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Film / From the Manger to the Cross

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From the Manger to the Cross (1912) is, as the title indicates, a story of the life of Jesus, directed by Sidney Olcott, and written by Gene Gauntier, who played Mary and was one of Hollywood's first female screenwriters.

The film is a rather boilerplate dramatization of the life of Jesus, starting with the Christmas story, going through his ministry, and ending with his crucifixion. Two things make this film stand out. First, it was 71 minutes long, and as such is not only the first feature film about Jesus Christ, it is one of the first feature films made anywhere, period (if one defines a "feature" as at least an hour long). Second, parts of the film were shot on location in Egypt and what was then the Ottoman Empire's province of Palestine. When Joseph and Mary flee in to Egypt with baby Jesus, they pass the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and when Jesus enters Jerusalem, he passes through the Lions' Gate of Old Jerusalem.

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Most of the tropes below are also found in The Four Gospels.


This film features the following tropes:

  • Ancient Rome: Jesus is tried before Pilate, and then crucified by Roman soldiers.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The various scenes are introduced with title cards that quote from the Gospels.
  • Back from the Dead: Lazarus, but not Jesus, as the film ends with the Crucifixion.
  • Bible Times: Yes.
  • Child Prodigy: Jesus at 12, discussing religion with the teachers in the temple.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Yes.
  • Driven to Suicide: Judas hangs himself.
  • Empathic Environment: The earth shakes as Jesus dies.
  • Foreshadowing: In the most inventive shot in the movie, a young Jesus, working at carpentry with his father, carries a wooden beam. It casts a cross-like shadow on the ground.
  • Healing Hands: Jesus has a knack.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Judas has regrets, but the Sanhedrin aren't interested.
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  • I Kiss Your Foot: A woman with an alabaster box of ointment washes Jesus's feet, and then in an oddly repetitive scene, another woman with another alabaster box does the same.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: Turned water into wine at a party. Wouldn't you like to be able to do that? Walking on water is pretty nifty too.
  • Jumped at the Call: The disciples drop their fishing nets and hit the road with Jesus.
  • Messianic Archetype: Yes.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bad move, Judas.
  • Obviously Evil: Judas is portrayed this way, in one of the film's few attempts at characterization.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film omits several of Jesus's miracles (although it does include some, including making water into wine and raising Lazarus), it omits the Sermon on the Mount, and most surprisingly, it omits the Resurrection.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Jesus is scourged.
  • The Three Wise Men: Frankincense. Air freshener, basically. Well, OK.
  • The Voice: The angels who come to Joseph and Mary and the Three Wise Men. Well, it's a silent film, so we don't hear them, but both Joseph and Mary look offscreen while title cards appear. Joseph and the Wise Men are bathed in a bright light.
  • Walk on Water: It does impress disciples.
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