15 November 2018

The King of Kings (1927)

American silent epic The King of Kings (1927) was produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It was the second in DeMille's biblical trilogy, preceded by The Ten Commandments (1923) and followed by The Sign of the Cross (1932). The King of Kings depicts the last weeks of Jesus before his crucifixion and stars H. B. Warner in the lead role. This classic DeMille shows his storytelling talent and his showmanship by delivering a spectacle like no other. The film has two Technicolor sequences, the beginning and the resurrection scene, which use the two-strip process invented by Herbert Kalmus. The King of Kings was the first film that premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on 18 May 1927. The postcards in this post were made in Germany, France and Austria, and the stills were made by William Mortensen with a hand-held camera.

The King of Kings
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/1. Photo: National Film. Dorothy Cumming as the Virgin Mary in Cecil B. deMille's The King of Kings (1927). Caption: Mary and the blind girl.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/3. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Mary Magdalene. The charioteer was played by Noble Johnson, while Jacqueline Logan played Mary Magdalene.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/3. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) resurrects Lazarus from the Dead.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/4. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan) dries Jesus' feet.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/5. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Caiaphas the High Priest of Israel (Rudolph Schildkraut).

Victor Varconi, H.B. Warner and Rudolph Schildkraut in King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/6. Photo: National-Film. Publicity still for King of Kings (Cecil B. De Mille, 1927). Caption: Caiphas accuses Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Victor Varconi as Pontius Pilate the Governor of Judea, H.B. Warner as Jesus and Rudolph Schildkraut as Caiaphas.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/8. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: The Last Supper.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/9. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) and his Mother (Dorothy Cumming).

Equal amounts of showmanship and reverence


Hal Erickson at AllMovie: "Having scored big-time box office with his first Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments (1923), Cecil B. DeMille hoped to top this success with his 1927 The King of Kings.

Inasmuch as he was now dealing with the life of Christ, DeMille had to be careful to serve up equal amounts of showmanship and reverence.

The first creative challenge: how to "introduce" Christ in a tasteful manner? The answer: as a blind child is cured through Jesus' intervention, DeMille cuts to the child's point-of-view, slowly fading in on the kindly countenance of H.B. Warner as the Son of Man.

Still, DeMille remained DeMille, especially in his handling of the character of Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan). No longer a tattered streetwalker, Mary Magdalene is now a glamorous courtesan, replete with legions of gorgeous slave girls."

"Once he's gotten his box-office considerations out of the way, DeMille adheres faithfully to the particulars of Jesus' life, betrayal, trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. (Again, however, the director improves a bit upon his source material: the storm that follows the Crucifixion is of the same spectacular dimensions as the parting of the Red Sea in Ten Commandments, while the Resurrection is filmed in vibrant Technicolor).

To back up the authenticity of his images, DeMille -- with an assist from scenarist Jeannie Macpherson -- utilizes Scriptural quotes in his subtitles."

The King of Kings is the first film for which the still were made by a hand-held camera. Photographer William Mortenson made four hundred negatives that capture scenes as they were being shot, not posed afterwards.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/10. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) and the Captain of the Temple Guards (Theodore Kosloff).

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/11. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) on the way to Golgotha. The man helping to carry the cross could be William Boyd, who played Simon of Cyrene.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/12. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Under the Cross.

The King of Kings Ross
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Photo: DPG (Deutsche Photographische Gesellschaft). Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Pontius Pilate and his wife. Pilate was played by Victor Varconi, his wife Proculla by Majel Coleman.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Photo: DPG (Deutsche Photographische Gesellschaft). Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927) with H.B. Warner as Jesus.

Victor Varconi in The King of Kings (1927)
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5062. Photo: Cecil B. de Mille-Studio. Publicity still for The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Victor Varconi as Pontus Pilate.

The King of Kings (1927)
French postcard, no. 492. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Jesus (H.B. Warner) between the Virgin Mary (Dorothy Cumming) and Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan).

Sources: David Fahey and Linda Rich (Masters of Starlight), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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