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Quo Vadis (1951)

After six months of filming in Rome, and at a cost of nearly $7 million, the biggest budget Hollywood movie since Gone With The Wind, the 171-minute Technicolor MGM spectacle Quo Vadis was released in 1951.

The highlights of the picture were the Legionnaires return to the capital, the burning of Rome, and the killing of the Christians in the arena.

There had been several silent adaptations of the Henry Sienkiewicz novel, but Louis B Mayer dreamed of making his own version with his studio’s vast resources.

In 1949, a company headed by director John Huston – and with stars Gregory Peck and Elizabeth Taylor – went to Rome to begin shooting, but the production was shut down, with the estimated cost of the debacle set at $2 million.

The second attempt was better budgeted by producer Sam Zimbalist, under trusted director Mervyn Le Roy. This time Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr co-starred as the Roman legionnaire and the Christian slave who fall in love, and Peter Ustinov was excellent as a raving Nero.

Quo Vadis was the first colour film to be made at Cinecittà and gave a great boost to the Italian studio.

Mervyn Le Roy’s only insight into the motivation of the character of Nero was that he was a “son of a bitch” who “plays with himself” . . .

Marcus Vinicius
Robert Taylor
Lygia
Deborah Kerr
Nero
Peter Ustinov
Petronius
Leo Genn
Poppaea
Patricia Laffan
Peter
Finlay Currie
Paul
Abraham Sofaer
Eunice
Marina Berti
Ursus
Buddy Baer
Plautius
Felix Aylmer
Pomponia
Nora Swinburne
Tigellinus
Ralph Truman
Nerva
Norman Wooland

Director
Mervyn Le Roy

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