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:

Cecil B. DeMille (as Cecil B. De Mille)

Writers:

Waldemar Young (screen play), Sidney Buchman (screen play) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

Photos

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More Like This 

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Director: Stuart Walker
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Fredric March ... Marcus Superbus, Prefect of Rome
Elissa Landi ... Mercia
Claudette Colbert ... Empress Poppaea
Charles Laughton ... Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar
Ian Keith ... Tigellinus
Arthur Hohl ... Titus
Harry Beresford ... Favius Fontelas
Tommy Conlon ... Stephan
Ferdinand Gottschalk ... Glabrio
Vivian Tobin ... Dacia
William V. Mong ... Licinius / Old Man Carrying Child
Joyzelle Joyner ... Ancaria (as Joyzelle)
Richard Alexander ... Viturius
Nat Pendleton ... Strabo
Clarence Burton 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 February 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sign of the Cross See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(without intermission) | (original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cecil B. DeMille deliberately cast Claudette Colbert against type as Poppaea. Until then, Colbert had been playing innocent ingénue roles, and this was her first 'wicked' role, which she relished playing. See more »

Goofs

When the boxers are fighting with the spiked gloves, the loser gets punched in the face. He is shown with scars on his face and spits blood onto his chest. In the next shot (from a slightly different angle) the scars are there but the blood on his chest is gone. See more »

Quotes

Titus: "We are to become as children," Jesus said... "with a child's simple loving vision." If we have the simplicity... the faith, the trust of a child... we accept that which we do not fully understand. For me, for all men... He lifted the black mist from the face of God. And there was no longer the God of wrath... but only a loving Father. All that we had been taught before about the great Spirit... became suddenly a new understanding... a compassionate God to whom we could turn. The blood of these...
See more »

Alternate Versions

Re-released in 1944, with some cuts (sex and sadism scenes) and preceded by a nine minute prologue, set in present time with a WWII theme. This re-release version runs 118 minutes. See more »

Connections

Referenced in American Horror Story: Show Stoppers (2015) 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

 
Wonderful film
16 March 2004 | by GlLeeSee 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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