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Demetrius and the Gladiators
Alternate Title: The Story of Demetrius
Director: Delmer Daves (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1954
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 16 Jun 1954; New York opening: 18 Jun 1954
Production Date:   25 May--early Jul 1953; addl seq 16 Sep--17 Sep 1953
Duration (in mins):   99 or 101
Duration (in feet):   8,977
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Victor Mature (Demetrius)  
    Susan Hayward (Messalina)  
    Michael Rennie (Peter, The Big Fisherman)  
    Debra Paget (Lucia)  
    Anne Bancroft (Paula)  
    Jay Robinson (Caligula)  
    Barry Jones (Claudius)  
    William Marshall (Glycon)  
    Richard Egan (Dardanius)  
    Ernest Borgnine (Strabo)  
    Charles Evans (Cassius Chaerea)  
  Characters from The Robe: Richard Burton (Marcellus Gallio)  
    Jean Simmons (Diana)  
    Don Klune (Jesus Christ)  
  and David Leonard (Marcipor)  
    Everett Glass (Kaeso)  
    Karl Davis (Macro)  
    Jeff York (Albus)  
    Carmen de Lavallade (Slave girl)  
    John Cliff (Varus)  
    Barbara James (Specialty dancer)  
    Willetta Smith (Specialty dancer)  
    Selmar Jackson (Senator)  
    Douglas Brooks (Cousin)  
    Fred Graham (Decurion)  
    Dayton Lummis (Magistrate)  
    George Eldredge (Chamberlain)  
    Paul Richards (Prisoner)  
    Ray Spiker (Gladiator)  
    Gilbert Perkins (Gladiator)  
    Mickey Simpson (Gladiator)  
    George Barrows (Gladiator)  
    Paul Stader (Gladiator)  
    Fortune Gordien (Gladiator)  
    Jim Winkler (Gladiator)  
    Lyle Fox (Gladiator)  
    Dick Sands (Gladiator)  
    George Bruggeman (Gladiator)  
    Jack Finlay (Gladiator)  
    Woody Strode (Gladiator)  
    Paul Kruger (Courtier)  
    Peter Mamakos (Physician)  
    Shepard Menken (Physician)  
    Allan Kramer (Clerk)  
    Paul Newlan (Potter)  
    Robert E. Griffin (Flavius)  
    Frank Hagney (School guard)  
    Gisele Verlaine (Blowzy girl)  
    Harry Cording (Prisoner guard)  
    William Forrest (Centurian)  

Summary: After the death of Jesus Christ, Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio, who converted to Christianity after participating in Christ’s crucifixion, is sentenced to death by the mad Emperor Caligula for refusing to renounce his faith. Marcellus’ beloved, Diana, accompanies him as he walks toward the arena, and just before they leave the palace, she gives the robe worn by Christ to Marcellus’ devoted servant, Marcipor. That night, at the palace, Caligula questions his uncle, the scholarly Claudius, about Christianity, and whether Marcellus and Diana will live forever, as their Messiah promised. Claudius’ beautiful, younger wife Messalina, whose ambition and infidelities are well-known throughout Rome, tells Caligula about the robe and encourages his belief that it is a magic talisman capable of protecting him from death. The next day, Marcipor gives the robe to one of Christ’s disciples, Peter, “The Big Fisherman,” and Peter attempts to comfort the Greek Demetrius, Marcellus’ former slave and good friend. Peter decides to travel and leaves the robe with Demetrius, and later, Demetrius visits his friend Kaeso in the run-down section of Rome, which is primarily inhabited by Christians. Kaeso’s innocent daughter Lucia is awestruck by the robe and also by Demetrius, with whom she is infatuated. Caligula’s Praetorian Guards arrive, offering a reward for the robe, and Demetrius is able to hide it in Kaeso’s rooms, although he then fights with the soldiers over their rough treatment of Lucia. Demetrius is tried for assaulting a Praetorian guard, and because he cannot prove that Marcellus freed him, he is sentenced to the arena. Demetrius is taken to the gladiator school run by Strabo, who tells the newcomers that if they fight hard, they can win their liberty, then introduces them to the gladiators, including the arrogant Dardanius and Glycon, a Nubian. Claudius, who owns Strabo’s school, visits with Messalina, and orders Strabo to arrange a good show the following day, which is Caligula’s birthday. While they are there, Demetrius makes an unsuccessful escape attempt, and when questioned about his motives, explains that as a Christian, he cannot kill. The lascivious Messalina, always eager to manipulate men, insists that Strabo force Demetrius to fight. That night, Messalina provides the gladiators with food and entertainment, and watches as Dardanius taunts Demetrius, who refuses to fight back. Glycon, who admires Demetrius for adhering to his principles, strikes Dardanius down, and Messalina orders Strabo to pit Glycon and Demetrius against each other in the arena. The next day, Glycon tells Demetrius to pretend to fight, and if they entertain the crowd well enough, they might be allowed to live. The crowd boos their mock fighting, however, and when Glycon attacks Demetrius for real, Demetrius easily disarms him. Demetrius refuses to follow Caligula’s orders to kill his new friend, and although Caligula frees Glycon, he orders Demetrius to face three fierce tigers. Though wounded, Demetrius succeeds in slaying the beasts, and later, Messalina oversees Demetrius’ recovery. After Demetrius recuperates, Messalina decides to make him her personal bodyguard until he can return to the arena, although Claudius, weary of his wife’s adulteries, warns her not to break the Christian’s spirit. Later, Messalina’s attempt to seduce Demetrius is interrupted by a summons from Caligula, who accuses her of conspiring to assassinate him. Messalina’s quick wits save her, although she admits to Demetrius that she is guilty, and rails against being a woman in a world ruled by crazed or weak men. Frustrated when Demetrius again rejects her, Messalina sends him back to Strabo. Meanwhile, Paula, one of the courtesans who entertains the gladiators, finds Kaeso and Lucia and tells them of Demetrius’ circumstances. Lucia begs Paula to take her to Demetrius, and although Paula is reluctant to involve the young woman, she takes her to a party that night at the gladiator school. Lucia is thrilled to be reunited with Demetrius, but when the jealous Messalina sees them together, she orders that Demetrius not fight the following day, and therefore not be allowed entertainment that night. While Demetrius is caged, Dardanius and his companions attack Lucia, and Demetrius’ prayers for her safety apparently go unaswered. Believing Lucia to be dead, Demetrius storms into the arena the following day and kills Dardanius and his men, and the prefect Cassius Chaerea asks Caligula to appoint Demetrius to the guards. After Demetrius renounces his faith in God, Caligula agrees, and soon Demetrius has joined the Praetorians and become Messalina’s lover. At Messalina’s villa, Demetrius and his lover enjoy their debauched life, much to the dismay of Glycon, who has secretly contacted Peter and become a Christian. Peter visits Demetrius and asks him to return to his former life, but Demetrius, bitter about the deaths of Marcellus and Lucia, rejects him. Later, all of Rome is in turmoil due to food shortages and taxes imposed by Caligula. Infuriated, Caligula threatens to crucify the guards if they do not protect him, although Claudius warns him that his power depends on their good will. Messalina then tells Caligula that Peter, who they believe has the robe, is in Rome, and Caligula orders his chief guard, Macro, to go with Demetrius to find the garment. Demetrius accompanies the guards to the Christian section of Rome, and there, meeting Peter, tells him to return the robe before the soldiers destroy Kaeso’s home. Once inside, however, Demetrius is stunned to see that Lucia is alive, although she is in a coma and will not let go of the robe, to which she clings. Peter tells him that if he wants the robe, he must pray for it, and as he lays his hands upon the cloth, Demetrius remembers the day he kneeled before Christ as he was being crucified. Demetrius prays for forgiveness, and the now-conscious Lucia comforts him. Peter instructs Demetrius to take the robe to Caligula, and when the mad ruler receives the garment, he orders a prisoner to be killed, then dons the robe and orders him to arise. The prisoner remains prone, however, and Caligula storms back to the throne room, where Demetrius castigates him for defiling his master’s robe. As Glycon picks up the robe, Caligula orders Macro to kill Demetrius in the arena. Demetrius refuses to fight, however, and the Praetorian Guards demand that he be spared. When Caligula threatens them, the guards revolt, killing him and Macro, then crowning Claudius as Caesar in the throne room. Claudius gestures for Messalina to join him, and the reformed Messalina vows to become a good wife. Claudius allows Demetrius and Glycon to go free, and, with the robe in hand, they meet Peter outside. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Delmer Daves (Dir)
  William Eckhardt (Asst dir)
  Herschel Daugherty (Dial dir)
Producer: Frank Ross (Prod)
Writer: Philip Dunne (Wrt)
Photography: Milton Krasner (Dir of photog)
  James Mitchell (Stills)
  Gene Kornman (Stills)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  George W. Davis (Art dir)
Film Editor: Dorothy Spencer (Film ed)
  Robert Fritch (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
  Paul S. Fox (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
Music: Franz Waxman (Mus)
  Ken Darby (Vocal dir)
  Edward B. Powell (Orch)
Sound: Arthur L. Kirbach (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
  Ed Harris (Sd ed)
  Al Ross (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
Dance: Stephen Papich (Choreog)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Joe Behm (Prod mgr)
  Jean Heremans (Tech adv)
Color Personnel: Leonard Doss (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: Themes from The Robe by Alfred Newman.
Songs:
Composer: Alfred Newman
Source Text: Based on a character created by Lloyd C. Douglas in the book The Robe (Boston, 1942).
Authors: Lloyd C. Douglas

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 15/6/1954 dd/mm/yyyy LP3944

PCA NO: 16588
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope
  Lenses/Prints: prints by Bausch & Lomb

 
Genre: Epic
Sub-Genre: Biblical
 
Subjects (Major): Caligula, Emperor of Rome, 12-41
  Christianity
  Faith
  Gladiators
  Messalina
  Rome--Ancient history
 
Subjects (Minor): Attempted rape
  Claudius I, Emperor of Rome, 10 B.C.-54 A.D.
  Clothes
  Coma
  Disillusionment
  Fights
  Friendship
  Greeks
  Infidelity
  Insanity
  Isis (Egyptian deity)
  Jealousy
  Moral reformation
  Peter, Saint
  Prayer
  Rome--Ancient history
  Seduction
  Soldiers
  Superstition
  Tigers
  Uprisings

Note: The working titles of this film were The Story of Demetrius and The Gladiators . Demetrius and the Gladiators was a sequel to the 1953 Twentieth Century-Fox release The Robe (see below), and begins with The Robe ’s ending sequence, in which “Marcellus” (Richard Burton) and “Diana” (Jean Simmons) are condemned to death. New shots of “Messalina” observing the proceedings were intercut into the footage for Demetrius and the Gladiators . The sequence during which “Demetrius” remembers kneeling at the feet of Christ while he is being crucified was also taken directly from The Robe . Victor Mature, Michael Rennie and Jay Robinson reprised their roles as “Demetrius,” “Peter” and “Caligula,” respectively, from The Robe .
       HR news items include Michael O’Brien, Virginia Carroll and Tommy Walker, leader of USC’s Trojan Band, in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A 2 Apr 1953 HR news item reported that Don Klune, a Fox assistant director, was to portray Christ, whose face is never seen in The Robe or Demetrius and the Gladiators . Modern sources report that Cameron Mitchell supplied Christ’s voice, although his voice was not be identified in the viewed print, and that Julie Newmeyer (later known as Julie Newmar) appeared in the film as a dancing girl.
       In addition to Los Angeles, the picture opened on 16 Jun 1954 in San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Providence, Richmond, Albany and Memphis. According to a modern source, The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators were re-released in 1959, with the two casts intermingled in the onscreen credits with Susan Hayward receiving top billing. According to a HR news item, in Aug 1966, producer Frank Ross filed a $100,000 lawsuit against Fox and Twentieth Century-Fox TV, alleging that by including Demetrius and the Gladiators in a package of films sold to TV stations at the same price, the studio was undervaluing the picture, thereby “reducing the profits which should have accrued” to Ross. The news item also noted that the film had grossed more than $8,000,000 in theatrical rentals. The disposition of the lawsuit has not been determined. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   5 Jun 1954.   
Box Office   12 Jun 1954.   
Daily Variety   2 Jun 54   p. 3.
Film Daily   4 Jun 54   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 1953   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Apr 1953   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Apr 1953   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 1953   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   22 May 1953   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   25 May 1953   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jun 1953   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jun 1953   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jun 1953   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jul 1953   pp. 12-13.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Sep 1953   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Sep 1953   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jan 1954   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jun 54   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jun 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jun 1954   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jan 1956   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Aug 1966.   
International Photographer   Aug 1953   pp. 9-12.
Los Angeles Examiner   17 Jun 1954.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   12 Jun 54   p. 27.
New York Times   19 Jun 54   p. 9.
Newsweek   5 Jul 1954.   
Pix   14 Aug 1954.   
Time   5 Jul 1954.   
Variety   2 Jun 54   p. 6.

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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.
 
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