The Robe At The Gran RexSaturday, February 09, 2013
In 1953 I was 11 years old. My parents took me to the Gran Rex on Corrientes for the premiere of the first CinemaScope film, Henry Koster’s The Robe. It featured Jean Simmons ( I fell in love with her that evening) a very young and unknown Richard Burton, a saintly and very tall Michael Rennie who played St. Peter. Not noticed by yours truly until today, was that my hero from Have Gun – Will Travel, Richard Boone is the man in the film who washes his hands many times. Boone plays Pontius Pilate.
In those days the Gran Rex was Buenos Aires finest (and still is). It was designed by a famous Argentine architect, Alberto Prebisch and built in 1937. In the 50s all films featured an “acto vivo” or live act. The live act that evening was for me a boring thin looking singer called Frank Sinatra.
The film has a section in which Burton (playing Tribune Marcellus Gallio, a converted Christian) is with his former slave, the wounded Demetrius, (played by a teary Victor Mature) on a wagon being pulled by handsome white horses. They are being pursued by Caligula’s Praetorian Guard. To us as those horses ran in our direction on that huge wide screen, this was as close to real 3-D as anything we had ever seen before.
|Cine Gran Rex|
If there is one lasting effect of that film in me it is the colour of Jesus’s robe which affects Tribune Marcellus’s sanity. He feels guilt for having been the commanding officer at the crucifixion. The robe is red.
Today Rosemary and I watched the film and when we saw a close-up of the robe and Jean Simmons rubs her hands over it I knew my memory had not deceived me.
How was I to know that all these years later that my mother’s red Mexican rebozo was the exact same colour and as homespun as the one of the film? I suspected it but today it was confirmed.
Many would say that The Robe is one of many typical Hollywood Roman/swords/Biblical extravaganza in the tradition of Cecil B. DeMille’s with a cast of thousands.
I had not seen The Robe since 1953 and I would say, that some stuff is over the top but I must also state that as I watch my 15 year-old granddaughter self destruct (it is temporary I say to myself) I think that part of the problem is that now the only dream world or fantasy world of a child is Harry Potter and Tolkien. There is no religion, no belief. In fact it was not too long ago that my granddaughter ticked atheism as her belief in facebook.
The message in The Robe may be over sanctified Christianity, but until something else can be found to help the young dream, I don’t see a life without some belief in any organized religion as one that will help a young person grow in a correct path.
But then there is always the possibility of lightning and thunder on a road much like St. Paul’s. It is never too late, not even for a tax collector.