largely matching what the directors and producers of the early Cleopatra films needed her to be - a huge dramatic personality. Alot of what we know about these periods of ancient history is viewed from accounts of writers from the era usually along with there own personal bias and its often there opinions and thoughts that we use to give us an idea of what was actually happening at the time albeit imaginetavely, I think its only until much more recently that we have begun to see a perhaps more accurate representaion of Cleopatra in TV and film abliet one viewed thorugh a rose tinted camrea lense.
* Source : OU AA100 book one figs 1.4 1.5 chapter one.
** Source : Scott_Kilvert 1987 pp. 52, 53, 54, and 55