The Robe is based on the book by Lloyd Douglas and tells the story of Roman soldier and ladies' man Marcellus (Richard Burton). In attendance at Christ's crucifixion, Marcellus and his friends pass the time by playing dice, and Marcellus wins Jesus' robe. Following the famous words 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do', a thunderstorm breaks out. Marcellus asks his Christian slave Demetrius (Victor Mature) to throw the robe over him to protect him from the rain, but suffers a painful seizure and the first stirrings of remorse. The robe affects Marcellus deeply, and while it is in his s he suffers horrifying visions. Demetrius has had enough of his master's behavior, and, taking the robe, he leaves Marcellus. Marcellus becomes obsessed, and is given permission by the Emperor Tiberius (Ernest Thesiger) to seek out and destroy the robe, collecting the names of Jesus' followers along the way. The robe later cures Marcellus' madness and his pain although only the love of his true sweetheart Diana (Jean Simmons) can save Marcellus truly, together with the support of Demetrius and the disciple Peter (Michael Rennie).moreless
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Jesus Christ (voice)
The opening scene of The Robe is actually a scene from the movie's sequel Demetrius And The Gladiators which had already gone into production.
Historical Goof: A scene is shown with Christian believers of the early part of the 1st century taking refuge in catacombs in Rome, even though the actual first Christian catacombs were not to be dug in Rome until the 2nd century.
Historical Goof: Numerous characters are heard referring to the region as Palestine during the day of Christ. The region was actually called Judea and was not renamed Palestine until 135 AD by Emperor Hadrian.
Timeline Goof: Julia, the wife of Emperor Tiberius, is seen briefly, even though by the time of Christ's death, she herself had been dead for many years.
Goof: The statue shown in the opening scene is of the Roman poet Antinous, who would not be born until eighty years after this movie's time period.
Caligula: You put him to death? Then why are you risking your life for him?
Marcellus Gallio: I owe Him more than my life!
Marcellus Gallio: Surely you don't believe he rose from the dead?
Justus: He lives more surely than we do!
Demetrius: (waking up in the dark, to his aide) Is it night?
Aide: No. It's the middle of the day. This isn't like other days.
Jesus Christ: (on the cross, gasping) Father...forgive them...for they know not what they do.
Demetrius: (to Marcellus...screaming) YOU crucified him! YOU, my master! Yet you freed ME! I'll never serve you again, you Roman pig! Masters of the world, you call yourselves. Thieves! Murderers! Jungle animals! A curse on you! A curse on your empire!
The film won 2 Academy Awards for Best Costume Design - Color and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Color.
The Robe was released in "Stereophonic Sound", a new sound recording format which required each scene to be recorded with three microphones.
By the time The Robe was released, it's cost had ballooned to over $4.5 million dollars. It would eventually gross over $25 million worldwide in theaters.
New movies like The Robe using the CinemaScope format required a different screen which was wider than the standard academy screen and curved meaning theaters had to rip out their old screens and install the costly new ones. The new screens were called Miracle Mirror screens which were much wider and each one different to fit the inside of the different theaters. The Miracle Mirror screens had a metallic surface allowing greater reflectivity and a brighter picture and could also be used to view standard and 3-D movies.
The Robe was the first motion picture filmed in the CinemaScope wide-screen format to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award.
Since the CinemaScope filming process was brand new and most theaters did not yet have the wide, wrap-around screens to project it, The Robe was shot in both the standard academy format and the new super wide screen format. This meant each and every scene had to be filmed twice with different cameras which involved replacing one camera with another, moving equipment that might now be in the wide frame, and trying to capture the performance again. Essentially, what this means is the wide format film and standard format film are two different movies.
The role of Marcellus was offered to Tyrone Power who turned it down.
The role of Demetrius was offered to Burt Lancaster who turned it down.
The role of Marcellus was going to be offered to Laurence Olivier.
The role of Diana was going to be offered to Janet Leigh.
Donald Klune, the movie's 2nd Assistant Director, played the role of Jesus in the film. Klune was known to continue to work in his role as 2nd AD in costume. The studio finally forbid him from eating in the Fox commissary in his costume, siting that it would be "inappropriate" to have Jesus Christ eating lunch with everyone else.
The Robe was the first theatrical release to use a new wrap-around curved screen called CinemaScope, which would quickly become one of the movie industry's standards.