Waterloo Bridge, 1940, Is Playing on TCM on November 15 (USA)

Waterloo Bridge, 1940, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, November 15 at 6:00 p.m. est.  Closed captioned.

This was both Robert Taylor’s and Vivien Leigh’s favorite film.  Waterloo Bridge cost  $1,164,000.00 to make and made a profit of  $491,000.00.

????Robert Taylor was an inspired choice for the role… Not only does he have an imposing screen presence, but he brings the perfect mix of enlightenment, humor, compassion and emotion to the part…

Opposite him, Oscar Winner Vivien Leigh, perfect in her innocent lovely look, radiantly beautiful, specially that evening in a trailing white chiffon gown… Leigh floods her role with personal emotion giving her character a charismatic life of its own… As a great star, she delivers a heartfelt performance turning her character into a woman who undergoes an emotional awakening…

In this sensitive motion picture, Mervyn LeRoy captures all the tenderness and moving qualities… He makes every small thing eloquent, concentrating the highly skilled efforts of many technicians on the telling of a very simple bittersweet love story… Vivien Leigh paints a picture that few men will be able to resist… Her performance captures the audience to the point of complete absorption… Robert Taylor (carrying sympathy all the way) quietly throws all his vitality as an ambitious actor into the task… Their film, a credit to both, is a heavily sentimental tale about the vagaries of wartime…

Love is the only thing this movie is about… The story is simple: Myra Lester (Leigh) is a frail creature, an innocent young ballet dancer and Roy Cronin (Taylor) is an aristocratic British army officer… When their eyes met it took no time at all for their hearts to feel the loving call… They meet on London’s Waterloo Bridge during an air raid, and fall deeply in love… Their romance is sublime, and they soon agree to marry…

The lover’s marriage has to be postponed when the handsome officer is suddenly called to the front… Sadly, the sweet ballerina misses her performance to see her captain off at Waterloo Station… Fired from the troupe, she is joined by her loyal friend, Virginia Field (Kitty Meredith), and the two vainly try to find work, finally sinking into poverty and the threatening fear that goes with it…

The film is replete with beautiful and poignant scenes, specially the ‘Auld Lang Syne’ waltz scene in the Candlelight Club, before Taylor leaves for France…

Seen today, Waterloo Bridge has retained all its charm and power, all its rich sentiment, and tragic evocations…  Review by Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico for the IMDB.

RT7451Some behind the scenes photos:

circa 1940: British actors Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) and Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) entertaining millionaire Sir Victor Sassoon on the set of 'Waterloo Bridge', a Metro Goldwyn Mayer film in which Leigh is currently starring. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)RT6277RT3894
Left to right: Vivien Leigh, Sir Victor Sassoon, Laurence Olivier; Director Mervyn LeRoy, Ms. Leigh, Mr. Taylor: Mr. Taylor, Mr. LeRoy, Ms. Leigh

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Left to right: Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh; Mr. Taylor; Ms. Leigh, Mr. LeRoy, Mr. Taylor

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Behind the Scenes of Party Girl, 1958

The information and quotations below come from Bernard Eisenschitz, Nicholas Ray: An American Journey, University of Minnesota Press, 1990.

In 1958 Nicholas Ray signed a contract with Euterpe, a Joe Pasternak company attached to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to make Party Girl.  The script had undergone seven or eight revisions from a story by Leo Katcher.  Ray was presented with his two stars, Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse and a complete group of sets, done in 1957 from an earlier version of the script.  Shooting began on March 10, 1958.

Unfortunately, things were delayed by Cyd Charisse’s lengthy illness, which cost the studio $26,681 (page 537).  Next was a musician’s strike:

“To get around the difficulties caused by the strike, choreographer Robert Sidney left for Mexico, where he rehearsed the two numbers with doubles.  They were finally shot without sound between 10 and 22 July, with fake trumpet players, a piano accompaniment, and bongo drummers, after which, once the strike was over, Andre Previn–uncredited–composed the score. (pages 341-342).

“Anxious to fit in with the studio style, Sidney did not get on well with Ray.  A natural alliance formed between producer, female lead and what Ray described as this ‘very efficient’ and ‘very dull’ choreography.” (page 342)

Filming took 42 days, six over schedule.  The initial budget was 1,648,616. The final cost was $1,695,491 plus $44,775 for post production work.

“The cast held some pleasant surprises for him.  He was unable to break through Cyd Charisse’s impassivity.  To justify his belief in her as an actress, he tried in vain to persuade the front office to let him do a confrontation between her and Lee J. Cobb.  Failing this, he invented images or bits of business for her: her red dress against a sofa of a different shade of red, droplets of water glistening on her face after she buries it in a bunch of roses, the moment when she drops her fur coat as she walks towards Taylor.” (pages 342-343).

Cyd Charisse, talking to Jean-Claude Missiaen (French writer and director), spoke about his (Ray’s) absences but also about his vulnerability and his strangeness, what she saw as unfathomable direction like ‘taking roses and inhaling deeply, as though you were inhaling a joint.'” (page 342)

Robert Taylor had been a star since the 1930s and proved his versatility in over sixty films. 1958 was a good year for him. He made Saddle the Wind and The Law and Jake Wade as well as Party Girl.

“Robert Taylor…is handled with sympathy, discreetly and intelligently directed so as to use both his strengths and his weaknesses.  The signs of aging (Taylor was born two days before Ray), an actor’s vanity, his tiredness, are evident.  ‘My first image of Taylor,’ Ray told Peter van Bagh, ‘dates from the 1930s. I was working in a mining area in southwest Pennsylvania, where most people had been laid off recently and nearly everyone lived in poverty. I went to a cinema in a town nearby and first saw  the favorite actor of the day, Paul Muni.  My impression was that he was always playing in front of a mirror.  Then came Camille and Robert Taylor, pale, handsome, remote.  Two decades later, I saw Taylor working for me like a true Method actor.’  Since childhood, Thomas Farrell has suffered from a crippled leg which he exploits theatrically.  ‘I wanted Taylor to feel the injury, so that he could be aware of what part of his body he pain was in at all times when he moved.’  Ray took him to see an osteologist from whom he had once received treatment and the actor won Ray’s admiration by the professional thoroughness with which he examined X-rays and questioned the specialist.  [Note: Mr. Taylor’s father was an osteopath.]  ‘After that, he needed no kind of aid to create his limping.  It is only very rarely that you find this kind of ambition, sensitivity and humbleness which Taylor stood for.” (page 343)

The following is from Linda Alexander: Reluctant Witness, Robert Taylor.Hollywood and Communism.  2nd edition, Bear Manor Media, 2016, page 342

“[Robert Taylor] had a formula to decide how to pick his projects.  ‘The play’s the thing,’ he stated. ‘The one thing I don’t look for is Robert Taylor stories.  I fit myself to the part, not the part to me.’ This became fully evident after twenty four years, he stepped out of MGM’s shadow…….one of the few remaining senior executives said, ‘In all the years he worked on this lot, he never once behaved like an actor.'”

Cyd Charisse enjoyed working with Robert Taylor.  The following is from Charles Tranberg, Robert Taylor, a Biography, Bear Manor Media, 2011, page 292.

“From Rock Hudson to Robert Taylor, I worked with two of the handsomest–and nicest–of men in successive pictures.  Party Girl, which I did with Bob, was a good role for me and a good picture…I had known Bob Taylor before because he was  good friend of Tony’s [her husband, singer Tony Martin].  He was a very pleasant man, but kept himself aloof on the set, just palling around with his own cronies.  He drank coffee all day long and chain smoked.  I have a hunch that, around four or five, there was something in the cup besides coffee. It didn’t affect him; he was always a gentleman on the set and a thoroughly professional artist.”

The film did well at the box office, earning MGM a profit of $454,000 ($3.83 million in 2017), according to studio records.  The film pulled in a higher gross overseas than in the USA and Canada, a rare event for the time. (IMDB)

Some promotional materials for Party Girl:

Some behind the scenes shots:

 

 

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Johnny Eager, 1942, Is Playing on TCM on November 9 and 10 (USA)

Johnny Eager, 1942, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday November 9 at midnight and on Sunday, November 10 at 10 a.m. November 9 is not closed captioned. November 10  captioned.  This is one of Mr. Taylor’s best. Don’t miss it.

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Robert Taylor and Lana Turner in “Johnny Eager.”

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Cast: Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, Edward Arnold, Van Heflin, Robert Sterling, Patricia Dane, Glenda Farrell, Barry Nelson. Slick MGM melodrama with convoluted plot about sociology student (and daughter of D.A. Arnold) Turner falling in love with unscrupulous racketeer Taylor. Heflin won Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Taylor’s alcoholic friend.(TCM)

Having only been familiar with Robert Taylor’s body of forgettable [humpf!] work from the thirties (The Broadway Melodies, Camille, etc), seeing him in the title role of Johnny Eager 1972425_924571320890637_3709082624071824968_nwas stunning. Tom Hanks’s 180 degree turn from silly comedies to Philadelphia might be a modern day equivalent. Taylor steps into a role that would seem tailor made for Bogart, Cagney or Robinson, and does an arguably better job than any of them could have. Yes, Lana Turner is present, and yes, Van Heflin won a supporting Oscar, but Taylor owns this film.

Johnny Eager is one of the best films of the 40s, as well as one of the all time greats.
(Taken from a review by Justin Behnke on the IMDB).

Some behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: Robert Taylor and Meryn LeRoy; Mr. Taylor and Lana Turner; filming

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor and Director LeRoy; Mr. LeRoy directs Mr. Taylor and Ms. Turner; Mr. Taylor and Mr. LeRoy go over the script.

 

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Small Town Girl, 1936, Is Playing on TCM on October 21 (USA)

Small Town Girl, 1936, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, October 21 at 8:45 a.m. Closed captioned.

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Robert Taylor and Janet Gaynor

For most of her career Janet Gaynor did nothing but play small town girls, the best known being Esther Blodgett. But I’ve seen her in films like State Fair and Three Loves Has Nancy and it’s the same part, the girl from the tiny hamlet who conquers the big city and the men in it. With a title like this, there was only one casting possibility.

Janet’s a girl who’s thoroughly stuck in a rut in her New England hamlet and yearns for a little adventure. She finds it in the person of Robert Taylor, a young doctor who comes from a wealthy Boston family. After a night’s carousing Gaynor and Taylor are married, to the chagrin of his fiancée, Binnie Barnes and her boyfriend James Stewart.

Remember this is Boston so Taylor’s father Lewis Stone prevails on Taylor to give the marriage a few months trial. Of course this is where the balance of the story comes in. In many ways this plot seems like a harbinger of The Way We Were.

Taylor’s career was now in full swing as Small Town Girl was the next film after his breakout performance in Magnificent Obsession. Remember in that film he was a playboy who became a doctor. Here’s he’s a doctor who doubles as a playboy. Never mind though, feminine hearts all over the English speaking world were fluttering over MGM’s latest heartthrob. My mother who was a juvenile at this time told me that Taylor’s appeal back in these days was just about the same as Elvis’s.

James Stewart was at the beginning of his career as well as MGM had him in about seven features in 1936, mostly in support. Interesting though with worse career management, he could have gone on playing hick roles like Elmer the boyfriend. But it was also obvious there was a spark of stardom with him as well.

Gaynor would leave the screen a few years later, Taylor was at the beginning of his career. He’d have better acting roles in his future, but for now Small Town Girl is a great example of the screen heartthrob he was at the beginning of his stardom. Fans of both stars will like what they see in Small Town Girl. Review by bkoganbing from Buffalo, NewYork

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Taylor has Gaynor upside-down.

 

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

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Left to right: Robert Taylor and Janet Gaynor taking a break on the set; filming a scene; Taylor and Gaynor with singer Frances Langford.

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Ivanhoe, 1952, Is playing on October 19 (USA)

Ivanhoe, 1952 is playing on Turner Classic Movies on October 19 at 6 a.m. Not closed captioned.

Ivanhoe was one of the most successful films of the year and brought in over $10 million at the box office, about $89,823,018.87 in 2015.

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Robert Taylor and Liz Taylor in Ivanhoe.

Wonderful movie! This film is an exciting adventure-romance which never once loses its pace or feel. Robert Taylor brings depth to a potentially dull lead character. Jean Fontaine is great as his love, the Lady Rowenna. Elizabeth Taylor, though, steals the show with her stunning portrayal of Rebecca of York! This film has aged very well and shows first-hand to a young generation just why Elizabeth Taylor was such a star.

Although this film is an extremely enjoyable adventure, it also has the guts to tackle some complicated issues and resolve them in a very non-Hollywood fashion. As Ivanhoe feels his love for the beautiful Rebecca grow will he defy convention and pursue the lovely Jewish girl or remain with the safe charms of the blond, Anglo-Saxon Rowena?  The answer is intelligently handled and surprising. This film is one of the greatest examples of the classic adventure.  Review by David Arbury for the IMDB

Here are a few behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor and Peter Ustinov; waiting; with unknown person.

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Left to right: with Joan Fontaine who played Rowena; with Ms. Fontaine and director Richard Thorpe.

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Left to right: with Elizabeth Taylor; with Liz and Emlyn Williams

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Left to right: with George Sanders and Liz Taylor; with Liz Taylor.

 

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Valley of the Kings, 1954, Is Playing on TCM on September 27 (USA)

Valley of the Kings, 1954, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, September 27 at 8 a.m. Not closed captioned.  This is another of my favorite Taylor pictures–he never looked sexier than he does here.  Mark Brandon, the ruggedly handsome archaeologist played by Robert Taylor is thought to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

RT5571This is one of my favorite Robert Taylor pictures. Eleanor Parker and he had wonderful chemistry and both of them looked their best in this exotic action-adventure film.  The following is my review for the IMDb.

This isn’t a serious or “meaningful” film. It is pure entertainment, beautifully photographed on location in Egypt. The stars, Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker, had great chemistry both off-screen and on. Taylor manages to be glamorous even when trapped in a sandstorm. The plot is relatively thin with Parker seeking to validate part of the Old Testament by finding the tomb of the Pharaoh who reigned in the time of the Biblical Joseph. She bats her eyelashes at Taylor who comes along happily. Then she introduces her husband, Carlos Thompson. There are horse and carriage chases, murders, the aforementioned sandstorm, a spectacular fight at Abu Simbel, a scorpion attack–all in ninety minutes. Given the slower pace of movies in the 1950s, there is also time for Taylor and Parker to discover each other more thoroughly (over some fermented goat). Egyptian belly dancer Samia Gamal shakes her stuff at the demure Parker. Highly enjoyable.

RT2304One of the best screen kisses–ever!

Some behind the scenes photos:

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From left: Robert Taylor horsing around with a donkey; looking insecure on a camel.

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From left: Robert Taylor with belly dancer Samia Gamal; with Kurt Kazsnar and Carlos Thompson; at the sphinx.

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From left: Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker at the Mena House Hotel; touring by carriage.

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From left: Mr. Taylor and Ms. Parker in Egypt.

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From left: Mr. Taylor and Ms. Parker, taking pictures; with director Robert Pirosh; saying hello to a camel.

Actress Eleanor Parker, on her kneels, helps Robert Taylor, dressed up as an archaeologist, to lace up a boot on the set of the movie 'Valley of the Kings'. Egypt, 1954. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Actress Eleanor Parker, on her knees, helps Robert Taylor, dressed up as an archaeologist, to lace up a boot on the set of the movie ‘Valley of the Kings’. Egypt, 1954. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Mr. Taylor injured his knee jumping off a camel and may have had difficulty lacing his boots.  They both look happy about it.

 

 

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High Wall, 1947 + Quo Vadis, 1950, are Playing on TCM on Sept. 10 (USA)

My two favorite Robert Taylor movies, High Wall, 1947 and Quo Vadis, 1950 are playing on our anniversary, September 10.  High Wall is at 9 a.m. and Quo Vadis is at 3:15 p.m.  Both films are closed captioned.  No other two films illustrate as clearly the range of Mr. Taylor’s talent.

I highly recommend High Wall.  Robert Taylor is playing totally against type as an injured war veteran who has a haematoma on his brain that is causing him to act irrationally.  This is so far from the glamorous Taylor we know and love and demonstrates his amazing range as an actor.

High Wall is a departure for Robert Taylor. In the 30’s he portrayed mostly handsome society boys. In 1941 he toughened up his image with Johnny Eager. This is an entirely different path. The lead character, Steven Kenet, has returned from a job flying freight in Asia after his service in WW II. He’s eager to see his wife and displeased to find out she has a job. Kenet is even more displeased when he discovers she is having an affair with her boss. To complicate matters, he has a brain injury and is suffering blackouts and other symptoms. Seeing his wife in her lover’s apartment triggers rage and violence. The wife is dead and Kenet is the only suspect. He confesses and is committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation. The unique thing about the film to me is Taylor’s ability to play vulnerability. Kenet is neither a pretty boy nor a villain. He is a man in torment.

Taylor uses his shoulders beautifully to portray hopelessness. They droop in the scenes where the character is locked in solitary confinement. After his operation they are straight. The confusion on his face when he’s offered an opportunity to see his son at the hospital is masterful as he passes through a range of emotions moving from delight to doubt to anger to confusion. There is a remarkable sequence in which Kenet is dragged off after attacking a visitor. Taylor’s body positions change constantly–this is hardly the “wooden” acting for which he is so often condemned. Another great sequence is his walk up the stairs at the end to see his son. Kenet’s face radiates joy. The camera work is stylish and the chiaroscuro is masterful. This movie was apparently not well received in its time probably because it isn’t the “Robert Taylor” people expected and it is largely forgotten now. It deserves to be remembered. Review by me for the IMDb.

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

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Robert Taylor with co-stars Audrey Totter and  Bobby Hyatt.

The 1st century Roman Empire, the fire of Rome, early Christianity, martyrdom…this historical content was dealt with in many films before and after 1951. Yet, it is LeRoy’s Quo Vadis most viewers associate with the infamous period of Roman history, the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68). Why? There are, I think, several reasons. One is, definitely, the source, a Noble Prize winner novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The Polish writer, being an acknowledged historian, contained detailed historical facts and a vivid fictitious story in his novel. As a result, Quo Vadis is a universal masterpiece, absolutely worth reading for anyone. But, since the film, though an adaptation of the book, skips many events or even characters, we may treat Mervyn LeRoy’s Quo Vadis as a separate Hollywood production. In this respect, the movie is also well known as a gigantic spectacle with great cast, lavish sets, crowds of extras, which constitutes a magnificent journey to ancient Rome, the Rome which was on the verge of becoming “Neropolis”. Then, a viewer does not have to know the novel and will enjoy the film.

THE STORY: If we consider Quo Vadis? as an entertaining movie only (which is, of course, a limited view), then anyone more acquainted with cinema will find much in common with Cecil B DeMille’s great epic The Sign of the Cross (1932). Yet, comparison does not work that well concerning the perspective of Quo Vadis (1951). After deeper analysis of the films, a lot of differences occur. While DeMille’s film based on Wilson Barret’s play shows early Christianity in Rome, it foremost concentrates on the clash between the new religion and the Roman order being put in danger. LeRoy’s movie, since based on Henryk Sienkiewicz’s, focuses on the undeniable victory of Christianity. Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor) at first finds a new faith meaningless. He has reasonable arguments from the Roman point of view (what about slaves, conquest, enemy treating, etc). Yet gradually, thanks to love for Lygia (Deborah Kerr) and the courageous faith of the martyrs, he shouts out with confidence “Christ, give him strength!” The story of Nero and “the imperial companions” is also much more developed. Yet, Nero (Peter Ustinov) is not only the one who heads for delicious debauchery but also wishes the crowd to have one throat that could be cut. He is an artist who burns Rome in order to create a song. He is a coward who blames the innocent for his own guilts. He is a cynic who collects tears in a weeping phial after the death of his “best friend” Petronius (Leo Genn). Finally, he is a lunatic who praises his “divine ego” and screams at his death seeing no future for Rome without him.

CAST: Anyone who has seen ancient epics must admit that most of them can boast great performances. Nevertheless, I believe that Quo Vadis is one of the top movies in this matter. Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr are a gorgeous couple portraying a Roman leader  and a Christian girl. Taylor naturally expresses a change of heart. Kerr appealingly portrays innocence, gentleness and true love. Leo Genn is excellent as Petronius, a man of art and elegance who is fed up with Nero’s “secondary songs and meaningless poems.” Peter Ustinov gives a fabulous performance as Nero combining all wicked features of his character. I also loved Patricia Laffan as lustful empress Poppaea with her two pet leopards. There is no milk bath of hers, she does not imitate Ms Colbert but Laffan’s Poppaea is foremost a woman of sin, a woman of lust, and a woman of revenge. The Christians, except for a number of extras, are portrayed by very authentic-looking actors: Abraham Sofaer as Paul and Finlay Currie as Peter…not more to say than that they look identical to the old paintings.

SPECTACLE: The movie is a visually stunning epic that can be compared in its magnificence to Ben Hur (1959) and even Gladiator (2000). There are numerous breathtaking moments: arena scenes, lions, bull fighting, triumph in the streets, and foremost the fire of Rome. We see the real horror within the walls of the burning city. A moment that is also worth consideration is Vinicius hurrying to Rome on a chariot being chased by two other men. When he comes nearer, we see the red sky… The authenticity is increased by a lovely landscape of Cinecitta Studios near Rome where the film was shot. For the sake of spectacle, I went once to see Quo Vadis on a big screen in cinema and felt as if I watched a new film made with modern techniques. It was a wonderful experience.

All in all, I think that Quo Vadis by Mervyn LeRoy is a movie that has stood a test of time. Although it is 55 years old, it is still admired in many places of the world. It’s one of these movies that are the treasures of my film gallery. Not only a colossal spectacle, not only great performances but a very profound historical content at which Henryk Sienkiewicz was best.

Quo Vadis Domine? Where are you going, Lord? These are the words that Peter asked Christ while leaving Rome. After the answer that Peter heard from his Lord, he turned back… in order to proclaim peace to the martyrs and to be crucified. Yet, where once stood decadent “Neropolis” now stands the Holy See where people yearly pilgrim to the tombs of the martyrs and where the blessing “Urbi et Orbi” is goes to all the corners of the world. Sienkiewicz writes about it in the touching final words of the novel. Yet, LeRoy changes it a bit in the film…

A small group of Christians who survived, including Lygia and Marcus, are on a journey. But after a short stop at the place where Peter met Christ, the journey seems to turn into a pilgrimage towards “the Way, the Truth and the Life”   Review by Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland for the IMDB

Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Mervyn LeRoy touring Rome:

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The Hollywood Crew Arriving in Rome: writer John Lee Mahin, producer Sam Zimbalist, director Mervyn LeRoy, Robert Taylor

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Overlooking the Roman Forum
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A Carriage Tour Arrives at the Colosseum


Bored before the photo; fascinated while being photographed.


Mr. Taylor doing his own photography

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