The Ceremony (1963)

105 mins | Melodrama | 25 December 1963

Director:

Laurence Harvey

Writer:

Ben Barzman

Producer:

Laurence Harvey

Cinematographer:

Brian West

Editor:

Ralph Kemplen

Production Designer:

Ramiro Gómez

Production Companies:

Laurence Harvey Productions, Magla
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HISTORY

The Ceremony marked the producing and directing debut of actor Laurence Harvey. Although Anthony Mann had originally been attached to produce and direct, with Harvey starring in the role of “Sean McKenna,” as announced in the 14 May 1962 DV, Harvey replaced Mann as both director and producer by the following winter. On 30 Nov 1962, DV announced that United Artists (UA) would distribute and that filming would take place in Spain. Alfredo Matas’s Jet Films signed on as a Spanish co-producer, according to a 20 Dec 1962 DV news brief. Harvey later claimed in an 8 May 1963 Var article that Matas proved unable to provide the financing he had originally promised. With the help of UA’s George Ornstein, Harvey took back singular control of the film until Feb 1962, when new Spanish co-producers, Jorge Tusell’s Estela Films and Enrique Aguila’s Universal Espanola, signed on. The 13 Feb 1963 Var stated that Estela and Universal Espanola would furnish $200,000 toward the $1.1 million budget and allow the film to qualify as an official U.S.-Spanish co-production. Ultimately, those companies also left, due to the content of a nude scene performed by Sarah Miles that was rejected by Spanish censors. The controversy was reported in a 24 Apr 1963 Var item, which claimed that Miles had written a letter to Spanish authorities, confirming that she acted in the scene willingly because she had felt it was called for, not due to pressure from Harvey. The following month, in an 8 May 1963 Var interview, Harvey contested earlier reports that Tusell and Aguila’s companies ... More Less

The Ceremony marked the producing and directing debut of actor Laurence Harvey. Although Anthony Mann had originally been attached to produce and direct, with Harvey starring in the role of “Sean McKenna,” as announced in the 14 May 1962 DV, Harvey replaced Mann as both director and producer by the following winter. On 30 Nov 1962, DV announced that United Artists (UA) would distribute and that filming would take place in Spain. Alfredo Matas’s Jet Films signed on as a Spanish co-producer, according to a 20 Dec 1962 DV news brief. Harvey later claimed in an 8 May 1963 Var article that Matas proved unable to provide the financing he had originally promised. With the help of UA’s George Ornstein, Harvey took back singular control of the film until Feb 1962, when new Spanish co-producers, Jorge Tusell’s Estela Films and Enrique Aguila’s Universal Espanola, signed on. The 13 Feb 1963 Var stated that Estela and Universal Espanola would furnish $200,000 toward the $1.1 million budget and allow the film to qualify as an official U.S.-Spanish co-production. Ultimately, those companies also left, due to the content of a nude scene performed by Sarah Miles that was rejected by Spanish censors. The controversy was reported in a 24 Apr 1963 Var item, which claimed that Miles had written a letter to Spanish authorities, confirming that she acted in the scene willingly because she had felt it was called for, not due to pressure from Harvey. The following month, in an 8 May 1963 Var interview, Harvey contested earlier reports that Tusell and Aguila’s companies had departed over nudity issues, since the scene had been included in the script they had originally approved.
       Principal photography began on 5 Dec 1962 in Spain, as reported two days later in a DV production chart. Some exteriors were shot in Toledo, at the Campo de Criptana monastery, and in the forest outside the Casa del Campo park in Madrid, the 26 Dec 1962 Var noted. Two months of interior shooting were planned to take place at the Sevilla Studios outside Madrid. Filming wound in late Jan or early Feb 1963, as indicated in the 13 Feb 1962 Var.
       While filming took place entirely in Spain, a news item in the 12 May 1963 LAT claimed that the production was headquartered in Switzerland. The following month, on 15 Jun 1963, a sneak preview was held in Dublin, Ireland, and in Sep 1963, Harvey arranged a private screening during the 24th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, according to a 5 Sep 1963 DV. U.S. theatrical release followed on 25 Dec 1963 at Los Angeles, CA’s Beverly Hills Music Hall Theatre.
       Following mixed critical reception, co-star Robert Walker, Jr. won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year-Actor. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 May 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1962
p. 8.
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1962
p. 8.
Daily Variety
20 Dec 1962
p. 13.
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 May 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1963
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
21 Apr 1963
Section P, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
1 May 1963
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1963
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
3 Nov 1963
Section B, p. 1, 32.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1963
Section C, p. 13.
New York Times
4 Dec 1962.
---
New York Times
14 May 1964.
---
Variety
26 Dec 1962
p. 3.
Variety
13 Feb 1963
p. 2, 71.
Variety
27 Feb 1963
p. 4.
Variety
24 Apr 1963
p. 2, 76.
Variety
8 May 1963
p. 3.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl dial
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Photog (see note)
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Prod supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel La cérémonie by Frédéric Grendel (Paris, 1951).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
La ceremonia
Release Date:
25 December 1963
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 25 Dec 1963; New York opening: 13 May 1964
Production Date:
5 Dec 1962--late Jan or early Feb 1963
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
105
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After a bank holdup in Tangiers, in the course of which a guard is killed, Irishman Sean McKenna, the leader of the gang responsible for the crime, is arrested for the murder. Though he is innocent, the sadistic French public prosecutor, LeCoq, is determined that an example be made, and Sean is sentenced to death by the firing squad. Catherine, his girl friend, persuades his brother, Dominic, to help arrange an escape by promising to run away with him once Sean is freed; and they are aided in the plan by Sean's friend Nicky. Aided by a bribed jailer, Dominic disguises himself as a priest and is permitted to enter the death cell. After changing clothes with his brother, Dominic blows up the prison power house and then escapes by rope ladder. Garbed in the priest's clothing, Sean walks out of the prison gates during the confusion. Reunited with Catherine and Dominic, Sean learns of their affair, and a violent fight ensues. With the arrival of the police, the three escape. As Dominic leads police away from his brother, his car crashes and bursts into flame. His face burned beyond recognition, Dominic is mistaken for Sean and brought back to the prison. The priest, Father O'Brien, hears Dominic's confession but is unable to give absolution because Dominic refuses to reveal his true identity. Sean learns of the situation and rushes to the prison, but Dominic has already been executed, even though most of the firing squad refused to fire their guns. Sean carries his dead brother's body into the ... +


After a bank holdup in Tangiers, in the course of which a guard is killed, Irishman Sean McKenna, the leader of the gang responsible for the crime, is arrested for the murder. Though he is innocent, the sadistic French public prosecutor, LeCoq, is determined that an example be made, and Sean is sentenced to death by the firing squad. Catherine, his girl friend, persuades his brother, Dominic, to help arrange an escape by promising to run away with him once Sean is freed; and they are aided in the plan by Sean's friend Nicky. Aided by a bribed jailer, Dominic disguises himself as a priest and is permitted to enter the death cell. After changing clothes with his brother, Dominic blows up the prison power house and then escapes by rope ladder. Garbed in the priest's clothing, Sean walks out of the prison gates during the confusion. Reunited with Catherine and Dominic, Sean learns of their affair, and a violent fight ensues. With the arrival of the police, the three escape. As Dominic leads police away from his brother, his car crashes and bursts into flame. His face burned beyond recognition, Dominic is mistaken for Sean and brought back to the prison. The priest, Father O'Brien, hears Dominic's confession but is unable to give absolution because Dominic refuses to reveal his true identity. Sean learns of the situation and rushes to the prison, but Dominic has already been executed, even though most of the firing squad refused to fire their guns. Sean carries his dead brother's body into the prison. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.