Androcles and the Lion (1952 film)

Androcles and the Lion is a 1952 RKO film produced by Gabriel Pascal from the 1912 George Bernard Shaw play of the same name. It was Pascal's last film, made two years after the death of Shaw, his long-standing friend and mentor, and two years before Pascal's own death.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Androcles and the Lion
Androcles lion.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byChester Erskine
Nicholas Ray (uncredited)
Screenplay byChester Erskine
Ken Englund
Based onAndrocles and the Lion
by George Bernard Shaw
Produced byGabriel Pascal
StarringJean Simmons
Victor Mature
Alan Young
Robert Newton
Maurice Evans
CinematographyHarry Stradling Sr.
Edited byRoland Gross
Music byFriedrich Hollaender
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • 30 October 1952 (1952-10-30) (Premiere-Los Angeles)[1]
  • 9 January 1953 (1953-01-09) (US)[1]
Running time
98 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States


Androcles, a gentle Christian tailor, is on the run from his Roman persecutors, accompanied by his nagging wife Megaera. While they are hiding in the forest, a wild lion approaches them. Megaera swoons, but tender-hearted Androcles sees that a large thorn is deeply embedded in the lion's paw; he draws it out while soothing the beast with baby-talk. While Androcles and the lion—whom he names Tommy—are becoming best buddies, his wife escapes, and when soldiers come upon Androcles and Tommy wrestling playfully, he is accused of sorcery.

Androcles is next seen in a procession of Christian prisoners on their way to the Colosseum in Rome. They are joined by the fierce recent Christian convert Ferrovius, who subsequently provides much of the comic relief in his struggle to keep his bellicose nature in check. Love interest is provided by the growing attraction between the Roman Captain and the nobly born Christian convert Lavinia.

Eventually the party is sent into the arena to be slaughtered, but when Ferrovius demonstrates his powers of conversion—and kills all of the gladiators—Antoninus Caesar declares that all his subjects should become Christians and offers him a commission in the Praetorian Guards. Ferrovius accepts. To appease the crowd, it is necessary to choose one Christian to be savaged by a lion, and Androcles volunteers "to uphold the honour of the tailors." It turns out that the lion is the one that Androcles helped in the forest, and the two waltz round the arena to the delight of the audience. The Emperor dashes behind the scenes to get a closer look and has to be rescued from the lion by Androcles. He then orders an end to the persecution of Christians and allows Androcles and his new 'pet' to depart in peace.


Note that the opening sequence of the film places it during the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius, but the character is only addressed as "Caesar" during the film, as that was the formal way of addressing Roman Emperors.


Harpo Marx was originally signed to play Androcles, and after the first five weeks of shooting, Pascal was thrilled with the results; but Howard Hughes, who had seen Young on TV, hired him for the lead, and Harpo was replaced.[9]George Sanders was meant to play Caesar but was unable to get out of another commitment.[10] José Ferrer was mentioned for the part of Androcles.[11]

Under Pascal's contract with George Bernard Shaw, the film had to include at least 75% of Shaw's original dialogue in the screenplay. This was not a problem for this particular play since the play was short; indeed, material had to be added.[12]

Victor Mature had a contract with RKO to make one film a year. However this film, while released by RKO, was produced by GB Productions.[13]

Filming began 13 August 1951.[2]

When it opened in American cinemas nobody laughed, so Hughes withdrew the film and shot two weeks of new sequences. In 1987, Alan Young recalled, "He put in girls with gauze and a real lion, and it became a blood-and-guts film."[14]


  1. ^ a b "Androcles and the Lion: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b THOMAS M. PRYOR (15 July 1951). "HOLLYWOOD SURVEY: HEROINE". New York Times. p. X3.
  3. ^ "Androcles and the Lion(1952)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Androcles and the Lion (1952)". Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Movie Review – Androcles and the Lion". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Androcles and the Lion (1952) – Critics' Reviews". Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Shaw Society Double Bill Screening: Androcles and the Lion (1952) ..." Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  8. ^ Williams, Richard. "Androcles and the Lion". Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  9. ^ McClelland, Doug (1972). The unkindest cuts: the scissors and the cinema. NY: A. S. Barnes. pp. 114–15. ISBN 978-0498078255.
  10. ^ THOMAS F. BRADY (5 April 1951). "FILM EMPLOYMENT REPORPED ON RISE: February Figure of 13,700 Is Above '5O Monthly Average and Higher Than in '49". New York Times. p. 34.
  11. ^ Schallert, Edwin (21 February 1951). "Drama: John Wayne to Direct 'Alamo' in Fall; Gable Gets Sherman as Guide". Los Angeles Times. p. B11.
  12. ^ Richard Dyer MacCann. (4 December 1951). "New Material Is Added For Feature Film: Hollywood Letter". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 4.
  13. ^ Schallert, Edwin (5 January 1952). "New Boy Wonder Quips Career Along; ZsaZsa Gabor in 'Moulin Rouge'". Los Angeles Times. p. 11.
  14. ^ "Alan Young, star of 1960s sitcom 'Mr. Ed,' dies at 96 | Comcast". Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2016.

External linksEdit