The King of Kings


2h 35m 1927
The King of Kings

Brief Synopsis

In this silent film, Cecil B. DeMille directs an epic retelling of the life of Christ.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Silent
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1927
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 19 Apr 1927
Production Company
De Mille Pictures
Distribution Company
Producers Distributing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System) (1931 reissue), Silent, Silent (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White, Color (2-strip Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.33 : 1
Film Length
18 reels

Synopsis

Beginning with the redemption of Mary Magdalene, the film presents selected dramatic episodes from the life of Jesus, the first part dealing with the events of His ministry--notably the casting out of the seven deadly sins from Mary Magdalene, the raising of Lazarus, the driving of the moneychangers from the temple, and instruction of the Lord's Prayer. The second half deals with the Passion: The Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the trial before Pilate, the bearing of the Cross to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension.

Cast

H. B. Warner

Jesus, the Christ

Dorothy Cumming

Mary, the Mother

Ernest Torrence

Peter

Joseph Schildkraut

Judas

James Neill

James

Joseph Striker

John

Robert Edeson

Matthew

Sidney D'albrook

Thomas

David Imboden

Andrew

Charles Belcher

Philip

Clayton Packard

Bartholomew

Robert Ellsworth

Simon

Charles Requa

James, the Less

John T. Prince

Thaddeus

Jacqueline Logan

Mary Magdalene

Rudolph Schildkraut

Caiaphas, High Priest of Israel

Sam De Grasse

The Pharisee

Casson Ferguson

The Scribe

Victor Varconi

Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea

Majel Coleman

Proculla, wife of Pilate

Montagu Love

The Roman Centurion

William Boyd

Simon of Cyrene

M. Moore

Mark

Theodore Kosloff

Malchus, Captain of the High Priest's Guard

George Siegmann

Barabbas

Julia Faye

Martha

Josephine Norman

Mary of Bethany

Kenneth Thompson

Lazarus

Alan Brooks

Satan

Viola Louie

The Woman Taken in Adultery

Muriel Mccormac

The Blind Girl

Clarence Burton

Dysmas, the Repentant Thief

May Robson

The Mother of Gestas

Dot Farley

Maid Servant of Caiaphas

Hector Sarno

The Galilean Carpenter

Leon Holmes

The Imbecile Boy

Jack Padgen

Captain of the Roman Guard

Robert St. Angelo

Redman Finley

James Dime

Richard Alexander

Budd Fine

William De Boar

Robert Mckee

Tom London

Edward Schaeffer

Peter Norris

Dick Richards

James Farley

An executioner

Otto Lederer

Eber, a Pharisee

Bryant Washburn

A young Roman

Lionel Belmore

A Roman noble

Monte Collins

A rich Judean

Luca Flamma

A gallant of Galilee

Sojin

A prince of Persia

André Cheron

A wealthy merchant

William Costello

A Babylonian noble

Sally Rand

Slave to Mary Magdalene

Noble Johnson

Charioteer

Jere Austin

W. Azenberg

Fred Becker

Baldy Belmont

Ed Brady

Joe Bonomo

George Calliga

Fred Cavens

Colin Chase

Charles Clary

Denis D'auburn

Victor De Linsky

Malcolm Denny

David Dunbar

Jack Fife

Sidney Franklin

Kurt Furbe

Bert Hadley

Edwin Hearn

Stanton Heck

Fred Huntley

Brandon Hurst

Otto Kottka

Edward Lackey

Theodore Lorch

Bertram Marburgh

James Marcus

George F. Marion

Earl Metcalf

Max Monton

Louis Natheaux

Richard Neill

Robert Ober

A. Palasthy

Louis Payne

Edward Peil Sr.

Albert Priscoe

Herbert Pryor

Warren Rodgers

Charles Sellon

Tom Shirley

Walter Shumway

Bernard Siegel

Phil Sleeman

Charles Stevens

Carl Stockdale

William Strauss

Mark Strong

Josef Swickard

Wilbert Wadleigh

Fred Walder

Will Walling

Paul Weigel

Charles West

Stanhope Wheatcroft

Leon Gill

Emily Barrye

Elaine Bennett

Lucille Brown

Kathleen Chambers

Edna Mae Cooper

Josephine Crowell

Frances Dale

Milla Davenport

Anna De Linsky

Lillian Elliott

Anielka Elter

Evelyn Francisco

Margaret Francisco

Dale Fuller

Natalie Galitzen

Inez Gomez

Edna Gordon

Julia Swayne Gordon

Winifred Greenwood

Eulalie Jensen

Kadja

Jane Keckley

Isabelle Keith

Nora Kildare

Lydia Knott

Alice Knowland

Celia Lapan

Alla Moskova

Gertude Norman

Patricia Palmer

Gertude Quality

Rae Randall

Hedwig Reicher

Reeka Roberts

Peggy Schaffer

Evelyn Selbie

Semone Sergis

Anne Teeman

Barbara Tennant

Mabel Van Buren

Videos

Movie Clip

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Silent
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1927
Premiere Information
New York premiere: 19 Apr 1927
Production Company
De Mille Pictures
Distribution Company
Producers Distributing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Photophone System) (1931 reissue), Silent, Silent (RCA Photophone System)
Color
Black and White, Color (2-strip Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.33 : 1
Film Length
18 reels

Articles

The King of Kings (1927)


One of the cinema's most important religious epics, Cecil B. DeMille's masterwork, The King of Kings (1927), tells the story of Christ's final experiences, from his meeting with Mary Magdalene, to his Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.

As with so many other films treating the story of Christ, from Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) to Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ (2004), The King of Kings met with controversy in its day. Jewish groups criticized DeMille's film because they said it condemned them as Christ's crucifiers. Others said DeMille simply pandered to his audience's emotions while some called him a Christian propagandist. Upon viewing the film, John Steinbeck was said to have remarked, "saw the picture, loved the book."

In an attempt to honor the material, DeMille had both a Jesuit Priest and several other members of the clergy (including a Rabbi) on hand during filming to ensure that the proper reverence was being paid to the film's subject matter.

DeMille took a particular liking to the representative from the National Catholic Welfare Council, Father Lord, and tried to play upon his obvious interest in Hollywood by offering to teach him the film business. But Lord was not interested in leaving the clergy and reportedly replied that he wouldn't trade his life "for anything in the world."

The film's first day of shooting was honored with prayers offered by representatives of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and Moslem faiths. Anxious to set the proper ecclesiastical mood, each morning DeMille entered the set to the strains of "Onward, Christian Soldiers!" and spiritual music was continually piped onto the set during the production. Cast members were all given Bibles and asked to call each other by their Biblical names whenever they were on the sound stage. At one point, an impatient DeMille reportedly demanded to know "where in the hell is Judas?" garnering an angry dressing down from the producer.

So concerned was DeMille with paying the proper respect, that the actor who played Christ, H.B. Warner, was required to endure a fair amount of religious deprivation. Warner was told not to speak to anyone on the set except for the director and told not to be seen in public during the production. Such overzealous attention to "how things looked" might have been due to an early experience on The King of Kings set in which a newspaper photographer snapped a shot of H.B. Warner in full Christ garb lounging in a chair while smoking a cigarette and reading the sports pages.

That's not to say that DeMille did not take some artistic license with the material, even inventing a love affair between Judas (Joseph Schildkraut) and Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan). The opening scene of The King of Kings is pure DeMille, featuring Mary Magdalene in her decadent surroundings, first getting the news that Judas has been "seeing" someone else. Dressed in a revealing jewel-studded bra, Mary sets off in a zebra-drawn chariot driven by a brawny hunk, to confront her rival for Judas's attention.

DeMille had already proven his suitability to the Biblical epic with the 1923 version of The Ten Commandments, which many predicted would fail but which instead made an enormous profit despite production costs of $2,265,283. DeMille wanted The King of Kings to achieve a similar success and in an early effort to spike its popular appeal, the film was divided into two parts, the first the Christ story and the second a sin-filled modern story to illustrate human ignorance of Christ's message. However, that modern epilogue was eventually abandoned.

It is said that worldwide, some 8 billion people have seen DeMille's film partly due to the Cinema Corporation's policy of loaning the film to civic and religious groups for a small fee to help replace worn prints. Reportedly no week passes without The King of Kings playing in some corner of the world. Missionaries have carried the film all over the world in support of their ministry. The King of Kings was reportedly the first film Eskimos in Point Barrow, Alaska, had ever seen.

The film debuted, to much pomp, at the newly completed Grauman's Chinese Cinema. The King of Kings was reissued in 1931 with the addition of a synchronized musical score.

But The King of Kings was not a success in all regards. The part of Christ was less than a boon to the acting career of its star, H.B. Warner. Because Hollywood tended to see actors as "types," Warner had great difficulty finding a role that matched the dignity of Christ after completing DeMille's film. He later told friends that his career virtually ended with The King of Kings.

Producer/Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Screenplay: Jeanie Macpherson
Cinematography: J. Peverell Marley, Fred Westerberg, Jacob A. Badaracco
Production Design: Mitchell Leisen, Anton Grot
Music: Hugo Riesenfeld, William Axt, Erno Rapee
Cast: H.B. Warner (Jesus Christ), Dorothy Cumming (Mary the Mother), Ernest Torrence (Peter), Joseph Schildkraut (Judas), James Neill (James), Joseph Striker (John), Robert Edeson (Matthew), Sidney D'Albrook (Thomas), David Imboden (Andrew), Charles Belcher (Philip), Clayton Packard (Bartholomew), Robert Ellsworth (Simon), Charles Requa (James, the Lesser), John T. Prince (Thaddeus), Jacqueline Logan (Mary Magdalene), Rudolph Schildkraut (Caiaphas, High Priest of Israel), Sam De Grasse (The Pharisee), Casson Ferguson (The Scribe), Victor Varconi (Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea).
BW-112m.

by Felicia Feaster
The King Of Kings (1927)

The King of Kings (1927)

One of the cinema's most important religious epics, Cecil B. DeMille's masterwork, The King of Kings (1927), tells the story of Christ's final experiences, from his meeting with Mary Magdalene, to his Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. As with so many other films treating the story of Christ, from Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) to Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ (2004), The King of Kings met with controversy in its day. Jewish groups criticized DeMille's film because they said it condemned them as Christ's crucifiers. Others said DeMille simply pandered to his audience's emotions while some called him a Christian propagandist. Upon viewing the film, John Steinbeck was said to have remarked, "saw the picture, loved the book." In an attempt to honor the material, DeMille had both a Jesuit Priest and several other members of the clergy (including a Rabbi) on hand during filming to ensure that the proper reverence was being paid to the film's subject matter. DeMille took a particular liking to the representative from the National Catholic Welfare Council, Father Lord, and tried to play upon his obvious interest in Hollywood by offering to teach him the film business. But Lord was not interested in leaving the clergy and reportedly replied that he wouldn't trade his life "for anything in the world." The film's first day of shooting was honored with prayers offered by representatives of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist and Moslem faiths. Anxious to set the proper ecclesiastical mood, each morning DeMille entered the set to the strains of "Onward, Christian Soldiers!" and spiritual music was continually piped onto the set during the production. Cast members were all given Bibles and asked to call each other by their Biblical names whenever they were on the sound stage. At one point, an impatient DeMille reportedly demanded to know "where in the hell is Judas?" garnering an angry dressing down from the producer. So concerned was DeMille with paying the proper respect, that the actor who played Christ, H.B. Warner, was required to endure a fair amount of religious deprivation. Warner was told not to speak to anyone on the set except for the director and told not to be seen in public during the production. Such overzealous attention to "how things looked" might have been due to an early experience on The King of Kings set in which a newspaper photographer snapped a shot of H.B. Warner in full Christ garb lounging in a chair while smoking a cigarette and reading the sports pages. That's not to say that DeMille did not take some artistic license with the material, even inventing a love affair between Judas (Joseph Schildkraut) and Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan). The opening scene of The King of Kings is pure DeMille, featuring Mary Magdalene in her decadent surroundings, first getting the news that Judas has been "seeing" someone else. Dressed in a revealing jewel-studded bra, Mary sets off in a zebra-drawn chariot driven by a brawny hunk, to confront her rival for Judas's attention. DeMille had already proven his suitability to the Biblical epic with the 1923 version of The Ten Commandments, which many predicted would fail but which instead made an enormous profit despite production costs of $2,265,283. DeMille wanted The King of Kings to achieve a similar success and in an early effort to spike its popular appeal, the film was divided into two parts, the first the Christ story and the second a sin-filled modern story to illustrate human ignorance of Christ's message. However, that modern epilogue was eventually abandoned. It is said that worldwide, some 8 billion people have seen DeMille's film partly due to the Cinema Corporation's policy of loaning the film to civic and religious groups for a small fee to help replace worn prints. Reportedly no week passes without The King of Kings playing in some corner of the world. Missionaries have carried the film all over the world in support of their ministry. The King of Kings was reportedly the first film Eskimos in Point Barrow, Alaska, had ever seen. The film debuted, to much pomp, at the newly completed Grauman's Chinese Cinema. The King of Kings was reissued in 1931 with the addition of a synchronized musical score. But The King of Kings was not a success in all regards. The part of Christ was less than a boon to the acting career of its star, H.B. Warner. Because Hollywood tended to see actors as "types," Warner had great difficulty finding a role that matched the dignity of Christ after completing DeMille's film. He later told friends that his career virtually ended with The King of Kings. Producer/Director: Cecil B. DeMille Screenplay: Jeanie Macpherson Cinematography: J. Peverell Marley, Fred Westerberg, Jacob A. Badaracco Production Design: Mitchell Leisen, Anton Grot Music: Hugo Riesenfeld, William Axt, Erno Rapee Cast: H.B. Warner (Jesus Christ), Dorothy Cumming (Mary the Mother), Ernest Torrence (Peter), Joseph Schildkraut (Judas), James Neill (James), Joseph Striker (John), Robert Edeson (Matthew), Sidney D'Albrook (Thomas), David Imboden (Andrew), Charles Belcher (Philip), Clayton Packard (Bartholomew), Robert Ellsworth (Simon), Charles Requa (James, the Lesser), John T. Prince (Thaddeus), Jacqueline Logan (Mary Magdalene), Rudolph Schildkraut (Caiaphas, High Priest of Israel), Sam De Grasse (The Pharisee), Casson Ferguson (The Scribe), Victor Varconi (Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea). BW-112m. by Felicia Feaster

The King of Kings (1927) - The King of Kings - The 1927 version on DVD


Cecil B. DeMille could well get the credit for forming the dominant vision of Jesus Christ for the 20th century. His pious, dignified and serene Son of God in the silent The King of Kings has been the template ever since. DeMille found the commercial grove for turning religion into box office gold - his 1927 epic features plenty of his over-staged hoopla yet maintains a respectful dignity for its subject. This is the Messiah we were all brought up on - for many Christians, watching Criterion's painstakingly restored DVD is like seeing the forgotten original version of our own beliefs.

This 2-disc set has both the complete 1927 premiere version (155 minutes) and the generally circulated 112-minute cut-down; various chapters and miracles were rearranged for the digest version.

Much of the film's authority derives from DeMille's overall restraint. As personified by the staid, calm H.B. Warner (later the haggard Mr. Gower of It's a Wonderful Life), Jesus is an almost static character, always the key element in careful tableaux. Many scenes depict him in a reverent haze. Careful double exposures with gauzy light patterns create holy portraits that match to perfection images memorized from Sunday school. Our first sight of Jesus is from point of view of a blind woman as Jesus restores her sight - he materializes out of a gray blur, framed in a soft halo.

The King of Kings has its dated aspects. Most of the intertitles are straight quotes from scripture, reducing Jesus' travails to series of blackout sketches topped with text bites. In dramatic terms, it's as mechanical as a slide show.

DeMille dispenses with most of his Barnum-like hoopla after the first act. Mary Magdelene kisses a tiger to make her Roman consort jealous, and exits on a chariot pulled by zebras to find out what kind of crazy carpenter is monopolizing her boyfriend Judas's time. As soon as she catches sight of Jesus, Magdalene is exorcised of the seven deadly sins and becomes the subservient and chaste woman God wants her to be. Adding spectacle to the finish is a tacky and overproduced cataclysm on Calvary hill. The ground opens up and swallows various witnesses to the crucifixion, including the newly hung Judas (Joseph Schildkraut). The implication is that they've been swallowed up by Hell.

The later Nicholas Ray and George Stevens epics downplayed some of the miracles but here they all occur bluntly on camera, complete with doubting witnesses converted on the spot. Whereas Ray's 1961 King of Kings presented the healings as potential rumors or matters of faith, DeMille just shows Jesus healing people left and right. He even pauses to heal someone while hauling his cross uphill.

It's easy to become cynical about a Hollywood filmmaker raking in millions from a film exploiting religious beliefs, but The King of Kings has sufficient integrity to stand proudly. It's far more sincere than DeMille's later biblical travesties.

One controversy does remain from the original release. Although in published interviews DeMille tried to shift the blame for the crucifixion to the Romans, the movie presents the Jewish temple officials as the clear-cut villains, conspiring against Jesus and maliciously framing him as a rebel against Rome.

Among the cast are a young Sally Rand, the famous fan dancer, directors Rex Ingram and Sidney Franklin, and as one of Mary Magdalene's charioteers, Noble Johnson.

Both transfers in Criterion's two-disc set of The King of Kings are handsomely restored and accompanied by carefully chosen music. The Technicolor sequences show some deterioration but retain their original glow. The 1928 recut has the original score by Hugo Reisenfield and a new organ composition by Timothy J. Tikker; the longer 1927 version has a new score by Donald Sosin.

Criterion producer Kate Elmore has arranged a set of excellent essays. Robert H. Birchard provides production background details from his new biography of Cecil B. DeMille. The director enforced elaborate safeguards on his set to insure that his actors behaved and were treated like the holy personages they were impersonating. Peter Matthews' accompanying essay distills DeMille's formula for marketing Jesus to the masses: everything in the stories is presented literally, especially the miracles.

There are a surprising number of extras considering the film's age. Text images include photos, ads and correspondence from the film's premiere, when it opened Grauman's Chinese in Hollywood. A trailer and a gallery of costume sketches and photos are on the second disc, along with a formal portrait gallery. Even more interesting is some behind the scenes footage of the filming.

For more information about The King of Kings, visit Criterion Collection. To order The King of Kings, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The King of Kings (1927) - The King of Kings - The 1927 version on DVD

Cecil B. DeMille could well get the credit for forming the dominant vision of Jesus Christ for the 20th century. His pious, dignified and serene Son of God in the silent The King of Kings has been the template ever since. DeMille found the commercial grove for turning religion into box office gold - his 1927 epic features plenty of his over-staged hoopla yet maintains a respectful dignity for its subject. This is the Messiah we were all brought up on - for many Christians, watching Criterion's painstakingly restored DVD is like seeing the forgotten original version of our own beliefs. This 2-disc set has both the complete 1927 premiere version (155 minutes) and the generally circulated 112-minute cut-down; various chapters and miracles were rearranged for the digest version. Much of the film's authority derives from DeMille's overall restraint. As personified by the staid, calm H.B. Warner (later the haggard Mr. Gower of It's a Wonderful Life), Jesus is an almost static character, always the key element in careful tableaux. Many scenes depict him in a reverent haze. Careful double exposures with gauzy light patterns create holy portraits that match to perfection images memorized from Sunday school. Our first sight of Jesus is from point of view of a blind woman as Jesus restores her sight - he materializes out of a gray blur, framed in a soft halo. The King of Kings has its dated aspects. Most of the intertitles are straight quotes from scripture, reducing Jesus' travails to series of blackout sketches topped with text bites. In dramatic terms, it's as mechanical as a slide show. DeMille dispenses with most of his Barnum-like hoopla after the first act. Mary Magdelene kisses a tiger to make her Roman consort jealous, and exits on a chariot pulled by zebras to find out what kind of crazy carpenter is monopolizing her boyfriend Judas's time. As soon as she catches sight of Jesus, Magdalene is exorcised of the seven deadly sins and becomes the subservient and chaste woman God wants her to be. Adding spectacle to the finish is a tacky and overproduced cataclysm on Calvary hill. The ground opens up and swallows various witnesses to the crucifixion, including the newly hung Judas (Joseph Schildkraut). The implication is that they've been swallowed up by Hell. The later Nicholas Ray and George Stevens epics downplayed some of the miracles but here they all occur bluntly on camera, complete with doubting witnesses converted on the spot. Whereas Ray's 1961 King of Kings presented the healings as potential rumors or matters of faith, DeMille just shows Jesus healing people left and right. He even pauses to heal someone while hauling his cross uphill. It's easy to become cynical about a Hollywood filmmaker raking in millions from a film exploiting religious beliefs, but The King of Kings has sufficient integrity to stand proudly. It's far more sincere than DeMille's later biblical travesties. One controversy does remain from the original release. Although in published interviews DeMille tried to shift the blame for the crucifixion to the Romans, the movie presents the Jewish temple officials as the clear-cut villains, conspiring against Jesus and maliciously framing him as a rebel against Rome. Among the cast are a young Sally Rand, the famous fan dancer, directors Rex Ingram and Sidney Franklin, and as one of Mary Magdalene's charioteers, Noble Johnson. Both transfers in Criterion's two-disc set of The King of Kings are handsomely restored and accompanied by carefully chosen music. The Technicolor sequences show some deterioration but retain their original glow. The 1928 recut has the original score by Hugo Reisenfield and a new organ composition by Timothy J. Tikker; the longer 1927 version has a new score by Donald Sosin. Criterion producer Kate Elmore has arranged a set of excellent essays. Robert H. Birchard provides production background details from his new biography of Cecil B. DeMille. The director enforced elaborate safeguards on his set to insure that his actors behaved and were treated like the holy personages they were impersonating. Peter Matthews' accompanying essay distills DeMille's formula for marketing Jesus to the masses: everything in the stories is presented literally, especially the miracles. There are a surprising number of extras considering the film's age. Text images include photos, ads and correspondence from the film's premiere, when it opened Grauman's Chinese in Hollywood. A trailer and a gallery of costume sketches and photos are on the second disc, along with a formal portrait gallery. Even more interesting is some behind the scenes footage of the filming. For more information about The King of Kings, visit Criterion Collection. To order The King of Kings, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Harness my zebras!
- Mary Magdalene

Trivia

Lead actor H.B. Warner, who played Jesus, was involved in an off-camera scandal with anonymous woman who was determined to blackmail Cecil B. DeMille by ruining the production. It is believed that DeMille paid the woman on the condition that she leave the U.S.

Cecil B. DeMille did not want to take any chances with the film. His two stars, 'H. B. Warner' and 'Dorothy Cummings' , were required to sign agreements which prohibited them from appearing in film roles that might compromise their "holy" screen images for a five-year period. DeMille also ordered them not to be seen doing any "un-biblical" activities during the film's shooting. These activities included attending ball games, playing cards, frequenting night clubs, swimming, and riding in convertibles.

Notes

The King of Kings was reissued in 1931 with a synchronized musical score.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1927

Released in United States 1927