Film Series : UCLA Festival of Preservation 2015

The First Legion

1951, Douglas Sirk, USA, 86 min. With Charles Boyer and Lyle Bettger.

Show Times

  • Sun, Oct 4th 5:30pm
  • Mon, Oct 5th 6:00pm

One of Sirk’s most unusual and explicitly philosophical films, this adaptation of Emmet Lavery’s 1934 play centers on a Jesuit seminary where an apparent miracle draws hordes of hysterical supplicants and sparks an internal debate over the validity of the alleged visitation. Working in a very different vein from the baroque flamboyance of his later color melodramas (WRITTEN ON THE WIND, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS), Sirk’s deep-focus black-and-white style keeps skepticism and faith in a delicate balance, equal parts ACE IN THE HOLE and ORDET. Anchored by Boyer’s superb performance as a lawyer-priest whose integrity turns him into a reluctant detective, the excellent cast includes Preston Sturges’s go-to sorehead William Demarest in an unusually substantial and moving role, and little-remembered Lyle Bettger as an intriguing, agnostic antihero. Preservation funding provided by The Louis B. Mayer Foundation and The Carl David Memorial Fund for Film Preservation. 35mm. (MR)