IMDb > The Sign of the Cross (1932)
The Sign of the Cross
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The Sign of the Cross (1932) More at IMDbPro »

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Overview

User Rating:
7.0/10   1,273 votes »
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Up 1% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Director:
Writers:
Waldemar Young (screen play) and
Sidney Buchman (screen play) ...
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for The Sign of the Cross on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
10 February 1933 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Tagline:
A picture which will proudly lead all the entertainments the world has ever seen
Plot:
A Roman soldier becomes torn between his love for a Christian woman and his loyalty to Emperor Nero. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Awards:
Nominated for Oscar. See more »
User Reviews:
One of the very first and one of the very best Roman epics on screen filled with DeMille's splendor! See more (54 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Fredric March ... Marcus

Elissa Landi ... Mercia

Claudette Colbert ... Poppaea

Charles Laughton ... Nero
Ian Keith ... Tigellinus
Arthur Hohl ... Titus
Harry Beresford ... Favius
Tommy Conlon ... Stephan
Ferdinand Gottschalk ... Glabrio
Vivian Tobin ... Dacia
William V. Mong ... Licinius
Joyzelle Joyner ... Ancaria (as Joyzelle)
Richard Alexander ... Viturius

Nat Pendleton ... Strabo
Clarence Burton ... Servillius
Harold Healy ... Tybul
Robert Seiter ... Philodemus (as Robert Manning)

Charles Middleton ... Tyros
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Joel Allen ... Bombadier (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)

Mischa Auer ... Christian in Dungeon (uncredited)
Lionel Belmore ... Bettor of 300 Silver (uncredited)
True Boardman ... Nero's Slave (uncredited)
Marjorie Bonner ... Roman Woman (uncredited)
Joe Bonomo ... Mute Torturer (uncredited)

Henry Brandon ... Colosseum Spectator (uncredited)
George Bruggeman ... Nero's Slave (uncredited)
Horace B. Carpenter ... (uncredited)

John Carradine ... Christian Martyr / Gladiator Leader / Voice in Coliseum Mob (uncredited)
Lane Chandler ... Chained Christian (uncredited)

Ruth Clifford ... Christian Mother at Meeting (uncredited)
William Forrest ... Col. Hugh Mason (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Wynne Gibson ... Orgy Guest (uncredited)
Dorothy Granger ... (uncredited)
Carol Holloway ... (uncredited)
John James ... Lt. Herb Hanson (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Otto Lederer ... (uncredited)
Lillian Leighton ... Woman Getting Gold for Cup (uncredited)
Edward LeSaint ... Enthusiastic Spectator (uncredited)
Wilfred Lucas ... (uncredited)
James Millican ... Capt. Kevin Driscoll - (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Gertrude Norman ... Christian (uncredited)
Wedgwood Nowell ... Man Accepting 300 Silver Bet (uncredited)
Dave O'Brien ... Christian on Stairway (uncredited)
William H. O'Brien ... Man Who Heard Lions All Morning (uncredited)
Hal Price ... Spectator (uncredited)
Sally Rand ... Crocodiles' Victim (uncredited)
Tom Ricketts ... Sleeping Spectator (uncredited)
Stanley Ridges ... Chaplain Lloyd (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Angelo Rossitto ... Impaled Pygmy (uncredited)
Ynez Seabury ... Little Girl (uncredited)
Arthur Shields ... Chaplain Costello (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Jerome Storm ... (uncredited)
Kent Taylor ... Romantic Spectator (uncredited)
Oliver Thorndike ... Lt. Robert Hammond (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Tom Tully ... Hoboken (1944 Re-Release Prologue) (uncredited)
Florence Turner ... Christian (uncredited)
Ethel Wales ... Complaining Wife (uncredited)
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Directed by
Cecil B. DeMille  (as Cecil B. De Mille)
 
Writing credits
Waldemar Young (screen play) and
Sidney Buchman (screen play)

Wilson Barrett (from the play by)

Dudley Nichols  1944 prologue (uncredited)
Henryk Sienkiewicz  novel "Quo Vadis" (uncredited source)

Produced by
Cecil B. DeMille .... producer (uncredited)
 
Original Music by
Jay Chernis (uncredited)
Rudolph G. Kopp (uncredited)
Paul Marquardt (uncredited)
Milan Roder (uncredited)
 
Cinematography by
Karl Struss (photographed by)
 
Film Editing by
Anne Bauchens (uncredited)
 
Art Direction by
Mitchell Leisen (uncredited)
 
Costume Design by
Mitchell Leisen (costumes by)
 
Production Management
Roy Burns .... production manager (uncredited)
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Mitchell Leisen .... assistant director (uncredited)
Edward Salven .... assistant director (uncredited)
 
Art Department
Mitchell Leisen .... art director: 1944 prologue (uncredited)
 
Sound Department
Treg Brown .... sound effects editor (uncredited)
Harry Lindgren .... sound engineer (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
George T. Clemens .... camera operator (uncredited)
Otto Dyar .... still photographer (uncredited)
Cliff Shirpser .... assistant camera (uncredited)
William E. Thomas .... still photographer (uncredited)
 
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Charles Gemora .... gorilla costume creator (uncredited)
Eugene Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Nat W. Finston .... music supervisor (uncredited)
George Parrish .... orchestrator: prologue (1944 re-release ) (uncredited)
Victor Young .... composer: prologue (1944 re-release ) (uncredited)
 
Other crew
Chester Seay .... archery instructor (uncredited)
 
Crew verified as complete


Production Companies
  • Paramount Pictures (presents) (as Paramount Publix Corporation) (Cecil B. De Mille's Production)
Distributors
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Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
West Germany:108 min | 122 min (without intermission)
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Certification:
Argentina:16 | Norway:16 (1947) | USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:Approved (PCA #1581-R, 23 September 1935 for re-release) | West Germany:16 (f)
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
Fredric March was approached by Charles Laughton (a known homosexual) during the filming of "Sign of the Cross", and as March recalled to Lawrence Quirk, Laughton always made him very nervous and uncomfortable, especially when he used to try to look up his toga.See more »
Goofs:
Anachronisms: 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 »
Movie Connections:
Soundtrack:
Ancaria's Song and Dance (The Naked Moon)See more »

FAQ

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19 out of 25 people found the following review useful.
One of the very first and one of the very best Roman epics on screen filled with DeMille's splendor!, 19 April 2005
Author: Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland

A comment on the original 1932 version.

Pagan Rome, the third night of the great fire. Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) unjustly condemns Christians of burning the eternal city and sentences many of them to martyrdom. He does not realize that through this deed he unconsciously opens for them a wonderful glory in a better world. The struggle between the sign of the Roman eagle of decadent Nero's times and the sign of the cross begins, this is, symbolically, the endless struggle between those with "delicious debauchery" as the sole aim of life (the lifestyle Nero's times promoted) and those heading for everlasting virtues like love, piety, forgiveness, and purity of heart. Cecil B DeMille's THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, being the first sound biblical epic after his silent KING OF KINGS (1927) is, though more than 70 years old, a great spectacle, still one of the most entertaining Roman epics, except for QUO VADIS (1951), SPARTACUS (1960), and BEN HUR (1959).

GREAT CAST: The outstanding cast in the movie are its strongest point. Claudette Colbert's portrayal of wicked, lustful Poppaea is gorgeous. The same can be said about Charles Laughton who portrays Nero as a really decadent emperor, entirely flooded in debauchery and all sorts of sinful lusts. There have been more portrayals of this cruel pair (Poppeae and Nero), but theirs from DeMille's film is real feast for the soul. Therefore, they are even more memorable than Elissa Landi and Fredric March playing the main roles of Mercia and Marcus. Indeed, March as Marcus Superbus does a good job, especially in the way he shows a change of heart from a mocker to a believer. Elissa Landi presents Mercia's innocence and virtues memorably. But they are not that terrific as Colbert and Laughton. As far as performances are concerned, it is also important to mention Joyzelle as "the most wicked and talented woman in Rome", Ancaria. The scene of her seduction is truly well played. The dance of the Naked Moon that Ancaria seduces on Mercia is disturbed by Christians singing in a dungeon. MORAL MESSAGE: That scene clearly expresses the fact I have mentioned at the beginning: the universal struggle between two groups of people with two different aims in life. I think that DeMille also wanted to show this moral in another scene: the meeting of two old Christian men, Favius and Titus sent by Paul to Rome. One of them draws the sign of the cross on the ground, which is later trodden on by many people walking in the square.

SIMILARITY TO ANOTHER EPIC: A significant fact is that the content of the movie is strikingly similar to another Roman epic, made almost 20 years later, QUO VADIS (1951) by Mervyn LeRoy. While QUO VADIS is based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz, this film is based on a play by an English playwright, Wilson Barrett. Both films, however, present the 1st century Rome, in particular, spreading Christianity in the cruel times of Nero; both films show the conversion of a Roman soldier Marcus who loves a Christian girl; both films remind us of the secret Christian meetings; both films focus on Poppaea being lustful for Marcus and demanding revenge on Christians because of jealousy (consider the moment Marcus Superbus comes to Nero to ask him to spare the life of Mercia. Nero says: If she would publicly renounce her faith... when Poppaea disturbs radically: "Not even then!") Moreover, both films show Poppaea's beautiful leopards. Finally, THE SIGN OF THE CROSS and QUO VADIS show the arena sequence, however DeMille presents much more of its gore than LeRoy in 1951.

ARENA: Alligators feeding with a young Christian woman, elephants treading on people's heads, a gorilla raping a girl tied to a wooden pillar, people crucified and burned, men fighting with bulls, bears, women fighting with dwarfs; yet lions and tigers eating Christians, and many other cruel games to the joy and lust of the viewers. Indeed, it is a film not to be watched by kids even at the beginning of the 21 century, but historically accurate and visually very well made.

ONE OF CINEMA'S MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS: Except for the cruel arena sequence, which is still entertaining in some way, any viewer will be surprised at one scene: Poppaea's famous milk bath. That's a moment that everyone should consider while watching the film. Her sexual bath is one of the best made moments that cinema has ever seen. It is totally filled with desire and sexuality. And all thanks to the great performance by Ms Colbert. No surprise Cecil B DeMille cast her to play Cleopatra two years later, in 1934.

It's difficult to express all I feel about this movie in one review. I simply tried my best to encourage everyone to see this movie because it was an unforgettable experience for me, one of the very best Roman epics of all time. If you have already seen QUO VADIS, you will find this movie very similar but, indeed, more DeMillean. The end is very much influenced by the 1930s cinema but very touching and universally true - the absolute victory always comes in the Sign of the Cross... 9/10

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