6.9/10
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61 user 21 critic

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:
... Marcus Superbus, Prefect of Rome
... Mercia
... Empress Poppaea
... Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar
... Tigellinus
... Titus
... Favius Fontelas
... Stephan
... Glabrio
... Dacia
... Licinius / Old Man Carrying Child
... Ancaria (as Joyzelle)
... Viturius
... Strabo
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

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:

El signo de la cruz  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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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

Before being purchased for Cecil B. DeMille, the rights to the 1895 play had been retained by Mary Pickford. See more »

Goofs

Roman window panes in the 1st c AD were neither very transparent nor of even thickness, unlike the large panes in doors and windows around doors shown in the film. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Featured in Sex at 24 Frames Per Second (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Wonderful film
16 March 2004 | by See all my reviews

First, this film is high camp. One need only know some of the backstage events to know that all the actors had a great deal of fun in making the film. March tells in his biography that Claudette Colbert spurned his attempts to flirt by chewing several garlic cloves before each close up between the two of them. The famed Chicago World's Fair fan dancer Sally Rand has an uncredited role (according to her family members) as the woman who is about to have her head bitten off by an alligator near the end. There is a close up of Sally's face. With such goings-on, what's not to like here?

I found Fredric March as Marcus Superbus (the Prefect of Rome and man upon whom Empress Poppea has her eyes) convincingly full of himself through the first three quarters of the film. He shows a believable change of heart towards the end. Colbert is charmingly over-the-top as Poppea, as is Charles Laughton, who plays Nero. The ingenue Christian girl, Mercia, is played with restraint by Elissa Landi. While this may make her seem to be overshadowed by Colbert, Marcus states that he is "tired" of overpowering patrician women and, thus, Landi's cool understatement entrances him.

Despite the violence, which is standard fare in tales about early Christians in Rome, there are moments of good acting, not only by the main characters, but by the bit players. Some of the group scenes and interactions among the Christians as they await the arena are well-played, indeed.

There is nothing to dismiss here. At very least, the film is worth a viewing as a landmark epic sporting some of the Hollywood elite of the mid-1930s.


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