|Directed by||Mervyn LeRoy|
|Produced by||Sam Zimbalist|
|Screenplay by|| S. N. Behrman |
John Lee Mahin
|Based on|| Quo Vadis |
by Henryk Sienkiewicz
|Starring|| Robert Taylor |
|Narrated by||Walter Pidgeon|
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Cinematography|| Robert Surtees |
William V. Skall
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Distributed by||Loew's, Inc.|
|Box office||$21 million|
Quo Vadis (Latin for "Where are you going?") is a 1951 American epic historical drama film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in Technicolor. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Sam Zimbalist, from a screenplay by John Lee Mahin, S.N. Behrman, and Sonya Levien, adapted from the novel Quo Vadis (1896) by the Polish Nobel Laureate author Henryk Sienkiewicz. The score is by Miklós Rózsa and the cinematography by Robert Surtees and William V. Skall. The title refers to an incident in the apocryphal Acts of Peter.
The film stars Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn, and Peter Ustinov, and features Patricia Laffan, Finlay Currie, Abraham Sofaer, Marina Berti, Buddy Baer, and Felix Aylmer. Anthony Mann worked on the film for four weeks as an uncredited second-unit director. Sergio Leone was an uncredited assistant director of Italian extras. Future Italian stars Sophia Loren and Bud Spencer appeared as uncredited extras. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards (though it won none), and it was such a huge box office success that it was credited with single-handedly rescuing MGM from the brink of bankruptcy.
The story, set in ancient Rome during the final years of Emperor Nero's reign, AD 64–68, combines both historical and fictional events and characters, and compresses the key events of that period into the space of only a few weeks. Its main theme is the Roman Empire’s conflict with Christianity and persecution of Christians in the final years of the Julio-Claudian line. Unlike his illustrious and powerful predecessor, Emperor Claudius, Nero proved corrupt and destructive, and his actions eventually threatened to destroy Rome's previously peaceful social order.
Marcus Vinicius is a Roman military commander and the legate of the XIV Gemina. Returning from wars in Britain and Gaul, he falls in love with Lygia, a devout Christian; in spite of this, he continually tries to win her affections. Though she grew up as the foster daughter of Aulus Plautius, a retired Roman general, Lygia is legally a Lygian hostage of Rome in the old general's care. Petronius, Marcus' uncle, persuades Nero to give her to his nephew as a reward for his services. Lygia resents this arrangement, but eventually falls in love with Marcus.
Meanwhile, Nero's atrocities become increasingly outrageous and his behavior more irrational. After Nero burns Rome and blames the Christians, Marcus sets out to rescue Lygia and her family. Nero arrests them, along with all the other Christians, and condemns them to be slaughtered in his Circus; some are killed by lions. Petronius, Nero's most trusted advisor, warns him that the Christians will be celebrated as martyrs, but he cannot change the emperor's mind. Then, tired of Nero's insanity and suspecting that he may be about to turn on him, too, Petronius composes a letter to Nero expressing his derision for the emperor (which he previously had concealed to avoid being murdered by him) and commits suicide by severing an artery in his wrist. His slavegirl Eunice (who has fallen in love with him) elects to die with him, despite being freed. The Christian apostle Peter has also been arrested after returning to Rome in response to a sign from the Lord, and he marries Marcus and Lygia in the Circus prisons. Peter is later crucified upside-down, a form of execution conceived by Nero's Praetorian Guard as an expression of mockery.
Poppaea, Nero's wife, who lusts after Marcus, devises a diabolical revenge for his rejection of her. Lygia is tied to a stake in the Circus and a wild bull is released into the arena. Lygia's bodyguard Ursus must attempt to kill the bull with his bare hands to save Lygia from being gored to death. Marcus is taken to the emperor's box and forced to watch, to the outrage of his officers, who are among the spectators. Ursus is able to topple the bull, though, and break its neck. Massively impressed by Ursus's victory, the crowd exhorts Nero to spare the couple. He refuses to do so, even after four of his courtiers, Seneca, architect Phaon, poet Lucan, and musician Terpnos add their endorsement of the mob's demands. Marcus then breaks free of his bonds, leaps into the arena, and frees Lygia with the help of the loyal troops from his own legion. Marcus accuses Nero of burning Rome and announces that General Galba is at that moment marching on the city, intent on replacing Nero, and hails him as new Emperor of Rome.
The crowd revolts, now firmly believing that Nero, not the Christians, is responsible for the burning of Rome. Nero flees to his palace, where he strangles Poppaea, blaming her for inciting him to scapegoat the Christians. Then Acte, Nero's discarded mistress who is still in love with him, appears and offers him a dagger to end his own life before the mob storming the palace kills him. Nero cannot do it, so Acte helps him to push the dagger into his chest, and he dies.
Marcus, Lygia, and Ursus are now free, and they leave Rome for Marcus' estate in Sicily. By the roadside, Peter's crook, which he had left behind when he returned to Rome, has sprouted blossoms. A radiant light appears and a chorus intones, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," words reported to have been spoken by Jesus (John 14:6, New Testament).
The music score by Miklós Rózsais notable for its historical authenticity. Since no Ancient Roman music had survived, Rozsa incorporated a number of fragments of Ancient Greek and Jewish melodies into his own choral-orchestral score.
At the end of the film, a triumphal march heralds the success of the armies of the new emperor, Galba. This theme would be reused by Rózsa in Ben-Hur (1959) as the brief "Bread and Circuses March" preceding "The Parade of the Charioteers", prior to the famous chariot race.
In his 1982 autobiography, Miklos Rozsa expressed his regret at the way his score was handled by producer Sam Zimbalist, 'a dear personal friend': "[He] didn't use the music in any way as effectively as he might have done. After all the trouble I went to, much of my work was swamped by sound effects, or played at such a low level as to be indistinguishable ... It was a great disappointment to me." However, he was mistaken when he wrote: "Quo Vadis, because it was produced abroad, was completely boycotted by Hollywood and received no Academy nominations."Although it did not win any Academy Awards, it did, in fact, receive eight nominations – including one for Rozsa's score.
Rozsa's love theme for Lygia ("Lygia") was set to words by Paul Francis Webster and Mario Lanza sang it for the first time on his radio show broadcast of January 1952.
The film was a commercial success. According to MGM's records, during its initial theatrical release, it earned $11,143,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $9,894,000 elsewhere, making it the highest-grossing film of 1951, and resulting in a profit to the studio of $5,440,000.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote in a mixed review, "Here is a staggering combination of cinema brilliance and sheer banality, of visual excitement and verbal boredom, of historical pretentiousness and sex." Crowther thought that even Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross "had nothing to match the horrendous and morbid spectacles of human brutality and destruction that Director Mervyn LeRoy has got in this. But within and around these visual triumph and rich imagistic displays is tediously twined a hackneyed romance that threatens to set your teeth on edge."Variety wrote that the film was "right up there with Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind for box-office performance. It has size, scope, splash, and dash, giving for the first time in a long while credence to the now-clichéd 'super-colossal' term. This is a super-spectacle in all its meaning." Edwin Schallert of the Los Angeles Times declared it "one of the most tremendous if not the greatest pictures ever made ... Its pictorial lavishness has never been equaled in any other production." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "a fabulously entertaining movie. Though the expansive, expensive film from the celebrated novel runs over three hours on the Palace screen, you won't believe you've been there nearly that long." Harrison's Reports declared, "For sheer opulence, massiveness of sets, size of cast, and beauty of Technicolor photography, no picture ever produced matches 'Quo Vadis'. It is a super-collosal [sic] spectacle in every sense of the meaning, and on that score alone it is worth a premium price of admission." The Monthly Film Bulletin was negative, writing that the film "demonstrates how inordinately boring the convention of size and spectacle can be, when divorced from taste, feeling, and, to a surprising extent, creative talent. The film is unimaginatively directed, at a very slow pace in keeping with the general larger than life proportions, and its technical qualities are not impressive."
The film holds a score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews.
Quo Vadis was nominated for eight Academy Awards: twice for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Leo Genn as Petronius and Peter Ustinov as Nero), and for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (William A. Horning, Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno, Hugh Hunt), Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Best Picture. However, the movie did not win in any categories.
Peter Ustinov won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. The Golden Globe for Best Cinematography was won by Robert Surtees and William V. Skall. The film was also nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Mervyn LeRoy was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement by the Screen Directors Guild.
Santa Maria in Palmis, also known as Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis, is a small church southeast of Rome, central Italy. It is located about some 800 m from Porta San Sebastiano, where the Via Ardeatina branches off the Appian Way, on the site where, according to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, Saint Peter met Jesus while the former was fleeing persecution in Rome. According to the tradition, Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, where are you going?". Jesus answered, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again".
Ofonius Tigellinus, also known as Tigellinus Ofonius, Ophonius Tigellinus, Sophonius Tigellinus and Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus (c. 10–69), was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard, known as the Praetorian Guard, from 62 until 68, during the reign of emperor Nero. Tigellinus gained imperial favour through his acquaintance with Nero's mother Agrippina the Younger, and was appointed prefect upon the death of his predecessor Sextus Afranius Burrus, a position Tigellinus held first with Faenius Rufus and then Nymphidius Sabinus.
Sir Peter Alexander von Ustinov was an English actor, writer, and filmmaker. He was a fixture on television talk shows and lecture circuits for much of his career. An intellectual and diplomat, he held various academic posts and served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and president of the World Federalist Movement.
Aulus Plautius was a Roman politician and general of the mid-1st century. He began the Roman conquest of Britain in 43, and became the first governor of the new province, serving from 43 to 46.
Sword-and-sandal, also known as peplum, is a subgenre of largely Italian-made historical, mythological, or Biblical epics mostly set in the Greco-Roman or medieval period. These films attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood historical epics of the time, such as Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, Quo Vadis, The Robe, Spartacus, Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments. These films dominated the Italian film industry from 1958 to 1965, eventually being replaced in 1965 by the spaghetti Western and Eurospy films.
Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero is a historical novel written by Henryk Sienkiewicz in Polish.
Miklós Rózsa was a Hungarian-American composer trained in Germany (1925–1931) and active in France (1931–1935), the United Kingdom (1935–1940), and the United States (1940–1995), with extensive sojourns in Italy from 1953 onward. Best known for his nearly one hundred film scores, he nevertheless maintained a steadfast allegiance to absolute concert music throughout what he called his "double life".
Publius Petronius Turpilianus was a Roman senator who held a number of offices in the middle of the 1st century AD, most notably governor of Britain. He was an ordinary consul in the year 61 with Lucius Junius Caesennius Paetus as his colleague.
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and his reign have been used in music, literature, the arts, and even in business.
Quo Vadis? is a 1985 international television miniseries made by Radiotelevisione Italiana, Antenne 2, Polyphon Film- und Fernsehgesellschaft, Channel 4 Television, Televisión Española and Televisione Svizzera Italiana (TSI). It was directed by Franco Rossi and produced by Elio Scardamaglia and Francesco Scardamaglia. The script was by Ennio De Concini based on the 1896 novel Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz.
Domine, quo vadis? is a c. 1602 painting by the Italian Baroque painter Annibale Carracci (1560–1609), depicting a scene from the apocrypha Acts of Peter. It is housed in the National Gallery, London, where it is given the title Christ appearing to Saint Peter on the Appian Way. The subject is a rare representation in art of the theme Quo vadis. Annibale Carracci was the founder of the Italian Baroque painting school, called Bolognese School. This painting is one of his best known works. Peter is depicted fleeing from Rome to avoid crucifixion and has a vision of meeting Christ bearing his Cross. Peter asks Jesus "Quo vadis?" to which he replies, "Romam vado iterum crucifigi". Peter returns to Rome after this vision.
Quo Vadis is a 2001 Polish film directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz based on the 1896 book of the same title by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It was Poland's submission to the 74th Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated.
The Sign of the Cross is an 1895 four-act historical tragedy, by Wilson Barrett and popular for several decades. Barrett said its Christian theme was his attempt to bridge the gap between Church and stage. The plot resembles the novel Quo Vadis, which was first published between 26 March 1895 and 29 February 1896 in the Gazeta Polska, 11 months after the play's first production.
Quo Vadis is an Italian film directed by Enrico Guazzoni for Cines in 1913, based on the 1896 novel of the same name written by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It was one of the first blockbusters in the history of cinema, with 5,000 extras, lavish sets, and a lengthy running time of two hours, setting the standard for "superspectacles" for decades to come.
Quo Vadis is a 1924 Italian silent historical film directed by Gabriellino D'Annunzio and Georg Jacoby and starring Emil Jannings, Elena Sangro and Lillian Hall-Davis. It is based on the 1896 novel Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz which was notably later adapted into a 1951 film.
Hollywood on the Tiber is a phrase used to describe the period in the 1950s and 1960s when the Italian capital of Rome emerged as a major location for international filmmaking attracting many foreign productions to the Cinecittà studios. By contrast to the native Italian film industry, these movies were made in English for global release. Although the primary markets for such films were American and British audiences, they enjoyed widespread popularity in other countries, including Italy.
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