The Last Days of Pompeii (1935)

85 or 90 mins | Drama | 18 October 1935

Writer:

Ruth Rose

Cinematographer:

J. Roy Hunt

Editor:

Archie Marshek

Production Designer:

Van Nest Polglase

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

In an onscreen foreword, the filmmakers acknowledge the contribution of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1834 novel, The Last Days of Pompeii , was used for "physical descriptions" in the film. HR news items add the following information about the production: Although the picture was originally intended as an early Technicolor production, it was shot in black and white due to time and budget constraints. In Jul 1934, producer Merian C. Cooper announced that he was giving up plans to shoot the picture in Italy. RKO then planned to film at Prudential Studios in Los Angeles, but ended up leasing space at its own Pathé Studios in Culver City. Cameraman Eddie Linden and technician W. H. O'Brien supervised the filming of Mount Vesuvius miniatures, which began in mid-May 1935. Aloys Bohnen, who was assigned to do art work on the production, was a portrait and mural painter. At the start of production, RKO announced its intention to film two foreign language versions of the film, one in Spanish and one in French. Actors Preston Foster and Gloria Shea were to repeat their lines in each language. It is not known if these foreign versions were ever made. During filming, RKO, fearing that the production was becoming too costly, lopped off $35,000 from the budget. The final cost of the production was announced at approximately one million dollars. HR production charts add Betty Alden to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Many films have been made from Bulwer-Lytton's novel, including several silent Italian productions, such as the 1926 movie, L'Ultimo giorno ... More Less

In an onscreen foreword, the filmmakers acknowledge the contribution of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1834 novel, The Last Days of Pompeii , was used for "physical descriptions" in the film. HR news items add the following information about the production: Although the picture was originally intended as an early Technicolor production, it was shot in black and white due to time and budget constraints. In Jul 1934, producer Merian C. Cooper announced that he was giving up plans to shoot the picture in Italy. RKO then planned to film at Prudential Studios in Los Angeles, but ended up leasing space at its own Pathé Studios in Culver City. Cameraman Eddie Linden and technician W. H. O'Brien supervised the filming of Mount Vesuvius miniatures, which began in mid-May 1935. Aloys Bohnen, who was assigned to do art work on the production, was a portrait and mural painter. At the start of production, RKO announced its intention to film two foreign language versions of the film, one in Spanish and one in French. Actors Preston Foster and Gloria Shea were to repeat their lines in each language. It is not known if these foreign versions were ever made. During filming, RKO, fearing that the production was becoming too costly, lopped off $35,000 from the budget. The final cost of the production was announced at approximately one million dollars. HR production charts add Betty Alden to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Many films have been made from Bulwer-Lytton's novel, including several silent Italian productions, such as the 1926 movie, L'Ultimo giorno de Pompeii , which was directed by Amleto Palermi; a 1948 French/Italian co-production, Les derniers jours de Pompeii ; and a 1959 German/Italian/Spanish version, which was directed by Mario Bonnard and starred Steve Reeves and Christina Kauffman. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Sep 35
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Oct 35
p. 8.
Film Daily
4 Oct 35
pp. 7-10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 34
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 34
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 35
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 35
pp. 18-19.
Motion Picture Daily
21 Sep 35
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Aug 35
p. 42.
Motion Picture Herald
12 Oct 35
p. 40.
New York Times
17 Oct 35
p. 29.
Variety
23 Oct 35
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Merian C. Cooper Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod assoc
WRITERS
Scr
Orig story
Collaboration on adpt
Contr to trmt
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog tech
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
Art tech
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Art work
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus
SOUND
Mus rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Photog eff
DANCE
Supv of dance numbers
PRODUCTION MISC
Chief tech
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 October 1935
Production Date:
14 May--mid July 1935 at RKO Pathé Studios
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 October 1935
Copyright Number:
LP5910
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85 or 90
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
1263
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After his wife and son are injured by a runaway chariot and later die because he has no money to pay for a doctor, an embittered Pompeiian blacksmith, Marcus, dedicates himself to a career as a well-paid gladiator. Although he never relishes killing his arena rivals, Marcus soon becomes the most successful fighter on the circuit, earning substantial sums in the process. His life changes, however, when he meets Flavius, the seven-year-old son of a defeated opponent, whom he adopts. Eventually Marcus is forced out of the arena and must support Flavius through the odious but lucrative job of slave and horse trading. Before leaving on a horse buying trip to Judea, Marcus befriends a Greek soothsayer, who prophesies that Flavius will go to strife-ridden Jerusalem and meet "a great man" and that Marcus will be confronted with a life-altering choice between success and failure. Marcus, believing that the great man is Pontius Pilate, takes Flavius to meet the ruler, who offers Marcus a job stealing horses from his desert enemy. Although the raid is successful, Flavius is thrown from a horse and nears death, but is cured miraculously by a stranger known only as "The Lord." Marcus pledges his dedication to the stranger, but when another follower later begs his help to save the prophet from crucifixion, Marcus chooses to save his ill-gotten gold instead. Many years later, Flavius, who is haunted by dim memories of the man who had once cured him, rejects his father's plans for him and devotes himself to liberating runaway slaves who are destined for Marcus' deadly arena. Caught with the escaping slaves, Flavius is ... +


After his wife and son are injured by a runaway chariot and later die because he has no money to pay for a doctor, an embittered Pompeiian blacksmith, Marcus, dedicates himself to a career as a well-paid gladiator. Although he never relishes killing his arena rivals, Marcus soon becomes the most successful fighter on the circuit, earning substantial sums in the process. His life changes, however, when he meets Flavius, the seven-year-old son of a defeated opponent, whom he adopts. Eventually Marcus is forced out of the arena and must support Flavius through the odious but lucrative job of slave and horse trading. Before leaving on a horse buying trip to Judea, Marcus befriends a Greek soothsayer, who prophesies that Flavius will go to strife-ridden Jerusalem and meet "a great man" and that Marcus will be confronted with a life-altering choice between success and failure. Marcus, believing that the great man is Pontius Pilate, takes Flavius to meet the ruler, who offers Marcus a job stealing horses from his desert enemy. Although the raid is successful, Flavius is thrown from a horse and nears death, but is cured miraculously by a stranger known only as "The Lord." Marcus pledges his dedication to the stranger, but when another follower later begs his help to save the prophet from crucifixion, Marcus chooses to save his ill-gotten gold instead. Many years later, Flavius, who is haunted by dim memories of the man who had once cured him, rejects his father's plans for him and devotes himself to liberating runaway slaves who are destined for Marcus' deadly arena. Caught with the escaping slaves, Flavius is sent to fight in the arena, in spite of Marcus' pleas and bribes for his freedom. At the start of the battle, however, Mt. Vesuvius erupts, and once again, Marcus is given the choice between saving his wealth and human lives. After tossing away his coveted gold, Marcus finally sacrifices his own life to rescue Flavius and his band of runaway slaves. As Marcus' soul ascends to heaven, it is greeted with open, forgiving arms by the spirit of the doomed prophet, Jesus. +

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.