Thursday 7 June 2012

Behind the Scenes: Sign of the Cross (1932)

Cecil B. Demille's Sign of the Cross (1932) is known for its brash depictions of depravity, nudity, lesbianism, orgies, sadism and death. However, there is some evidence that the themes of the film crept into the minds of the actors and into their behaviour on the set.

Claudette Colbert, in an informal interview with Rex Reed (quoted in an amazing article by Vanity Fair), stated that Fredric March was more than cordial to her on the set. She stated that, “Freddie March was the worst womaniser I ever knew," and continued, "His hands had 20 fingers, I swear, and they were always on my ass. I finally said, ‘If you don’t stop I’ll walk right out of the scene and tell Mr. DeMille what you’re doing.’" But this didn't stop March, "So the camera rolled again...all of a sudden I felt this hand right around my left cheek and I stopped and walked down to camera and demanded to see Mr. DeMille!”

His attentions continued out of shoots, Claudette also commented that he continued to harass her during publicity a publicity shoot in which she had to endure, “Freddie’s hand wrapped around my rear end.” Other women who had the same treatment from March include, Carole Lombard and Greta Garbo.

It seems director Cecil B. Demille didn't behave much better. Reports say that Demille always attempted to glimpse Claudette nude while entering and exiting the famous nude scene - which took a massive week to shoot. The crew were sympathetic to Claudette, carefully covering her to prevent him from seeing anything.

However, according to IMBD, March got his just deserts. Charles Laughton, who plays the tyrannical Nero, was a known homosexual and on occasions attempted to look up March's short toga. This, as Laurence Quirk commented, always made March, "very nervous and uncomfortable."


  1. You mentioned Carole Lombard as a recipient of Fredric March advances. No doubt she heard about the Colbert incident on the Paramount lot, so when March made his move on her, she was ready:


    Great site!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I found reading about Fredric March interesting. I always had the opinion that he was staunchly Christian and straight and all the while he was coming on to all his leading ladies.