6.9/10
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The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Not Rated | | Drama, History | 10 February 1933 (USA)
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) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
Arthur Hohl ...
...
Favius Fontelas
Tommy Conlon ...
Stephan
...
Vivian Tobin ...
...
Licinius / Old Man Carrying Child
Joyzelle Joyner ...
Ancaria (as Joyzelle)
...
Viturius
...
Clarence Burton ...
Servillius
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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 | epic | See All (68) »

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

Not Rated | 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) | (original)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by MCA ever since. The 1944 re-release version was chosen for this television package and was not replaced with the original uncut version until the 1990's. It was released on DVD 23 May 2006 as one of five titles in Universal's Cecil B. De Mille Collection, and also as a single 23 May 2006 as part of the Universal Cinema Classics Series; after that time, it has also enjoyed cable TV presentations on Turner Classic Movies. See more »

Goofs

In the Coliseum, we see a woman tied up and is at the mercy of a gorilla. Europeans had no knowledge of gorillas' existence until more than 15 centuries later. 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

 
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!


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