Monday, March 21, 2016

Netflix Monthly Movie: The Robe (1953)

The First Picture on the New Miracle Curved Screen !
The Greatest Story of Love, Faith, and Overwhelming Spectacle!

This months Netflix movie is The Robe (1953) starring Richard Burton, Victor Mature, and Jean Simmons. It tell the story of a Roman soldier Marcellus (Burton), whose job it was to crucify Jesus. He wins the robe worn by Christ by casting lots. But when he wears it, it puts a curse on him, or so he thinks. After the crucifixion, he is sent back to Rome, but he is haunted by what he has done. He goes back to Judea to find the Robe and destroy it, so as to destroy its hold on him. During his journey, he meets believers and followers of the dead Christ, Christians. One of these is his former Greek slave, Demetrious (Mature), who is now  follower of Peter. It is he who carries the robe of Christ.

You're afraid, but you really don't know the reason why. You think it's his robe that made you ill. But it's your own conscience, your own decent shame. Even when you crucified him you felt it.

Marcellus too becomes a Christian. Upon returning to Rome, Marcellus must now face Emperor Caligula.

Directed by Henry Koster (It Started with Eve, The Bishop's Wife, Harvey, The Singing Nun), this was the first movie filmed in Cinemascope and it is truly a spectacle. Complemented by glorious Technicolor and lavish sets of the powerful Roman Empire, it is a film well worth seeing. It is a long film - it runs 135 minutes - but it does not feel long. The sweeping and intense musical score by Alfred Newman complements the picture perfectly. This is a great film for the whole family to watch during this Holy Week.

Simon Peter (Michael Rennie) & Marcellus (Burton)


So sure was the studio of the films success, a sequel titled Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) was immediately put into action. Victor Mature reprised his role as the Greek slave and follower of Simon Peter. The film takes place right at the end of The Robe, in the year 53 AD. A third film was made about Simon Peter, The Big Fisherman (1959), with Howard Keel in the title role.

Burton & Mature

It is the first motion picture in Cinemascope to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award.

Diagram of the curved screen.

The second movie to begin shooting in Cinemascope, but the first to be released (Sept. 16, 1953). The first film to go before Cinemascope lens-equipped cameras was How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and was released Nov. 4, 1953.

Opening at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, September 24, 1953.

Acclaimed by many film historians as a triumph in the art of motion-picture music, Alfred Newman's reverent, intense film score failed to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Score for a Dramatic Motion Picture (though Newman still took home an Oscar that night - for his adaptation of music for the Irving Berlin-Ethel Merman frolic, Call Me Madam (1953). Angered by the Academy voters' snub of Newman, distinguished film composer Franz Waxman, an Oscar winner for Sunset Blvd. (1950) and A Place in the Sun (1951), resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The film won Oscars for Best Art Direction - Set Decoration in the color category and Best Costumes, also in the color category. In addition to Best Picture, it was also nominated for Best Actor (Burton) and Best Color Cinematography. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama.

At one point the producers considered making Marcellus older and casting Laurence Olivier.

Darryl F. Zanuck originally offered the role of Marcellus to Tyrone Power in a bid to get him to renew his contract with Fox. Power instead opted to star in the play "John Brown's Body" on Broadway.

Burt Lancaster was originally cast in the role played by Victor Mature.

Janet Leigh was considered for the role of Diana (Simmons).

Director Henry Koster chose Donald C. Klune - his 2nd assistant director - to play the role of Jesus in the film (his face is never seen). Klune would thus sign all the extras' vouchers and finish the paperwork while still in costume. He also had to eat lunch in his dressing room, as the studio thought it would be inappropriate for "Jesus" to eat in the commissary at Fox.

The opening shot after the title credits (and the background "red robe" curtain parts) is actually a scene lifted from this film's sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).

The set of Cana, the village of Galilea where Marcellus Gallio meets Peter, was a redress of sets originally built for Algiers (1936), that had stood on the studio backlot for seventeen years. The sets were later used in Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) - this film's sequel - as the Christian neighborhood in Rome where Demetrius lives in the beginning of the movie. The well with the old broken columns can be easily recognized.

Based on the book of the same title by Lloyd C. Douglas

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