Director Cecil B. DeMille returned to Paramount Pictures for this typically epic production, which became his first box office hit after the close of the silent era. Fredric March stars as Roman Prefect Marcus Superbus, a noble military leader of the year 64 A.D. Emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) has just burned down the city and blamed the conflagration on Christians, which has exacerbated anti-Christian sentiment. Marcus encounters a beautiful young Christian woman, Mercia (Elissa Landi), pleading with soldiers over the arrest of her beloved stepfather Titus (Arthur Hohl). The Prefect intervenes on her behalf, hoping for romance. Mercia rebuffs him, however, so Marcus attempts to humiliate her by sentencing her to live with a lesbian (Joyzelle Joiner), who has even less luck seducing the chaste Mercia. The Empress Poppaea (Claudette Colbert) desires Marcus for her own bed and becomes jealous of Mercia. When Nero orders that Christians are to be fed to the lions in the arena, Poppaea seizes the opportunity to get rid of her romantic rival, though Marcus pleads in vain with Nero to spare her life.
by Karl Williams synopsis
High Production Values