The King of Kings: Wikis


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King of Kings
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Starring H.B. Warner
Dorothy Cumming
Ernest Torrence
Joseph Schildkraut
James Neill
Music by Hugo Riesenfeld
Cinematography J. Peverell Marley
F.J. Westerberg
Editing by Anne Bauchens
Harold McLernon
Distributed by Pathé Exchange
Release date(s) April 19, 1927
Running time 115 min.
Country United States
Language Silent film
English/Aramaic intertitles

The King of Kings (1927) is a silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It is a religious movie about the last weeks of Jesus before his crucifixion. H. B. Warner starred as Jesus. One of the last sequences of the movie, the Resurrection, is in Technicolor.



The film opens with a titlecard stating that Israel was under terrible oppression in the time of Jesus and that even the chief priesthood was subject to Roman interference. It is compared to a kind of racket.

We see Mary Magdalene, here portrayed as a wild courtesan, entertain many men around her. Upon learning that Judas is with a carpenter she rides out on her chariot drawn by zebras to get him back. Peter is introduced as the Giant apostle, and we see the gospel writer Mark as a child who is healed by Jesus. The Virgin Mary is shown as a beautiful and saintly woman who is a mother to all the her son's followers. Our first sight of Jesus is through the eyesight of a little girl, whom He heals. He is surrounded by a halo. Mary Magdelene arrives afterwards and talks to Judas, who reveals that he is only staying with Jesus in hopes of being made a king after Jesus becomes the king of kings. Jesus casts the Seven Deadly Sins out of Mary Magdalene in a multiple exposure sequence.

Jesus is also shown resurrecting Lazarus and healing the little children. Some humor is derived when one girl asks if He can heal broken legs and He says yes, she gives him a legless doll. Jesus smiles and repairs the doll. The crucifixion is foreshadowed when Jesus, having helped a poor family, wanders through the father's carpentry shop and briefly helps carve a piece of wood. When a sheet covering the object is removed, it is revealed to be a cross towering over Jesus.

Jesus and His apostles enter Jerusalem, where Judas incites the people and rallies them to proclaim Jesus King of the Jews. Jesus, however, renounces all claims of being an Earthly king. Caiaphas the High Priest, whom the film states Rome foisted on the Jews and was not someone whom they would willingly accept, is also angry at Judas for having led people to a man whom he sees as a false prophet. Meanwhile Jesus drives away the devil who offers Jesus an Earthly kingdom, and he protects the woman caught in adultery. The words he draws in the sand are revealed to be the sins the accusers themselves committed.

Judas, desperate to save himself from Caiaphas, agrees to turn over Jesus. Noticeably at the Last Supper, when Jesus distributes the bread and wine saying that they are His body and blood, Judas refuses to eat. He puts the cup to his lips but refuses to drink; he tears off a piece of bread but lets it drop to the ground. Towards the end, Mary confronts her son and tells Him to flee the danger that is coming. Jesus replies that it must be done for the salvation of all peoples. They leave the room but the camera focuses on the table where a dove flies on and stays for a moment.

Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane where He is soon captured by the Roman soldiers and betrayed by Judas. Judas' life is saved, but on seeing that Jesus is going to be killed he is horrified. He takes a rope that the Romans had used to bind Jesus' wrists and runs off. Jesus is beaten and then presented by Pontius Pilate to the crowd. Mary pleads for the life of her son and Mary Magdalene speaks for Him. Caiaphas bribes the crowd to shout against Jesus; one man, however, refuses and says "How can a Jew betray a fellow Jew?" It is not said if this man is a follower of Jesus and is there as a token good Jew.

Jesus is taken away to be crucified, though He pauses the Via Dolorosa to heal a group of cripples in an alley, regardless of His weakened condition. He is crucified and His enemies throw insults at Him. (One woman even eats popcorn and smiles with glee at Jesus' crucifixion.) A great earthquake comes up. The tree where Judas had hanged himself with the rope used to bind Jesus's wrists is swallowed up amidst gouts of hellfire. The sky turns black, lightning strikes, the wind blows, the people who had mocked Jesus run on terror, and the veil covering the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple is torn in two. Caiaphas panics and runs to the temple and sees the rent curtain. Realizing what He has done, that he, the High Priest of the Jews, has killed the Messiah of the Jews, Caiaphas weeps. Consumed with remorse that, in addition to this sin he—Jewish High Priest of all people—has committed, that he has turned the Jews against their own Messiah he begs God to forgive His chosen people. He then adds that if anyone be punished for the sin of decide it be him. "For myself," he says, "I ask no pity for I have slain pity!"

The tumult ends when Mary looks up at heaven and asks God to forgive the world for the death of their son. The chaos ends and the sun shines. Jesus is taken down from the cross and is buried. On the third day, He rises from the dead as promised. To emphasize the importance of the resurrection, this scene from an otherwise black and white film is shot in color. Jesus goes to the Apostles and tells them to spread His message to the world. He tells them "I am with you always" as the scene shifts to a modern city to show that Jesus still watches over His followers.

Many of the film's intertitles are quotes (or paraphrases) from Scripture, often with chapter and verse accompanying.


Production details

A giant gate built for this film was later famously used in 1933's King Kong, and was among the sets torched for the "burning of Atlanta" in 1939's Gone with the Wind.

The King of Kings was the first movie that premiered at the legendary Cinema Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, CA on May 18, 1927.

Sally Rand, before becoming notorious for her "fan dance" at the 1933 World's Fair, was an extra in the film.

Ayn Rand (no relation to Sally Rand) also was an extra in the film, and met her future husband Frank O'Connor on set.

In order to preserve the spiritual nature of the film DeMille made his stars enter contracts that prohibited them from doing anything "Unbiblical for a five-year period. These activities included attending ball games, playing cards, frequenting night clubs, swimming, and riding in convertibles. In spite of this the actor portraying Jesus became involved in an affair with an extra on the set of the film,[citation needed] and actress Dorothy Cumming, who portrayed the Virgin Mary, went through a much-publicized divorce from her first husband, director Frank Elliott Dakin.


All together this movie has two Technicolor sequences, the beginning, and the resurection scene.


In 1928 actress Valeska Surratt and scholar Mirza Ahmad Sohrab sued DeMille for stealing the scenario for The King of Kings from them.[1] The case went to trial in February 1930 but eventually settled without publicity.[2] Surratt who had left films to return to the stage in 1917 appeared to be unofficially blacklisted after the suit.[3]

See also


External links

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