Nicholas Ray (uncredited) WriterGeorge Bernard Shaw, Ken Englund, Chester Erskine Release dateOctober 30, 1952 (1952-10-30) (Premiere-Los Angeles)
January 9, 1953 (1953-01-09) (US)
TaglineStory of a Christian in ancient Rome who befriends a lion
Androcles and the lion 1952 clip 2
Androcles and the Lion is a 1952 RKO film produced by Gabriel Pascal from the 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.
The plot is a more or less careful rendition of George Bernard Shaw's script. Androcles, a fugitive Christian tailor, accompanied by his nagging wife, is on the run from his Roman persecutors. While hiding in the forest he comes upon a wild lion who approaches him with a wounded paw. Androcles sees that the cause is a large thorn embedded in its paw, which he draws out while talking baby language to the lion. His wife had fled, and Androcles is next seen in a procession of Christian prisoners on their way to the Colosseum in Rome. They are joined by the fierce convert Ferrovius who subsequently provides much of the comic entertainment in his struggle to keep his nature in check. Love interest is also introduced by the growing attraction of the Captain to the noble-born convert Lavinia. Eventually the party is sent into the arena to be slaughtered by gladiators, but Ferrovius kills all of them and accepts a commission offered him in the Praetorian Guards. To appease the crowd, one Christian is needed to be savaged by the lions and Androcles volunteers to uphold 'the honour of the tailors'. It turns out that the lion is the one that Androcles has helped, and the two waltz round the arena to the acclaim of the people. 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.
George Sanders was meant to play Caesar but was unable to get out of another commitment. Jose Ferrer was mentioned for the part of Androcles.
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.
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.
Filming began 13 August 1951.
Howard Hughes, who had seen Young on TV, hired him for the lead. When it opened in American cinemas nobody laughed, so Hughes withdrew the film and shot two weeks of new sequences. Alan Young recalled "He put in girls with gauze and a real lion, and it became a blood-and-guts film," in 1987.