From the Manger to the Cross


1h 11m 1913

Brief Synopsis

The life of Jesus is played out in tableaux shot in the Holy Land.

Film Details

Also Known As
From the Manger to the Cross; or Jesus of Nazareth
Genre
Drama
Biography
Silent
Adaptation
Religion
Release Date
Jan 1913
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Kalem Co.
Distribution Company
State Rights
Country
United States
Location
Palestine; Egypt

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 11m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Film Length
5 reels

Synopsis

The life of Christ is depicted in scenes including the Annunciation, the flight of Joseph and Mary into Egypt, the period of Jesus' youth, the heralding of Christ by John the Baptist, the calling of the disciples, the miracles, Christ's last days, the last supper, and his crucifixion and death.

Film Details

Also Known As
From the Manger to the Cross; or Jesus of Nazareth
Genre
Drama
Biography
Silent
Adaptation
Religion
Release Date
Jan 1913
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Kalem Co.
Distribution Company
State Rights
Country
United States
Location
Palestine; Egypt

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 11m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Film Length
5 reels

Articles

From the Manger to the Cross


Considered the most important silent film to deal with the life of Christ, From the Manger to the Cross (1912) was produced by the Kalem Company, a pioneering New York-based production company that enjoyed several successes during its brief history. The company was established in 1907 and, in 1916, was bought up by Vitagraph. Since Kalem had no indoor studios, most of its films were shot on location. Manger was filmed, appropriately enough, in Palestine, although the company had gone there originally to make a number of one-reelers with desert backgrounds, and filming the story of Christ was an afterthought.

The company's star actress and most prolific screenwriter, Gene Gauntier, known as the "Kalem Girl," wrote the scenario for Manger and played the Virgin Mary. Gauntier later claimed that she was recovering from sunstroke on the broiling locations when the idea for the film came to her. Many "facts" concerning the production seem to have sprung from legend; in Magill's Survey of Cinema Frank N. Magill writes that "there appears to be as much mythology associated with From the Manger to the Cross as is to be found in the book of Genesis." Among the legends is that the Church expressed "grave concern" over the fact that Gauntier, a divorced woman, had been cast as Mary, and that owners of the Kalem Company fired everyone involved in the production because they had never been informed that the group was filming a life of Christ. Magill expresses doubt about the veracity of both stories.

Among the known facts is that From the Manger to the Cross cost $35,000 to produce, and its profits eventually amounted to almost $1 million. Five actors were cast in the role of Christ. The first was a baby newly born to Australian parents living in Cairo, with a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old following in the role. Percy Dyer, then 13, played the adolescent Jesus. Stepping into the role of the adult Christ was Robert Henderson-Bland, an Englishman who, according to Magill, "believed during the production that he had become Christ." In two books on the subject, From the Manger to the Cross (1922) and Actor, Soldier, Poet (1939), Henderson-Bland writes from Christ's viewpoint. The actor/author distinguished himself as a soldier in World War I.

From the Manger to the Cross received excellent reviews at the time of its original release and was reissued by Vitagraph in 1917. Another reissue came in 1938, when the film was revised to include close-ups, a musical score and narration. The movie was named to the National Film Registry in 1998.

Producer: Frank J. Marion
Director: Sidney Olcott
Screenplay: Gene Gauntier
Cinematography: George K. Hollister
Art Direction: Henry Allen Farnham
Principal Cast: Robert Henderson-Bland (Jesus, the man), Percy Dyer (the Boy Christ), Gene Gauntier (the Virgin Mary), Alice Hollister (Mary Magdalene), Sidney Olcott (Blind Man), Samuel Morgan (Pilate), James D. Ainsley (John the Baptist), Robert G. Vignola (Judas), George Kellog (Herod).
BW-71m.

by Roger Fristoe
From The Manger To The Cross

From the Manger to the Cross

Considered the most important silent film to deal with the life of Christ, From the Manger to the Cross (1912) was produced by the Kalem Company, a pioneering New York-based production company that enjoyed several successes during its brief history. The company was established in 1907 and, in 1916, was bought up by Vitagraph. Since Kalem had no indoor studios, most of its films were shot on location. Manger was filmed, appropriately enough, in Palestine, although the company had gone there originally to make a number of one-reelers with desert backgrounds, and filming the story of Christ was an afterthought. The company's star actress and most prolific screenwriter, Gene Gauntier, known as the "Kalem Girl," wrote the scenario for Manger and played the Virgin Mary. Gauntier later claimed that she was recovering from sunstroke on the broiling locations when the idea for the film came to her. Many "facts" concerning the production seem to have sprung from legend; in Magill's Survey of Cinema Frank N. Magill writes that "there appears to be as much mythology associated with From the Manger to the Cross as is to be found in the book of Genesis." Among the legends is that the Church expressed "grave concern" over the fact that Gauntier, a divorced woman, had been cast as Mary, and that owners of the Kalem Company fired everyone involved in the production because they had never been informed that the group was filming a life of Christ. Magill expresses doubt about the veracity of both stories. Among the known facts is that From the Manger to the Cross cost $35,000 to produce, and its profits eventually amounted to almost $1 million. Five actors were cast in the role of Christ. The first was a baby newly born to Australian parents living in Cairo, with a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old following in the role. Percy Dyer, then 13, played the adolescent Jesus. Stepping into the role of the adult Christ was Robert Henderson-Bland, an Englishman who, according to Magill, "believed during the production that he had become Christ." In two books on the subject, From the Manger to the Cross (1922) and Actor, Soldier, Poet (1939), Henderson-Bland writes from Christ's viewpoint. The actor/author distinguished himself as a soldier in World War I. From the Manger to the Cross received excellent reviews at the time of its original release and was reissued by Vitagraph in 1917. Another reissue came in 1938, when the film was revised to include close-ups, a musical score and narration. The movie was named to the National Film Registry in 1998. Producer: Frank J. Marion Director: Sidney Olcott Screenplay: Gene Gauntier Cinematography: George K. Hollister Art Direction: Henry Allen Farnham Principal Cast: Robert Henderson-Bland (Jesus, the man), Percy Dyer (the Boy Christ), Gene Gauntier (the Virgin Mary), Alice Hollister (Mary Magdalene), Sidney Olcott (Blind Man), Samuel Morgan (Pilate), James D. Ainsley (John the Baptist), Robert G. Vignola (Judas), George Kellog (Herod). BW-71m. by Roger Fristoe

From the Manger to the Cross - THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST and FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS


Image Entertainment has released one DVD with two visions of the life of Christ, both from the early days of movies, both illustrating many of the same events. Yet their styles could not be more different.

The first version of The Life And Passion Of Jesus Christ, the first film on the disc, was released in 1902 prior to A Trip To The Moon (1902) or The Great Train Robbery (1903) and consisted of eighteen "tableaux." This was the basic unit of movie storytelling at the time. A title card explained what the scene was to represent, then it was shown in a stage-like setting with a camera photographing everything from the distance of a theatergoer in a seat.

By 1905 The Life And Passion Of Jesus Christ grew from eighteen tableaux to thirty-one and had been provided with color, a painstaking process in which dyes were added to each frame by hand. This is the version presented here, cobbled together from two 35mm original prints by Lobster Films of Paris. The result probably looks better than it did at the time as every effort has been made to reduce scratches and to bring out the color. The image is sharp, so sharp in fact, that viewers will easily discover the Pathe rooster logo present on the walls of the set, an early method of foiling illegal copying.

Undeniably primitive, this movie nevertheless has a powerful charm. Director Ferdinand Zecca sought to emulate the paintings of Gustave Dore and his images bring them to life with a directness and simplicity that adds conviction to this world of belief and miracles. The bright colors and stylized performances give the movie the feel of a children's storybook.

From The Manger To The Cross (1912), begun ten years later, approached the gospels in a very different way. Director Sidney Olcott took his cast out of the studio and into the real world, actually traveling to Egypt and the Holy Land to film on the actual locations. Palestine may have changed in the previous 1900 years, but not as much as it would change in the next century, and this movie gives an almost documentary, highly realistic view of the life of Jesus as it might have looked two millennia before.

In addition to its value as an historical document, Olcott's film also crossed the one-hour barrier to become the first American feature film. In 1998 it was added to the National Film Registry. A description of the filming by a participant is included with the DVD and those who would like to know more can read an essay on this site at TCM's article on the film

The print on the DVD was struck from the original negative housed in the Library of Congress for a previous laserdisc release. Despite this, the image is not as high a quality as the earlier film. Lack of contrast hampers some scenes, such as Mary's Annunciation, in which the angel is barely visible in the background darkness. Color tints have been added electronically.

Nevertheless, no one interested in early movies should ignore this treasure. There two films not only show some of the earliest moving picture views of the story of Jesus, but also two filmmakers pushing the limits of their craft to new heights.

For more information about The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ/From the Manger to the Cross, visit Image Entertainment. To order a copy, go to TCM Shopping.

by Brian Cady

From the Manger to the Cross - THE LIFE AND PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST and FROM THE MANGER TO THE CROSS

Image Entertainment has released one DVD with two visions of the life of Christ, both from the early days of movies, both illustrating many of the same events. Yet their styles could not be more different. The first version of The Life And Passion Of Jesus Christ, the first film on the disc, was released in 1902 prior to A Trip To The Moon (1902) or The Great Train Robbery (1903) and consisted of eighteen "tableaux." This was the basic unit of movie storytelling at the time. A title card explained what the scene was to represent, then it was shown in a stage-like setting with a camera photographing everything from the distance of a theatergoer in a seat. By 1905 The Life And Passion Of Jesus Christ grew from eighteen tableaux to thirty-one and had been provided with color, a painstaking process in which dyes were added to each frame by hand. This is the version presented here, cobbled together from two 35mm original prints by Lobster Films of Paris. The result probably looks better than it did at the time as every effort has been made to reduce scratches and to bring out the color. The image is sharp, so sharp in fact, that viewers will easily discover the Pathe rooster logo present on the walls of the set, an early method of foiling illegal copying. Undeniably primitive, this movie nevertheless has a powerful charm. Director Ferdinand Zecca sought to emulate the paintings of Gustave Dore and his images bring them to life with a directness and simplicity that adds conviction to this world of belief and miracles. The bright colors and stylized performances give the movie the feel of a children's storybook. From The Manger To The Cross (1912), begun ten years later, approached the gospels in a very different way. Director Sidney Olcott took his cast out of the studio and into the real world, actually traveling to Egypt and the Holy Land to film on the actual locations. Palestine may have changed in the previous 1900 years, but not as much as it would change in the next century, and this movie gives an almost documentary, highly realistic view of the life of Jesus as it might have looked two millennia before. In addition to its value as an historical document, Olcott's film also crossed the one-hour barrier to become the first American feature film. In 1998 it was added to the National Film Registry. A description of the filming by a participant is included with the DVD and those who would like to know more can read an essay on this site at TCM's article on the film The print on the DVD was struck from the original negative housed in the Library of Congress for a previous laserdisc release. Despite this, the image is not as high a quality as the earlier film. Lack of contrast hampers some scenes, such as Mary's Annunciation, in which the angel is barely visible in the background darkness. Color tints have been added electronically. Nevertheless, no one interested in early movies should ignore this treasure. There two films not only show some of the earliest moving picture views of the story of Jesus, but also two filmmakers pushing the limits of their craft to new heights. For more information about The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ/From the Manger to the Cross, visit Image Entertainment. To order a copy, go to TCM Shopping. by Brian Cady

Quotes

Trivia

Gene Gauntier and Jack J. Clark were married in Palestine during filming.

The costumes were based on an 1894 watercolor exhibition by James Joseph Jacques Tissot, entitled "Vie de Notre Seigneur, Jesus Christ."

Notes

The film was shot in Egypt and Palestine, sometimes in actual locations mentioned in Biblical literature. According to the copyright entry and an ad for the film, the full title of the film was From the Manger to the Cross; or Jesus of Nazareth. One review of the film referred to it as The Life of Christ. The film was shown on October 3, 1912 in London at Queen's Hall to an audience of clergy. The film had its premiere in New York at a special screening, also to an audience of clergy, on October 14, 1912 at Wanamaker's Auditorium. The film's first public exhibition was in Jacksonville, Florida in either January or February 1913.
       The Vitagraph Co. of America acquired Kalem's properties in February 1919 and, according to a modern source, released a six reel re-edited version of the film. According to a modern source, the film was re-issued in 1938 with a musical score and narration, and with the addition of faked close-ups.
       Louis Heck, the U. S. Consular Representative in Palestine, assisted the company. According to producer Frank J. Marion, the company hired nine or more English players for the films they made in the Middle East, including Robert Henderson-Bland, Percy Dyer, and Montague Sidney. Marion mentioned that the costumes were based on Tissot (James Joseph Jacques Tissot's Vie de Notre Seigneur, Jesus Christ, studies for a series of 300 watercolors exhibited in 1894). According to New York Dramatic Mirror, the temple scenes were designed "in accordance with the great works of Dr. Schick." Sidney Olcott and Gene Gauntier left Kalem in December 1912 to form the Gene Gauntier Feature Players. Most of the titles in the film are quotations from the Bible. The following information comes from modern sources: The cast included Helen Lindroth as Martha, Jack J. Clark as John, J. P. McGowan as Andrew, Sidney Baber as Lazarus, and Montague Sidney as Joseph. Gene Gauntier and Jack Clark were married in Palestine during the filming.