Quo Vadis Film (1951)

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Quo Vadis is a 1951 American epic film made by MGM in Technicolor. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Sam Zimbalist, from a screenplay by John Lee Mahin, adapted from Henryk Sienkiewicz's classic 1896 novel Quo Vadis. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa and the cinematography by Robert Surtees and William V. Skall. The title refers to an incident in the Acts of Peter; see Quo Vadis?.

The film stars Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Leo Genn, Peter Ustinov, with Patricia Laffan, Finlay Currie, Felix Aylmer and Abraham Sofaer. Sophia Loren was cast in the movie as an (uncredited) extra, and Sergio Leone worked on it as an assistant director of the Italian company.

Quo Vadis (1951) Arena Fight - Man vs Bull. 6 min.

The title (Quo vadis, Domine? Where do you go, Lord?) refers to an incident in the life of Saint Peter. The Roman Emperor persecuted the Christians and had them killed by lions, in the arena of the coliseum. The movie also relates how Nero burned Rome, so that he could write a poem.

Quo Vadis - Debora Kerr and Robert Taylor. 3 min.


The action takes place in ancient Rome from AD 64–68, a period after Emperor Claudius' illustrious and powerful reign, during which the new corrupt and destructive Emperor Nero ascends to power and eventually threatens to destroy Rome's previous peaceful order. The main subject is the conflict between Christianity and the corruption of the Roman Empire, especially in the last period of the Julio-Claudian line. The characters and events depicted are a mixture of actual historical figures and situations and fictionalized ones.

The film tells the story of a Roman military commander, Marcus Vinicius (Robert Taylor), returning from the wars, who falls in love with a devout Christian, Lygia (Deborah Kerr), and slowly becomes intrigued by her religion. Their love story is told against the broader historical background of early Christianity and its persecution by Nero (Peter Ustinov). Though she grew up Roman as the adopted daughter of a retired general, Aulus Plautius (Felix Aylmer), Lygia is technically a hostage of Rome. Marcus persuades Nero to give her to him for services rendered. Lygia resents this, but still falls in love with Marcus.

Meanwhile, Nero's atrocities become increasingly more outrageous and his acts more insane. When he burns Rome and blames the Christians, Marcus goes off to save Lygia and her family. Nero captures them and all the Christians, and condemns them to be killed in the arena. However, Marcus' uncle, Petronius (Leo Genn), Nero's most trusted advisor, warns that the Christians will be made martyrs and, tired of Nero's insanity and suspecting that he might become a victim of his antics too, commits suicide by lethal injection, sending Nero a farewell letter in which he finally communicates his derisive opinions he had never been able to tell the emperor in fear of his own life. Marcus is arrested for trying to save Lygia. In prison, Peter (Finlay Currie), who has also been arrested after returning to Rome upon a sign of the Lord, marries the couple; eventually, he is crucified upside-down as an ironic twist at the whim of Nero's guard.

Poppaea (Patricia Laffan), Nero's wife, who lusts after Marcus, devises a diabolical revenge for his rejection of her. Lygia is tied to a wooden stake in the arena. A wild bull is also placed there, and Lygia's bodyguard giant, Ursus (Buddy Baer) must try to kill it with his bare hands, otherwise Lygia will be gored to death. Marcus is tied to the spectator's box and forced to watch, much to the horror of his officers, who also attend the spectacle. When all seems hopeless, Ursus is able to break the bull's neck. Hugely impressed by Ursus' courage, the crowd exhorts Nero to spare them, which the emperor is not willing to do. However, Nero's four other retainers Seneca (Nicholas Hannen), architect Phaon (D. A. Clarke-Smith), Lucan (Alfredo Varelli), and Terpnos (Geoffrey Dunn) vouch for the mob's demands by putting their thumbs up as well. Marcus then breaks free of his bonds, leaps into the arena, frees Lygia with the help of his loyal troops from his legion, and announces that General Galba is at that moment marching on Rome, intent on replacing Nero.

The crowd, now firmly believing that Nero, and not the Christians, is responsible for the burning of Rome, revolts. Nero flees to his palace, where he strangles Poppaea to death, blaming her for attempting to scapegoat the Christians. Then Acte (Rosalie Crutchley), a palace slave who was once in unrequited love with Nero, appears and offers to aid him in ending his own life before the mob storms the palace. The cowardly Nero cannot bring himself to do it, so Acte drives the dagger into his chest, weeping over his demise.

Marcus, Lygia and Ursus are now free and leave Rome. By the roadside, Peter's crook, which he had left behind when he returned to Rome, has miraculously sprouted flowers. The radiant light intones, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

Cast Robert Taylor as Marcus Vinicius Deborah Kerr as Lygia Leo Genn as Petronius Peter Ustinov as Nero Patricia Laffan as Poppaea Finlay Currie as Peter Abraham Sofaer as Paul Marina Berti as Eunice Buddy Baer as Ursus Felix Aylmer as Plautius Nora Swinburne as Pomponia Ralph Truman as Tigellinus Norman Wooland as Nerva Peter Miles as Nazarius Geoffrey Dunn as Terpnos Walter Pidgeon as Narrator at beginning of film (uncredited)


The musical score by Miklós Rózsa is notable for its attention to historical authenticity. Rozsa incorporated a number of fragments of ancient Greek melodies into his own choral-orchestral score. New recordings were made by Rózsa with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1977) and by Nic Raine, conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic (2012); the latter, being a world-premiere presentation of the complete score, beautifully reconstructed by orchestrator, Leigh Phillips.

Production notes

The film was originally cast in 1949 with Elizabeth Taylor as Lygia and Gregory Peck as Marcus Vinicius. When the production changed hands the following year, the roles went to Deborah Kerr and Robert Taylor. Elizabeth Taylor was also a Christian prisoner in arena, but uncredited.

Sophia Loren briefly appears uncredited as a slave. The Italian actor Bud Spencer also had an uncredited extra role as a Praetorian Guardsman.

The film holds a record for the most costumes used in one movie; 32,000.

The film was shot on location in Rome and in the Cinecittŕ Studios.

Peter Ustinov relates in his autobiography, Dear Me, that director Mervyn LeRoy summarized the manner in which he envisioned Ustinov should play the Emperor Nero. Ustinov, getting the director's gist, thereafter notes that this depraved manner was the basis of his creation of the character of Nero for the film.

At one point in the film Nero shows his court a scale model illustrating his plans for rebuilding Rome. This model was originally constructed by Mussolini's government for a 1937 exhibition of Roman architecture—the film's producers borrowed it from the postwar Italian government.[3][4]

The first usage of the phrase 'Hollywood on the Tiber', which has since come to refer to a golden era of American runaway film production in Italy was used as the title of an article in the 26 June 1950 issue of Time.[5]

Box office performance

The film was a commercial success. Produced on a budget of $7 million,[1] the film earned $10.5 million in theatrical rentals in its initial run.[6] Altogether, Quo Vadis grossed $30 million at the box office,[2] making it the highest grossing film of 1951.


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 also 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 a single Academy Award.[7]

Much of the footage of Rome burning was reused in George Pal's 1961 MGM production Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Reportedly, at a preview screening of the film, when patrons were asked to answer the question "What part of the film did you like best?" one responded by writing, "The part where Robert Taylor rescues Deborah Kerr," having recognized the footage from the earlier film.[8]

Peter Ustinov won the Golden Globe Award 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.

Saint Peter (Latin: Petrus, Ancient Greek: Petros; died AD 64 or 67[3]), also known as Simon Peter, was an early Christian leader, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ according to the New Testament, and the first bishop of Rome. Peter is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and is venerated as a saint and the first Pope by the Catholic Church,[3] the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Oriental Orthodoxy.[4] The son of John (or Jonah or Jona),[5] he was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee or Gaulanitis. His brother Andrew was also an apostle.

Two general epistles are ascribed to Peter. The Gospel of Mark was traditionally thought to show the influence of Peter's preaching and eyewitness memories. Several other books bearing his name—the Acts of Peter, Gospel of Peter, Preaching of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Judgment of Peter—are rejected by the Catholic Church as apocryphal.[8][9][10]

According to New Testament accounts, Peter was one of twelve apostles chosen by Jesus from his first disciples. Originally a fisherman, he was assigned a leadership role and was with Jesus during events witnessed by only a few apostles, such as the Transfiguration. According to the Gospels, he confessed Jesus as the Messiah,[11] was part of Jesus' inner circle,[12] walked on water,[13] denied Jesus,[14] and preached on the day of Pentecost.[15]

According to Christian tradition, Peter is said to have been crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ. Catholic tradition holds that Saint Peter's site of crucifixion is located in the Clementine Chapel, while his mortal bones and remains are contained in the underground Confessio of St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Paul VI announced the excavated discovery of a first-century Roman cemetery in 1968. Every June 29 since 1736, a statue of Saint Peter has been crowned in St. Peter's Basilica with a papal tiara, ring of the fisherman, and papal vestments, as part of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Saint Peter -- article in Wikipedia.

Nero -- article in Wikipedia.

Quo Vadis in Spanish. -- Quo Vadis en espanol.
Quo Vadis in Hungarian
Quo Vadis in Portuguese
Quo Vadis in Czech
Quo Vadis in Spanish

Conversion of Scott Hahn