Quo Vadis (1924 film)

Quo Vadis (or Quo Vadis?) is a 1924 Italian silent historical film directed by Gabriellino D'Annunzio and Georg Jacoby and starring Emil Jannings, Elena Sangro and Lillian Hall-Davis. It is based on the 1896 novel Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz which was notably later adapted into a 1951 film.

Quo Vadis
Lillian Hall-Davis.jpg
Lillian Hall-Davis in Quo Vadis
Directed byGabriellino D'Annunzio
Georg Jacoby
Written byGabriellino D'Annunzio
Georg Jacoby
Based onQuo Vadis
by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Produced byArturo Ambrosio
StarringEmil Jannings
Elena Sangro
Lillian Hall-Davis
Rina De Liguoro
CinematographyCurt Courant
Alfredo Donelli
Giovanni Vitrotti
Distributed byUnione Cinematografica Italiana (Italy)
First National Pictures (US)
Release date
  • October 1924 (1924-10) (Austria and Germany)
Running time
90 minutes
120 minutes (director's cut)
Italian intertitles


In Rome, during the reign of Nero, a young pagan general named Marcus Vinicius falls in love with a beautiful Christian hostage named Licia. Their love appears to be impossible, because of the conflict of their religions. Nero burns the city of Rome and blames the Christians, already hated by the pagan Romans.



The film was produced by the ambitious Unione Cinematografica Italiana. D'Annunzio, the son of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, was considered a rising director and also wrote the film's screenplay. It was one of several attempts in early Fascist Italy to recapture the success of the historical epics of the previous decade.[1] Rudolph Valentino was invited to star in the film, but was forced to turn the offer down due to contractual reasons.[2] Production quickly became troubled – the film ran seriously over-budget, and additional financing had to be raised from Germany. The new backers insisted that a German director, Jacoby, be appointed to co-direct.[3]


The film was a critical and commercial failure on its release, effectively ending the career of its producer Arturo Ambrosio, who had been one of the major figures of early Italian cinema.[4] In its review The New York Times described it as "excellent as spectacle, but is too tedious in many sequences to be a good entertainment".[5] D'Annunzio never directed or wrote another film. Jacoby's reputation also suffered heavily, and he switched to working on musicals and comedies.[6] Emil Jannings's performance, on the other hand, received moderate praise. The New Yorker noted that Jannings was the "one item beside boredom"[7] the movie had, but despite his "able performance"[7] they "still prefer him in Germanic studio surroundings".[7] The French film star Max Linder and his wife watched the film in October 1925. Later, both were found with narcotics overdoses and slit wrists, resulting in their deaths of either a suicide pact or a murder-suicide. The suicide of Petronius and Eunica in the film has been proposed as an inspiration adding to Linder's previous depression.[8]


  1. ^ Ricci p.69
  2. ^ Williams p.98
  3. ^ Scodel & Bettenworth p.228
  4. ^ Moliterno p.7
  5. ^ Holston p.261
  6. ^ Barton p.16-17
  7. ^ a b c "The New Yorker, issue #3, p. 27". 7 March 1925.
  8. ^ "MAX LINDER'S WIFE WOULD NOT QUIT HIM; Refused to Heed Her Mother's Pleading, Though She Wrote "He Will Kill Me." BOTH LEFT LAST LETTERS "Quo Vadis" Film Is Believed to Have Pointed One Way of Suicide to Star". The New York Times. 2 November 1925. p. 25. Retrieved 17 July 2021.


  • Barton, Ruth. Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film. University Press of Kentucky, 2010.
  • Holston, Kim R. Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings. McFarland, 2012.
  • Moliterno, Gino. The A to Z of Italian Cinema. Scarecrow Press, 2009.
  • Ricci, Steven. Cinema and Fascism: Italian Film and Society, 1922–1943. University of California Press, 2008.
  • Scodel, Ruth & Bettenworth, Anja. Whither Quo Vadis: Sienkiewicz's Novel in Film and Television. John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
  • Williams, Michael. Film Stardom, Myth and Classicism: The Rise of Hollywood's Gods. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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