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The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Passed  -  Drama | History  -  10 February 1933 (USA)
7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,281 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 12 critic

A Roman soldier becomes torn between his love for a Christian woman and his loyalty to Emperor Nero.

Director:

(as Cecil B. De Mille)

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play), 3 more credits »
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Title: The Sign of the Cross (1932)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Marcus
...
...
...
Ian Keith ...
Arthur Hohl ...
Titus
Harry Beresford ...
Favius
Tommy Conlon ...
Stephan
Ferdinand Gottschalk ...
Vivian Tobin ...
William V. Mong ...
Licinius
Joyzelle Joyner ...
Ancaria (as Joyzelle)
Richard Alexander ...
Viturius
...
Strabo
Clarence Burton ...
Servillius
Edit

Storyline

After burning Rome, Emperor Nero decides to blame the Christians, and issues the edict that they are all to be caught and sent to the arena. Two old Christians are caught, and about to be hauled off, when Marcus, the highest military official in Rome, comes upon them. When he sees their stepdaughter Mercia, he instantly falls in love with her and frees them. Marcus pursues Mercia, which gets him into trouble with Emperor (for being easy on Christians) and with the Empress, who loves him and is jealous. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nero | soldier | empress | arena | cat | See more »

Taglines:

A picture which will proudly lead all the entertainments the world has ever seen

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

10 February 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Im Zeichen des Kreuzes  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(without intermission)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Colbert the asses' milk bath was actually powdered "klim," and the hot lights turned it to the consistency of cream cheese within an hour. See more »

Goofs

We see a woman tied up in the Coliseum as crocodiles are set loose on her. They are clearly alligators (broad snout), which were unknown to Europeans until Columbus's time, 15 centuries later. Only two countries have alligators: The United States and China.The Romans never went to either place. See more »

Quotes

Emperor Nero: My head is splitting... the wine last night, the music... the delicious debauchery!
See more »


Soundtracks

Christian Hymn No.1
(1932) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Rudolph G. Kopp
Sung a cappella by Christians at the meeting
Reprised by them after their capture and at the arena
Sung a cappella by Elissa Landi and Tommy Conlon
Played and sung offscreen at the end
See more »

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User Reviews

Lethargic early Roman epic of the talkies

Roman epics did not really come into their own until the advent of widescreen. We did have the silent BEN-HUR and QUO VADIS. (The silent KING OF KINGS does not concentrate on Rome although it is of course a backdrop).

The first talkie to deal with Imperial Rome was THE SIGN OF THE CROSS- from a play freely adapted from (and with no credit to) the novel QUO VADIS. The similarities in plot are too great to overlook this point.

Unfortunately, the limitations of the microphone and the care directors took to make sure every word was carefully pronounced and understood by audiences often resulted in static and wordy scenes. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS suffers from this problem. Even the simulated gore and horrors of the final half hour arena sequence are presented in a leisurely fashion.

The only "oomph" this production gets is in the supporting performances of Laughton's Nero (only two scenes in Act One and two in Act Two) and Colbert's Poppaea (four scenes in Act One and two in Act Two). The two share three of their scenes together. If only we'd had more of them, the production might have been spicier.

The VHS remastering of the complete original with restored scenes is visually stunning. The soundtrack however suffers from an electronic wobble from the projector being used which is quite noticeable in Act One for about a half hour of the film's running time. There is an Intermission which occurs 75 minutes into the film with Intermission Music played over a black screen before the second act begins.

If you are a fan of films dealing with Christianity and/or Rome, this is a must-have. It wouldn't be until nearly twenty years later (MGM's QUO VADIS

  • 1951) that Hollywood came back to this dual theme. The latter's


boxoffice returns inspired the CinemaScope production, THE ROBE, and from then on Roman and Biblical epics were a genre.

If you are not a fan of either genre, your enjoyment may only come from Colbert and Laughton's brief scenes and the concluding arena segment.


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