The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, History  |  10 February 1933 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,451 users  
Reviews: 57 user | 14 critic

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


(as Cecil B. De Mille)


(screen play), (screen play), 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ian Keith ...
Arthur Hohl ...
Harry Beresford ...
Favius Fontelas
Tommy Conlon ...
Ferdinand Gottschalk ...
Vivian Tobin ...
William V. Mong ...
Joyzelle Joyner ...
Ancaria (as Joyzelle)
Richard Alexander ...
Clarence Burton ...


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 February 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Im Zeichen des Kreuzes  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(without intermission)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filming was supposed to begin on June 11, 1932. It was pushed back a week so Fredric March would have enough time to finish Smilin' Through (1932). See more »


Nero's pet dogs are two Arabian Salukis, one of the few modern breeds that can trace its lineage to ancient times. However, that particular breed was unknown in Europe until the 12th Century, when returning Crusaders introduced them for the first time. See more »


[the Empress, soaking naked in a tub of ass's milk and calling to her handmaiden]
Poppaea: Dacia, you're a butterfly with the sting of a wasp. Take off your clothes. Get in here and tell me all about it.
See more »


Featured in Pete 'n' Tillie (1972) See more »


Ancaria's Song and Dance (The Naked Moon)
(1932) (uncredited)
Music by Rudolph G. Kopp
Lyrics by Sidney Buchman
Played at the orgy and danced and sung by Joyzelle Joyner
See more »

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User Reviews

Enjoyable Roman epic

The Sign of the Cross is clearly a movie about the Roman way of living more than the virtues of Christianity. There are scenes of graphic violence, debauchery and nudity as well as overtones of lesbianism - intermingled with scenes displaying the morality of Christian followers. It is a movie which perhaps the Christian community of that time would have been proud of. The character of Mercia (Elissa Landi) is portrayed as a Christian martyr whose sole aim in life is to follow her faith.

On the other hand, there are too many scenes in which Cecil B DeMille lets his imagination run riot and too many beautifully portrayed characterizations of evil for this film to be a religious film. It plays like a biblical epic but its content is very different from its silent predecessors. The characterizations of Poppaea (Claudette Colbert) and Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) are perfectly realised as a personification of evil. The scenes of brutality in the arena and scenes during Marcus' (Frederic March) banquet leave us without doubt that this movie is for the voyeur.

The direction by De Mille is inspired, as are Laughton and Colbert's performances. However, Frederic March has the difficult task of standing up to these two egos as well as acting alongside an ineffective leading lady. It is not surprising that his performance suffers because of this.

Overall, the movie is very interesting because of the era it was made in, because of the wonderful direction, and because it has stood the test of time - it can still shock audiences now!

4 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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