The Robe (1953)

135 mins | Epic | October 1953

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HISTORY

The film begins with voice-over narration by Richard Burton, as “Marcellus Gallio,” describing the time period, setting and dissipation of the Roman Empire. According to contemporary news items, producer Frank Ross first purchased the screen rights to Lloyd C. Douglas’ best-selling novel for $100,000 in 1942, before Douglas had even completed writing it. A 19 Nov 1944 LAT article reported that Ross included postcards in copies of Douglas’ novel, asking readers to respond and tell him what parts of the book made the greatest impression, in order to “keep faith” with the book’s legions of fans when interpreting it for the screen. Douglas (1877--1951) was one of the most popular novelists in the United States in the 1930s and several of his books, such as Magnificent Obsession , Green Light and White Manners , were also turned into films. Although The Robe , both as a novel and film, contains many fictional characters, characters such as "Peter, The Big Fisherman" and "Miriam," and incidents such as Christ's robe being gambled for by Roman soldiers are taken from passages in the New Testament of the Bible or Christian religious tradition.
       On 10 Sep 1944, NYT reported that when Ross purchased the rights to The Robe , he entered into a joint financing and distribution deal with RKO. The article noted that Mervyn LeRoy was to direct the picture, which was to begin production early in 1945 and cost approximately $4,000,000. NYT also stated that problems encountered during pre-production included the large cast requirements and difficulties in obtaining enough costumes due to wartime ... More Less

The film begins with voice-over narration by Richard Burton, as “Marcellus Gallio,” describing the time period, setting and dissipation of the Roman Empire. According to contemporary news items, producer Frank Ross first purchased the screen rights to Lloyd C. Douglas’ best-selling novel for $100,000 in 1942, before Douglas had even completed writing it. A 19 Nov 1944 LAT article reported that Ross included postcards in copies of Douglas’ novel, asking readers to respond and tell him what parts of the book made the greatest impression, in order to “keep faith” with the book’s legions of fans when interpreting it for the screen. Douglas (1877--1951) was one of the most popular novelists in the United States in the 1930s and several of his books, such as Magnificent Obsession , Green Light and White Manners , were also turned into films. Although The Robe , both as a novel and film, contains many fictional characters, characters such as "Peter, The Big Fisherman" and "Miriam," and incidents such as Christ's robe being gambled for by Roman soldiers are taken from passages in the New Testament of the Bible or Christian religious tradition.
       On 10 Sep 1944, NYT reported that when Ross purchased the rights to The Robe , he entered into a joint financing and distribution deal with RKO. The article noted that Mervyn LeRoy was to direct the picture, which was to begin production early in 1945 and cost approximately $4,000,000. NYT also stated that problems encountered during pre-production included the large cast requirements and difficulties in obtaining enough costumes due to wartime shortages of materials and dyes. LAT also noted that at the point, Ross had been offered up to $1,000,000 by various production companies for the rights to the book but declined to sell.
       By Jul 1945, MPH announced that Ross was hoping for a Jan 1946 start date, with the picture to be released in the fall of 1947. The article noted that writers Ernest Vadja and Albert Maltz had worked with Ross on the screenplay, and were attempting to whittle it down from a six-hour running time to three-and-a-half hours. It is unlikely that Vadja contributed to the completed picture, but according to a 3 Apr 1997 DV news item, Maltz, who was blacklisted in the 1950s, did contribute to the finished film, and the credits were restored by the Writers Guild of America and corrected to reflect that he and Philip Dunne co-wrote the screenplay, with the adaptation written by Gina Kaus. [Upon restoring the film itself in 2003, Twentieth Century-Fox digitally created a new onscreen title card listing Maltz as one of the writers.] The 1945 MPH item stated that the delay in production had been caused by difficulties in writing the script and by “wartime shortages and latterly by strike conditions affecting all production impartially.” At that point, it was estimated that the picture would cost $5,000,000 to produce and take six to eight months to shoot, with another four to six months required for editing.
       On 29 Apr 1948, HR ’s “Rambing Reporter” column announced that Victor Fleming would direct the picture, with Gregory Peck set to star, and on 8 Jun 1948, HR noted that writer Maxwell Anderson had met with Ross on “production preparations” for the film. [In a 1953 LAT article, Ross stated that he paid for Anderson’s work on the screenplay himself, and also that Herb Meadow had worked on the script.] On 12 Jun 1948, MPH announced that Andrew Solt would be writing the screenplay with Anderson, and that the picture might be shot on location in Italy. The extent of the contributions of Anderson, Meadow and Solt to the completed film, if any, has not been determined. By early Jul 1948, DV announced that RKO had cancelled plans to produce the film because it would be too expensive. It was estimated that RKO had already spent more than $750,000 in pre-production costs, and that Ross and Fleming were going to produce the picture independently if they could not interest another studio in the project.
       In Aug 1948, HR noted that Ross and Anderson were attempted to rewrite the script to lower budget costs, thereby enabling RKO to shoot the picture completely at the Cinecittà Studios in Italy, which would also lower production expenses. At that point, it was reported that Floyd Odlum and N. Peter Rathvon would be co-producing the picture with Ross, and that it would begin filming in early 1949. In Dec 1948, HR stated that another hitch in production had arisen due to the National Catholic Legion of Decency, which proclaimed that it would give the film a “B” classification after it was produced, and was urging church members not to read the book or see the film when it was released. [After the film was released in 1953, the Legion gave it an "A-1" classification.] HR also stated that RKO owner Howard Hughes was insisting that Ross repay the money RKO had invested in the property before he be allowed to take it to another studio for production.
       In Dec 1951, RKO filed for a foreclosure of its mortgage of $960,000, according to a HR news item, which stated that the sum included costs of three scripts, sixty miniatures, costumes and the building of sets. The estate of Lloyd Douglas, who died in Feb 1951, also entered the suit, claiming that it had the option to repurchase the rights to The Robe if Ross did not produce it. In early Apr 1952, ^HR reported that after two weeks of negotiations, it was anticipated that a settlement would be reached whereby RKO would retain the property, but on 11 Apr 1952, Ross counter-sued RKO for one million dollars and the rights to The Robe . Ross claimed that Hughes had made it clear that he was not interested in producing films with religious themes and had made it impossible for him to make the picture “by continued threats, intimidations and insistence upon alleged technical and ambiguous provisions [of their contract].”
       In May 1952, numerous contemporary news items announced that Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of production at Twentieth Century-Fox, had negotiated the purchase of the rights to The Robe . [In an Aug 1953 LAT article, Zanuck revealed that he was interested in The Robe due to the high grosses from the company’s 1951 production of the biblical story David and Bathsheba , See Entry.] Ross was still slated to produce the picture, in which Tyrone Power would star. According to an 8 May 1952 DV news item, the buyout from RKO involved the payment of “an unspecified sum” to Hughes by both Ross and Fox. A Sep 1953 DV news item reported that RKO would eventually receive $950,000 from the profits of the film, and that in addition to a $40,000 up-front fee, Ross had a “20% participation in the picture’s profits.”
       1952—1955 HR , DV , Har and LAT news items contribute the following information: Spencer Tracy, Laurence Olivier, Gary Cooper and Robert Tayler were at various times considered for the role of Marcellus. Many actors and actresses were tested for various roles, including British actor John Buckmaster, who tested for the role of “Caligula,” and New York stage actor Otis Garth. According to an Aug 1953 LAT article, “five hundred actors tested for the film grew too old before their assignments began.” Laurence Harvey was to have been loaned by Romulus Films for the production, but he does not appear in the final picture. The following actors are included in the cast by contemporary news items, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: John Downey, Harry Baum, George Cernak, Jerry Lucas, Sally Yarnell, Eleanor Vogel, Jane Crowley, Larry Chance, Lee Graham, Hernando Belmonte, Flo Vinson, Orie Robertson, Cleo Ridge, Snub Pollard, Michael Tellegan, Mischka Egan, Harry Gillette, Wanda Perry, Eve Conrad, Nestor Eristoff, Ted Doner, Edward Peil, Myna Cunard, Marguerite Campbell, Fred Fisher, Harry Thompson, Robert Foulk, Edwana Spence, Stephen Popich and Frances Grant.
       According to a 2 Apr 1953 HR news item and a 25 Sep 1953 LAT review, Fox assistant director Don Klune portrayed Christ, whose face is never seen in the film. Modern sources state that Cameron Mitchell supplied Christ’s voice, although his voice was not recognized in the viewed print. On 17 Mar 1953, a HCN columnist visited the set during the filming of the crucifixion scene and was told by Ross that he specifically chose not to show Christ’s face in the film because “everyone has his own idea of what Jesus looked like.” Ross added that if his face were shown, the scene would have to be cut for exhibition in England, “which permits no impersonation of Christ on its screens.” The Robe marked the screen debuts of Jay Robinson and Jeff Morrow. A modern source notes that Richard Talmadge served as a stuntman on the picture.
       Ross considered using the remaining colonnade from the 1915 World’s Fair on San Francisco’s Treasure Island as the “background for Roman Temple location shots,” and footage of the Big Sur coastline to represent the coast of Capri. It is unlikely, however, that filming actually took place at either location. On 14 Jan 1953, HR and LAT reported that construction on the sets had begun the day before, and that nearly $500,000 would be spent on thirty-one interior sets and ten exteriors. Eight of the studio’s fifteen sound stages and sixty percent of its 360-acre backlot were scheduled to be used for the production. On 11 Feb 1953, HR reported the completion of “what is believed to be the largest panoramic background in movie history,” that of the giant Jerusalem backdrop for the crucifixion set. The chase sequence was shot on location at Calabasas, CA.
       The picture’s start date had been delayed several times, with Fox reporting that it was having difficulties in casting of the female lead, building the sets and deciding in what process the picture should be filmed. In Jan 1953, Fox announced that studio president Spyros Skouras had negotiated the purchase of the rights to a “new French large-screen process which projects a picture two and a half times the size of today’s normal screen image and uses only one strip of 35mm.” At first called Anamorphoscope, the process, eventually named CinemaScope, was invented by Henri Chretien in 1927, and promised a three-dimensional effect due to its wide field of vision. [Chretien's process came after the three-screen process used for Abel Gance's 1927 film Napoléon .] According to a 15 Sep 1953 HR article, Chretien initially attempted to interest Hollywood movie producers in his invention in 1928, but they were distracted by the advent of sound. Chretien also revealed that J. Arthur Rank once held an option on his lenses and that several other countries had expressed interest in the process. Rank’s option lapsed, however, and on 6 Feb 1953, Fox reported in HR that it had signed a ten-year exclusive contract to manufacture and distribute all CinemaScope lenses in countries except France and its colonies.
       Fox decided to shoot The Robe in CinemaScope, with full tests in the process beginning on 28 Feb 1953. A 12 Aug 1953 HR news item revealed that Chretien was to receive one dollar for “each lens [made for CinemaScope] throughout the world, plus a small annual fee for ten years. In addition, he has been given a contract to produce 250,000 lenses.” The 15 Sep 1953 HR news item also noted that as a part of his contract with Fox, Chretien’s lab, which had been destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, would be rebuilt by the studio.
       Unlike other widescreen processes, such as Cinerama, to which it was frequently compared, CinemaScope required only one camera and one projector (for more information on Cinerama, see the entry below for This Is Cinerama ). Using a special, anamorphic lens mounted over the camera’s normal lens, CinemaScope was able to capture a wide-angle image that was “squeezed” onto a regular strip of 35mm film stock. The image was then “unsqueezed” during projection through the use of another special lens attached to the projector, so that the resulting image was at a ratio of 2.55:1 instead of the then-standard 1.33:1.
       The film was projected onto a slightly concave “Miracle Mirror” screen, which was much wider than an ordinary screen, although the exact size depended on the theater in which it was installed. [The screen installed in the Roxy Theatre in New York was 68 feet wide by 24 feet tall. Contemporary news items variously reported the size of the screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles as either 63 feet wide by 23 feet tall, or 65 feet by 29 feet.] The Miracle Mirror screens on which CinemaScope films were projected were specially designed “to reflect and distribute the light evenly over the large surface required…thus making every seat a good seat,” according to a 20 Aug 1953 ad placed by the studio in HR . The screens, which had a metallic surface, were also capable of being used for 3-D or standard format pictures. The only other screen authorized by Fox for use with its CinemaScope productions was the Magniglow Astrolite Screen, produced by the Radiant Manufacturing Corporation of Chicago. Unlike 3-D films, CinemaScope productions did not require special glasses for viewing.
       The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) met on 5 Feb 1953 to explore possibilities in standardizing the widescreen processes under experimentation, such as various 3-D methods, Cinerama and CinemaScope, in order to promote “savings for producers, distributors and exhibitors,” as well as “the best technical quality for moviegoers.” In order to solidify CinemaScope as the industry’s new standard, Fox offered it to other studios rather than retaining it for its own exclusive use. The first major demonstration of CinemaScope for exhibitors, other movie studios and reviewers was held in Los Angeles on 18 Mar 1953, with footage of the New York harbor, a sequence from The Robe , clips from How to Marry a Millionaire and a musical number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (see above) being shown. The demonstration was a success, with HR publisher W. R. Wilkerson declaring that CinemaScope, stereophonic sound and the new Eastman color film stock were “the answer to every exhibitor’s prayer.” Approximately 1,000 exhibitors attended demonstrations of the new process in Los Angeles on 20 Mar and 21 Mar 1953, and many reportedly saw it as an answer to the weakening of movie box-office receipts due to television.
       More than 10,000 spectators were drawn to the first exhibition of CinemaScope held in New York in late Apr 1953. Demonstrations of the new process continued to be held throughout the U.S. and Europe during 1953, and on 12 Aug 1953, HR noted that several major studios were interested in or had committed to CinemaScope, and that numerous films using the process were in the planning stages. The lenses necessary to shoot the pictures had to be licensed from Fox, and prices varied depending on the amount of equipment required and the number of pictures for which it would be used. On 24 Oct 1953, Har reported that Warner Bros. had abandoned plans to continue developing its own WarnerScope in favor of adopting CinemaScope “in an effort to clarify and standardize for the exhibitors and the public a single process, thus eliminating any possibility of confusion.” M-G-M also adopted CinemaScope. Paramount, one of the few studios not using CinemaScope, promoted its own process, VistaVision, which employed a ratio of 1.85:1 and was not an anamorphic process. Eventually other processes such as MetroScope and SuperScope were tested in 1954.
       In a modern interview, Koster described how frustrating using CinemaScope was during production of The Robe , as the lenses had to be focused separately, and frequently were not in focus at the same time, necessitating retakes. Eventually a system to mechanically and automatically focus the lenses was perfected. Additional problems that had to be surmounted to accommodate CinemaScope were drastic changes in lighting, placement of actors within a scene and the type of film stock used. According to an Aug 1953 Var article, The Robe and a few subsequent Fox CinemaScope productions were shot on a type of Eastman negative stock that proved unsatisfactory. Later films used a new Eastman “tungsten balanced stock,” which was easier to light during production and to use to print multiple positive copies. News items noted that, even though The Robe ’s onscreen credits state “Color by Technicolor,” the Technicolor plant only processed the Eastman Color film, and that technically, the color was by Eastman.
       Stereophonic sound, which had been experimented with as early as 1916, was used in conjunction with CinemaScope. Prior to the mainstream use of stereophonic sound, primarily with CinemaScope, theaters were normally equipped with only one or two speakers to project sound. [A notable exception to the usual sound system was the Fantasound system developed by the Walt Disney Co. for its release of Fantasia . Fantasound also featured a series of speakers placed around the theater for maximum exploitation of dialogue, music and sound effects; for more information, see the entry for Fantasia in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ].
       For Fox’s stereophonic sound, at least three microphones were used to record sound during production instead of one, and the resulting four tracks (one was a control track) were placed on the single strip of standard 35mm film on which the picture itself was printed. [The Cinerama sound system employed six to seven tracks.] A May 1953 NYT article described how the four tracks were fit onto the one strip of film: “In order to accommodate the quartet of sound tracks on the standard 35mm film [Fox engineers] narrowed the film sprocket holes. Two tracks are placed on each side of the film. Other changes required are a slight reduction in the width of the teeth of the projector’s sprockets and the addition of a multiple driven sound head between the upper film magazine and the head of the projector.”
       The special sound heads that had to be installed on projection equipment were magnetic, but according to an Aug 1953 advertisement for the system, after the sound heads were installed, they would eliminate errors in synchronizing sound and film and could be used with regularly formatted films. The May 1953 NYT article noted that the sound heads were being manufactured by R.C.A., General Precision and Altec and Westrec companies. While the picture was playing in a theater, several strategically placed speakers allowed sound to emanate from the area of the screen where the action took place, or even offscreen if appropriate.
       In order to protect its huge investment and to insure its further use, Fox offered loans to many exhibitors throughout the United States and the world to install the necessary projection and sound equipment. On 17 Apr 1953, HR noted that at that time, more than 1,500 theaters had already placed orders for the equipment, and that it would cost between $8,000 to $22,000 to re-furbish theaters for CinemaScope and stereophonic sound, depending on the size of the establishment. By mid-Jul 1953, Fox had invested $10,000,000 “in the development of CinemaScope and in advances to manufacturers throughout the United States and Europe to insure speedy delivery of CinemaScope lenses, Miracle Mirror screens and stereophonic sound.” The studio also underwrote the retooling of manufacturing plants in an attempt to insure a steady production of lenses, screens and sound equipment.
       By the end of production on The Robe , various sources estimated its cost at $4,500,000. Several large New York theaters, including the Astor, Rivoli and Roxy, bid to see which would be allowed to exhibit the picture in New York City, with the Roxy winning. The gala New York premiere was held on 16 Sep 1953 and received much acclaim. On 23 Sep 1953, LAT reported that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce was celebrating the film’s West Coast premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre the following day by declaring a four-day festival. To publicize the picture, Jean Simmons imprinted her hand- and footprints in the famed Grauman’s forecourt, and a special plaque commemorating The Robe as the first CinemaScope picture was placed next to her signature in the cement. In order to secure the picture’s only Southern California run during 1953, Grauman's had extensive refurbishments of not only its equipment but also seats and lobby area.
       After the first week of the film’s record-breaking run at the Roxy, Var estimated that Fox would recoup up to 25% of its investment in the picture solely from its exhibition in New York. According to an 18 Nov 1953 Var , article, Fox received seventy percent of the Roxy’s box-office, an unusually large percentage for that time. Har noted that The Robe was “sold seventy-thirty [in the studio’s favor] with a guarantee of 10% of the gross as profit to each exhibitor.” On 10 Jan 1954, NYT reported that by 31 Dec 1953, the film had already grossed $16,500,000 domestically in only 400 theaters, which represented about a quarter of the U.S. theaters then equipped for CinemaScope.
       Har reported in late Dec 1953 that in another effort to support the new process, Fox would provide exhibitors with “a complete CinemaScope program which, in addition to the main feature, will include short subjects made in that process, as well as a special newsreel clip to be inserted at the end of the newsreel.” The program would be designed so that the audience would "be made to feel that it is getting something extra special,” and help to attract the public back to regular movie-going. Fox’s first CinemaScope short was a sixteen-minute travelogue filmed in Italy and entitled Vesuvius Express . It played in conjunction with the Dec 1953 Fox release Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (see above).
       Critical reaction to CinemaScope was mixed at first, with many critics commenting on the focus problems that were soon eliminated due to better film stock and lenses. The New Yorker critic complained: “[CinemaScope] works out fine horizontally, but the peculiar shape of the screen occasionally gives the impression that you’re viewing the action through a mail slot. Another disadvantage is that the actors in closeups look as if they belonged on Mount Rushmore.” HCN , however, termed CinemaScope “a motion picture achievement of which the entire industry can be extremely proud.” The Robe itself also garnered mixed reviews, although the acting was generally lauded.
       In Feb 1953, Fox promoted its investment in the new process by announcing that all of its future productions would be made in CinemaScope, with the exception of films already in production or advanced planning stages. [Not all of Fox’s future releases were in CinemaScope, however; due to the costliness of the large productions, Fox continued to make “B” pictures and also release smaller films made by other companies to fill out its release roster.] Sep and Oct 1953 HR news items reported that numerous Fox studio personnel were laid off or took vacations during an 8-week hiatus, during which projects for CinemaScope were developed and the necessary equipment was prepared.
       According to HR news items, The Robe was also shot in regular 35mm, but only so that it could be reduced to 16mm for release to churches and schools. During its general theatrical release, The Robe was available only in CinemaScope. By early Aug 1955, the film was released to special theaters, such as those at veteran’s hospitals and on military bases, in 16mm, with special lenses to project it in an approximation of Cinemascope, according to a DV article noting how lucrative the 16mm market was. At that time, the worldwide gross of the picture was approximately $25,000,000.
       Fox’s demand that theaters install CinemaScope projection lenses and screens and stereophonic sound in order to play The Robe and subsequent CinemaScope pictures resulted in many protests from exhibitors, both in the United States and abroad. In early Oct 1953, Skouras assured exhibitors that they would be allowed to exhibit Fox CinemaScope pictures using equipment other than Miracle Mirror or Astrolite screens, or approved projection lenses, if they matched the performance of the equipment endorsed by the studio. In Nov 1953, the studio asserted that it had no intention of releasing its CinemaScope pictures with standard sound tracks, however, necessitating the use of stereophonic sound projection and exhibition equipment.
       Theater owners were suspicious and angry about the requirements, with one theater owner union representative stating that as of Nov 1953, only Miracle Mirror screens, which were manufactured by Fox, and Astrolites, which were “being produced with capital advanced by that company and in the marketing of which it is financially interested,” had been approved, and that it would be too expensive for the average exhibitor to arrange for an alternative. In mid-Dec 1953, Skouras announced that “exhibitors who operate medium-sized and small theatres will be permitted in the future to install screens of whatever make or type they desire” in the presentation of Fox CinemaScope pictures, according to the 19 Dec 1953 issue of Har . Larger, first-run houses would still be required to use Miracle Mirror or Astrolite screens, however, in order to receive bookings from Fox. The requirement for stereophonic sound equipment continued to be a hotly contested issue, with many protests from regular and drive-in theater organizations. Some exhibitors even began boycotting Fox releases in order to attract attention to their demands.
       In early May 1954, Fox finally relented and announced that it would give exhibitors the option of playing its CinemaScope films with four-track magnetic stereophonic sound, one-track magnetic sound or standard one-track optical sound. According to Har , Fox planned to make The Robe available in the optional sound tracks on 19 Jun 1954. In addition, in mid-May 1954, Fox announced its decision to begin releasing standard format versions of its CinemaScope pictures to exhibitors not equipped for the new process.
       In order to distance itself from recriminations about its connection with selling Cinemascope equipment, Fox decided in early Apr 1953 to withdraw from marketing of CinemaScope lenses, according to Har , and the market would then be taken over completely by Baush & Lomb and other lens manufacturers, such as Bell & Howell. Fox and its partners in CinemaScope continued to improve the photography process, and in Jun 1954, it was announced that Bausch & Lomb had recently perfected new lenses that would allow for more precise focusing and greater depth of field. A 28 Jun 1954 HR article praised the innovations and asserted that they would help create improvements in acting and writing, as scenes could be written longer and acted in their entirety without as many cuts.
       In late May 1955, HR noted that the government of South Africa had banned the importation of CinemaScope equipment on the basis that “the government is prepared to permit expenditures for the upkeep on theatre motion picture equipment but will not permit improvement in theatre equipment at a cost of much money.” According to a 19 Jan 1955 DV item, The Robe had been banned in Israel on religious grounds, but the ban was reversed after the personal intervention of Skouras. On 26 Oct 1958, NYT reported that when the picture was screened in Israel, scenes were cut that “showed the glories of Christ at the expense of Judaism.”
       In Nov 1954, Louis H. Lowe, the developer of a kinescope process that he called CinemaScope sued Fox and the TV station for which he had worked, seeking an accounting of the profits from the use of the word. Lowe claimed that the television station had sold the trademark for the word CinemaScope to Fox for $50,000 and demanded a share of the profits, as well as a share of Fox’s profits from the use of the word. The outcome of the suit has not been confirmed. On 1 Sep 1955, Ross filed suit against Fox, seeking damages of $470,000. Ross claimed that more than $600,000 of the film’s profits had been improperly accounted for and reduced his own percentage of the profits. The disposition of the suit has not been determined.
       One of the largest problems Fox encountered in regard to CinemaScope was the exhibition of its pictures in Great Britian. Prior to the new process, Fox had largely exhibited through the chain of theaters belonging to the J. Arthur Rank Organisation. Even though Rank began equipping its theaters with CinemaScope projection lenses and screens, it objected to Fox’s requirement for full stereophonic sound, as well as Fox’s demand for longer playing times for its films. Eventually Fox withdrew all of its product from Rank. Fox then established a network of theaters among smaller, independent exhibitors, helping them to equip their establishments to show the new films. The rift was not resolved until early 1958, when Rank agreed to give Fox pictures more extensive playing time rather than changing programs on a weekly basis. A Feb 1958 HR column noted that Fox would continue to support the independent theaters it had earlier built up, by allowing them to exhibit half of its output, while half of its productions would go into Rank theaters.
       The Robe received Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color) and Best Costume Design (Color) and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Cinematography (Color). Richard Burton was nominated for Best Actor. The studio received an honorary Academy Award “in recognition of their imagination, showmanship and foresight in introducing the revolutionary process known as CinemaScope.” Chretien, Sponable, Sol Halprin, Lorin Grignon, Herbert Cragg and Carl Faulkner received a technical award for “creating, developing and engineering the equipment, processes and techniques known as CinemaScope.” In addition to receiving a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture—Drama, the film received a Christopher Award, given by Catholic organizations, as one of the best films of 1953. Jean Simmons was named Best Actress of 1953 by the National Board of Review for her work in The Robe , The Actress (see above) and Young Bess (see below).
       Immediately after production finished on The Robe , Victor Mature began work on its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators (see above). Jay Robinson reprised his role as "Caligula" and Michael Rennie again played “Peter.” Directed by Delmer Daves, the film employed many of the same sets, costumes and crew. The sequence from The Robe in which “Demetrius” witnesses the crucifixion of Christ and the ending in which “Diana” and Marcellus walk out of the palace are shown in Demetrius and the Gladiators . The Robe was re-released theatrically in Feb 1963, and in 1966, ABC paid $2,000,000 for the right to broadcast it twice on television. According to DV and Var news items, when The Robe was broadcast in Mar 1967, it was the top-rated show of the week. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
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Daily Variety
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Daily Variety
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Daily Variety
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Daily Variety
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Fortnight
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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Harrison's Reports
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p. 8.
Hollywood Citizen-News
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Hollywood Reporter
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Hollywood Reporter
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Hollywood Reporter
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Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1952
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
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Hollywood Reporter
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Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1952
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1952
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 1953
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1953
p. 2, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1953
p. 1, 19.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1953
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1953
p. 1, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 1953
p. 1, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1953
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1953
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 1953
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1953
p. 5, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 1953
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 1953
p. 1, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1953
p. 1, 3, 41.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1953
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1953
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1953
p. 3, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1953
p. 4, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1953
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1953
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1953
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1953
p. 1, 4-5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1953
p. 1, 3, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1953
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1953
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1953
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1953
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1953
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1953
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1953
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1953
p. 1, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1953
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1953
p. 1, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1953
p. 1, 5-25.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1953
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 1953
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 1953
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1953
p. 1, 8, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1953
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1953
p. 1, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1954
p. 1, 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1954
p. 1, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1954
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1954
pp. 1-2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1956
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1958
p. 1.
International Photographer
Aug 1953.
---
Life
9 Mar 1953.
---
Life
27 Jul 1953.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
26 Aug 1952.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
25 Sep 1953
p. 1, 26.
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Sep 1953
section I, p. 14.
Los Angeles Examiner
25 Sep 1953.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
11 Jun 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Nov 1944
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
8 May 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Jan 1953
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1953
p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1953
p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
24 Sep 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Sep 1953
p. 1, 7.
Los Angeles Times
2 Sep 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald
7 Jul 1945
p. 54.
Motion Picture Herald
12 Jun 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Sep 53
p. 2005.
New York Times
21 Mar 1943.
---
New York Times
10 Sep 1944.
---
New York Times
21 Oct 1945.
---
New York Times
2 Feb 1953.
---
New York Times
29 Mar 1953.
---
New York Times
12 Apr 1953.
---
New York Times
25 Apr 1953.
---
New York Times
1 May 1953.
---
New York Times
12 May 1953.
---
New York Times
17 Sep 1953
p. 32.
New York Times
27 Sep 1953.
---
New York Times
25 Oct 1953.
---
New York Times
10 Jan 1954.
---
New York Times
31 Jan 1954.
---
New York Times
26 Oct 1958.
---
New Yorker
26 Sep 1953.
---
Newsweek
28 Sep 1953.
---
Pix
22 Aug 1953.
---
Time
28 Sep 1953.
---
Variety
18 Mar 1953.
---
Variety
5 Aug 1953.
---
Variety
23 Sep 53
p. 6.
Variety
30 Sep 1953
p. 4, 8.
Variety
28 Oct 1953
p. 3, 11.
Variety
18 Nov 1953
p. 5, 22.
Variety
9 Dec 1953
p. 12.
Variety
29 Mar 1967.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Frank Pulaski
Nicholas Coster
Thomas Browne Henry
Anthony Eustrel
Helen Beverly
George E. Stone
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Adpt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam dept head
Asst cam
Asst cam
Stills
Portrait photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Scenic arts foreman
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Set ward supv
Men's ward des
Men's ward mgr
Armor
Asst weaver
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Titles
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
CinemaScope research dir
CinemaScope research asst
Unit pub mgr
Unit pub
Transportation chief
Fencing instructor
Fencing instructor
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas (Boston, 1942).
SONGS
"The Resurrection," music by Alfred Newman, lyrics by Philip Dunne, adapted from The Bible
"Hymn for the Dead," music by Alfred Newman, lyrics from the Book of Lamentations.
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1953
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 16 September 1953
Chicago opening: 23 September 1953
Los Angeles opening: 24 September 1953
Production Date:
24 February--20 April 1953
addl seq began 26 May 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
16 September 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3222
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
135
Length(in reels):
16
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16441
SYNOPSIS

In ancient Rome, during the eighteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, military tribune Marcellus Gallio goes to the slave market to purchase a pair of Macedonian twins. In the market, Marcellus witnesses the attempted escape of an educated Greek, Demetrius, and helps the slavemaster capture him. While waiting for the market to open, the womanizing, cynical Marcellus is delighted to be approached by Diana, a former childhood playmate who, since being orphaned, has been Tiberius’ ward. Diana, now a self-assured young woman, reminds Marcellus of his long-ago promise to marry her, and Marcellus jests about honoring his pledge. Marcellus is less amused by Tiberius’ intention to marry Diana to his nephew and heir, the corrupt Caligula, whom Marcellus detests. When Caligula arrives, he is angered to see Marcellus, and slyly expresses his ire by having his henchman, Tribune Quintus, outbid Marcellus for the twins. Infuriated, Marcellus then outbids Caligula for Demetrius. After Caligula storms off, Marcellus has Demetrius’ chains removed and orders him to report to his steward, Marcipor. When he returns home, Marcellus is upbraided by his father, Senator Gallio, who is trying to reinstate the Republic in Rome and worries that Marcellus’ feud with Caligula is undermining his efforts. Marcellus shrugs off his concerns, as well as those of his mother Cornelia and sister Lucia, but Caligula’s power is soon felt when Marcellus receives a notice that he is to leave immediately for the dangerous garrison at Jerusalem, in Palestine. Before Marcellus’ ship sails, Diana comes to pledge her love and state that she will intercede on his behalf with Tiberius. Much to his surprise, ... +


In ancient Rome, during the eighteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, military tribune Marcellus Gallio goes to the slave market to purchase a pair of Macedonian twins. In the market, Marcellus witnesses the attempted escape of an educated Greek, Demetrius, and helps the slavemaster capture him. While waiting for the market to open, the womanizing, cynical Marcellus is delighted to be approached by Diana, a former childhood playmate who, since being orphaned, has been Tiberius’ ward. Diana, now a self-assured young woman, reminds Marcellus of his long-ago promise to marry her, and Marcellus jests about honoring his pledge. Marcellus is less amused by Tiberius’ intention to marry Diana to his nephew and heir, the corrupt Caligula, whom Marcellus detests. When Caligula arrives, he is angered to see Marcellus, and slyly expresses his ire by having his henchman, Tribune Quintus, outbid Marcellus for the twins. Infuriated, Marcellus then outbids Caligula for Demetrius. After Caligula storms off, Marcellus has Demetrius’ chains removed and orders him to report to his steward, Marcipor. When he returns home, Marcellus is upbraided by his father, Senator Gallio, who is trying to reinstate the Republic in Rome and worries that Marcellus’ feud with Caligula is undermining his efforts. Marcellus shrugs off his concerns, as well as those of his mother Cornelia and sister Lucia, but Caligula’s power is soon felt when Marcellus receives a notice that he is to leave immediately for the dangerous garrison at Jerusalem, in Palestine. Before Marcellus’ ship sails, Diana comes to pledge her love and state that she will intercede on his behalf with Tiberius. Much to his surprise, Marcellus returns her feelings and asks her to wait for him. While riding to Jerusalem, Marcellus is told by Centurion Paulus that it is Passover, a Jewish holiday, and also that the Jews are awaiting the arrival of their Messiah. They spot a group of people surrounding a man riding a white donkey, and when Demetrius joins them and exchanges gazes with the man, named Jesus, he is deeply moved and believes that Jesus wants him to become his follower. As time passes, Marcellus spends his days and nights in drunken revelries, ignoring his duties. One day, however, Paulus informs him that the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, has ordered Jesus’ arrest. Because Jesus has so many followers, the arrest must be made quietly, so Marcellus gives Paulus money with which to bribe someone to betray him. Having overheard the conversation, Demetrius spends the night searching Jerusalem, hoping to warn Jesus, but no one will believe him because he is a Roman slave. Finally, Demetrius comes across one man who painfully informs him that Jesus has already been betrayed by someone too weak to believe in him. As the man walks away, his shoulders slumped as if bearing a heavy burden, he tells Demetrius that his name is Judas. After Jesus is sentenced to be crucified, Demetrius pleads with Marcellus to speak on Jesus’ behalf, but Marcellus insists that Roman law must be upheld without question. Soon after, Pilate tells Marcellus that he has been summoned to Capri. The troubled Pilate orders him to crucify Jesus before he leaves, and Paulus taunts him about driving nails into a man’s flesh. As Jesus is carrying his cross on the road to Cavalry, Demetrius attempts to stop a soldier from beating Jesus when he falls. Demetrius himself is knocked unconscious, and when he awakens, he runs to the site of the crucifixion and, grief-stricken, stares up at Jesus. Demetrius is then ordered to bring Jesus’ robe of simple, homespun cloth to the soldiers, who are playing dice behind the cross. After Marcellus wins the robe, a great storm of thunder, lightning and dust begins, and Marcellus approaches the cross. He is horrified to get some of Jesus’ blood on his hands, and becomes even more frightened when the dying man whispers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In town, a rainstorm begins and Marcellus orders Demetrius to cover him with the robe, but as soon as the cloth touches him, Marcellus cries in agony that it is burning him. Taking back the robe, Demetrius calls Marcellus a murderer and curses him, then runs away. Soon after, on the boat journey to Capri, Marcellus irritates the crew with his constant nightmares about nails being driven into Jesus' hands. Upon his arrival, Marcellus warns Diana that he has been driven mad by his experiences. When Marcellus appears before Tiberius, the soothsayer Dodinius theorizes that Marcellus has been bewitched by the robe, and that only by destroying it will he be freed. Moved by his affection for Diana, Tiberius gives Marcellus an imperial commission to find the robe, and so Marcellus returns to Palestine. There, Marcellus, traveling as a Roman merchant in search of homespun cloth, journeys through the countryside. At the village of Cana, Marcellus is surprised when village elder Justus shames his compatriots into returning a portion of the overly generous sum with which Marcellus bought their cloth. Marcellus is intrigued by Justus’ quiet authority and learns that he was a friend of Jesus, as were many in the village. Justus describes some of the miracles peformed by Jesus and that evening, Marcellus meets Miriam, a crippled woman whose embittered heart was transformed by Jesus. Marcellus angrily rejects the villagers’ statement that Jesus arose from the dead, and confesses to Justus that it was he who crucified Jesus. Justus reveals that he was already aware of Marcellus’ identity, and informs him that they have all forgiven him, just as Jesus has forgiven him. Soon after, while trying to convince Marcellus of Jesus’ love and power, Miriam tells him that one of his disciples, Simon, known as Peter, "The Big Fisherman," has arrived, along with his Greek companion. Marcellus confronts Demetrius, who attempts to persuade Marcellus that his guilty conscience, rather than the robe, has caused his madness. When Marcellus accidentally touches the robe, which had been kept by Demetrius, he impulsively clutches it to him, and overcome, realizes that he is no longer afraid. Soon after, Marcellus meets Peter, and during a gathering at the square, Justus begins to preach. Just then, a battalion of Roman soldiers, led by Paulus, attacks, and Justus is felled by an arrow. Marcellus commands them to stop, citing his imperial commission, but Paulus informs him that Tiberius has died and that Caligula is now emperor. Desperate to help his new friends, Marcellus accepts a challenge from Paulus and bests him in a swordfight. The Romans withdraw, and later, when Peter invites Marcellus to join him and Demetrius in spreading Jesus’ teachings, Marcellus pledges to serve Jesus. Back in Rome, Diana appears before Caligula, who reprimands her for living with the Gallios and not visiting him in the year since Marcellus disappeared from Cana. Much to Diana’s horror, Caligula informs her that Marcellus is now a Christian, which makes him a traitor to the Roman empire. Diana refuses to believe him, and so Caligula takes her to see Demetrius, who has been captured and is being tortured in the palace dungeon. After Diana flees and tells Marcipor about Demetrius, she realizes that Marcipor is also a Christian and begs him to take her to Marcellus. Marcipor then takes Diana to the catacombs in which Marcellus and his fellow Christians are hiding, and the couple joyfully reunites. Marcellus shows Diana the robe and tries to tell her about Jesus’ teachings, but she remains skeptical. She is upset that Marcellus insists upon rescuing Demetrius, but he assures her that he owes his friend far more than just his life. Marcellus and his companions succeed in rescuing the badly injured Demetrius and take him to the Gallio home. There, physician Marius can do nothing to help Demetrius and warns Marcellus that he will soon die. Peter arrives, however, and through the strength of his prayer is able to revive Demetrius. Although Gallio is glad that Marcellus is alive, he is deeply hurt by his conversion to Christianity and renounces him. While Marcellus is taking Demetrius back to the catacombs, they are pursued by a group of soldiers, and Marcellus confronts them alone so that Demetrius can escape. After Marcellus is captured, Diana visits him in his cell and pleads with him to deny Jesus in order to save himself, but Marcellus tells her about the people of Cana, who never denied Jesus, despite the grave danger of being his followers. Marcellus is then put on trial for treason before Caligula and the senators, and admits to being a Christian. Caligula scoffs at Marcellus’ assertions that his king is the King of Heaven, who believes in love, mercy and charity above all else. Angered that Diana still prefers Marcellus to himself, Caligula has his minions call out for Marcellus’ death, but Marcellus refuses to renounce his allegiance to Jesus. Diana, moved by Marcellus’ passionate beliefs and disgusted by Caligula’s tyranny, choses to die with Marcellus. As they walk together, Marcellus is acknowledged by his repentent father, and Diana gives the robe to Marcipor for safekeeping. Serene in their convictions, Marcellus and Diana then go hand-in-hand toward their fate. +

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.