The Eternal City (1923)

Melodrama | November 1923

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HISTORY

The picture climaxes with a view of Benito Mussolini, Italy’s then Prime Minister, on the balcony of the royal palace, beside the king, reviewing the entrance of his troops into the city. The story, based on Hall Caine’s 1901 novel, The Eternal City, was modernized to reflect post-World War I Italy.
       On 24 February 1923, Motion Picture News announced that Samuel Goldwyn had purchased screen rights to Caine’s novel. Scenarist Ouida Bergère was soon to be en route to England, where she planned to consult with Caine on the screenplay. Bergère’s then husband, George Fitzmaurice, was slated to direct. According to a 10 May 1923 Variety brief, Fitzmaurice had recently walked off the set of The Cheat (1923, see entry) with only half the film completed, and was replaced on that production by Frank O’Connor.
       Although the 10 May 1923 Variety indicated that Samuel Goldwyn was in talks with Alma Rubens to play the female lead, Barbara La Marr’s casting as “Donna Roma” had previously been announced in the 17 April 1923 Film Daily. The 22 May 1923 Film Daily later reported that Bert Lytell had replaced David Powell in the cast, and listed H. H. Bruenner as the production manager. The cast and crew were scheduled to sail to Europe on 2 June 1923, as principal photography was set to take place in Rome, Italy.
       Filming commenced in Rome on 19 June 1923, as announced in the 14 July 1923 Camera. Ouida Bergère was said to be finishing the script at an Italian villa owned by the writer Arnold Bennett; meanwhile, the ...

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The picture climaxes with a view of Benito Mussolini, Italy’s then Prime Minister, on the balcony of the royal palace, beside the king, reviewing the entrance of his troops into the city. The story, based on Hall Caine’s 1901 novel, The Eternal City, was modernized to reflect post-World War I Italy.
       On 24 February 1923, Motion Picture News announced that Samuel Goldwyn had purchased screen rights to Caine’s novel. Scenarist Ouida Bergère was soon to be en route to England, where she planned to consult with Caine on the screenplay. Bergère’s then husband, George Fitzmaurice, was slated to direct. According to a 10 May 1923 Variety brief, Fitzmaurice had recently walked off the set of The Cheat (1923, see entry) with only half the film completed, and was replaced on that production by Frank O’Connor.
       Although the 10 May 1923 Variety indicated that Samuel Goldwyn was in talks with Alma Rubens to play the female lead, Barbara La Marr’s casting as “Donna Roma” had previously been announced in the 17 April 1923 Film Daily. The 22 May 1923 Film Daily later reported that Bert Lytell had replaced David Powell in the cast, and listed H. H. Bruenner as the production manager. The cast and crew were scheduled to sail to Europe on 2 June 1923, as principal photography was set to take place in Rome, Italy.
       Filming commenced in Rome on 19 June 1923, as announced in the 14 July 1923 Camera. Ouida Bergère was said to be finishing the script at an Italian villa owned by the writer Arnold Bennett; meanwhile, the cast were staying at the Grand Hotel in Rome. The production received permission to shoot at numerous landmarks, including the Colosseum, the Forum, the Roman Baths, Saint Peter’s Square, and the Old and New Appian Way; in exchange, Fitzmaurice agreed to provide the Italian government with an early finished print of the film, as stated in the 17 November 1923 Motion Picture News. An article in the 1 September 1923 Camera noted that Barbara La Marr was introduced to Italy’s royal family during filming, including King Victor Emanuel and Queen Margarita. Following the completion of filming in Rome, cast and crew returned to the U.S. for five weeks of interior shooting in New York City, beginning in late August 1923, according to the 21 August 1923 Film Daily. The 16 September 1923 issue claimed that another ten days of work remained, and Fitzmaurice was now shooting at the Tilford Studio.
       A 10 September 1923 Film Daily news brief reported that Goldwyn Pictures Corp., with whom producer Samuel Goldwyn had parted ways, were suing Goldwyn to keep him from using his name on future projects, including The Eternal City. The plaintiff contended that over $2.4 million had been spent “exploiting the name of the corporation,” and therefore Goldwyn should not be able to use it on outside projects. Advertisements for The Eternal City ultimately touted Samuel Goldwyn as presenter, but included the following parenthetical after his name: “Not now connected with Goldwyn Pictures.”
       A preview screening took place the week of 17 November 1923 at the Strand Theatre in New York City, according to the 24 November 1923 Motion Picture News. The 1 December 1923 issue claimed that the world premiere occurred on 19 November 1923 at the Regent Theatre in Paterson, NJ. Another early opening in Rochester, NY, ended its run on 1 December 1923, as noted in that day’s Democrat and Chronicle. A general release date of 17 December 1923 was cited in the 29 October 1923 Film Daily; however, later items, including an Associated First National Pictures advertisement in the 8 December 1923 Motion Picture News, listed a general release on 21 January 1924. In the meantime, the 22 December 1923 Motion Picture News stated that John Emerson and Anita Loos had been hired to edit The Eternal City into “its final shape,” suggesting that the picture may have been altered between earlier releases and the January 1924 opening.
       This film was considered lost until the discovery of its final two reels in 2006 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. The extant reels, a total of twenty-eight minutes in length, showed Benito Mussolini in a performance deemed “the first appearance of the Duce, which is evident, on the big screen as the protagonist of a fiction,” as stated in a 12 October 2014 EFE News Service item. The partial film was screened at the 2014 Silent Film Conference in Pordenone, Italy.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Camera
14 Jul 1923
p. 8
Camera
1 Sep 1923
---
Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester, NY]
1 Dec 1923
p. 11
EFE News Service [Madrid, Spain]
12 Oct 2014
---
Exhibitors Trade Review
25 Aug 1923
p. 542
Film Daily
17 Apr 1923
---
Film Daily
22 May 1923
p. 1
Film Daily
31 Jul 1923
---
Film Daily
21 Aug 1923
p. 1
Film Daily
10 Sep 1923
---
Film Daily
16 Sep 1923
p. 11
Film Daily
7 Oct 1923
p. 4
Film Daily
29 Oct 1923
---
Film Daily
9 Nov 1923
pp. 1-2
Film Daily
14 Nov 1923
p. 2
Film Daily
6 Dec 1923
p. 5
Indianapolis Star [Indianapolis, IN]
28 Dec 1923
p. 7
Motion Picture News
8 Dec 1923
---
Motion Picture News
24 Feb 1923
p. 925
Motion Picture News
6 Oct 1923
p. 1681
Motion Picture News
17 Nov 1923
p. 2347
Motion Picture News
24 Nov 1923
p. 2440
Motion Picture News
1 Dec 1923
p. 2573
Motion Picture News
22 Dec 1923
p. 2873
Motion Picture News
29 Dec 1923
p. 3048
Variety
10 May 1923
pp. 17-18
Variety
17 Jan 1924
p. 28
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Eternal City by Hall Caine (New York, 1901).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1923
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Paterson, NJ: 19 November 1923; Indianapolis, IN, opening: 30 Dec 1923
Production Date:
19 Jun--late Sep 1923
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Madison Productions
31 December 1923
LP19782
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
7,800 , 7,929
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

David Rossi, an Italian orphan, is cared for by Bruno, a tramp. Dr. Roselli, a pacifist, adopts him and rears him together with Roma, his daughter. They grow up and pledge their love. Dr. Roselli dies, David and Bruno join the army after war breaks out, and Roma becomes a famous sculptor with the financial assistance of Baron Bonelli, the secret leader of the Communist party. David joins the Fascists and becomes Mussolini's righthand man. He meets Roma and denounces her as Bonelli's mistress; then he leads the Fascists against the Bolshevists and kills Bonelli. Roma takes the blame for Bonelli's murder, thereby convincing David that she had not betrayed him. ...

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David Rossi, an Italian orphan, is cared for by Bruno, a tramp. Dr. Roselli, a pacifist, adopts him and rears him together with Roma, his daughter. They grow up and pledge their love. Dr. Roselli dies, David and Bruno join the army after war breaks out, and Roma becomes a famous sculptor with the financial assistance of Baron Bonelli, the secret leader of the Communist party. David joins the Fascists and becomes Mussolini's righthand man. He meets Roma and denounces her as Bonelli's mistress; then he leads the Fascists against the Bolshevists and kills Bonelli. Roma takes the blame for Bonelli's murder, thereby convincing David that she had not betrayed him.

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

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