1932. You know, the greatest year in Hollywood? “In 1932, Hollywood mastered the art of the sound film. Even so, Shanghai Express, Scarface, Grand Hotel, Love Me Tonight, A Farewell to Arms, Trouble in Paradise, and The Sign of the Cross could not be fully appreciated for the achievements they were. The vocabulary of the critical fraternity was insufficient. No critic could speak with authority on a film’s groundbreaking visual and aural effects. Only in retrospect could these works of art be properly appraised.”
So write Cecilia de Mille Presley and Mark A. Veira in “The Wickedest Movie in the World: How Cecil B. DeMille Made The Sign of the Cross,” which is a chapter from their new book, Cecil B. DeMille: The Art of the Hollywood Epic. It’s a wonderful production history of a delightfully lurid work of Christian propaganda, full of funny quotes (“Your goddamned lions are urinating on my martyrs!”) and marvelous stills. Like this one from what was apparently a deleted scene:
Well, 1932 was a great year for women and apes. See also Blonde Venus, Kongo. The Monster Walks, and Murders in the Rue Morgue, not to mention Tarzan, the Ape Man. (Admittedly 1933 was an even greater year for women and apes.)
Update: Well, I was wrong about the scene being deleted. It’s there, although very brief. “Ape” approaches nearly nude woman tied up in the arena, cut to a woman in the stands watching and wiping her mouth. Did I mention that the film is lurid?