MOCRA exhibitions: The Celluloid Bible

Over 50 vintage movie posters from around the world for films inspired by the Bible and the biblical era

Celluloid Bible exhibition logo
September 16  - December 9, 2007
Opening events: Sunday, September 16
     2 - 3 p.m.: Rev. Michael Morris, OP, lectures on: "Moving Pictures: The Bible and Beyond"
     3 - 5 p.m.: opening reception
Click here for more information.

Two Celluloid Bible Classics at the Tivoli
MOCRA presents on the big screen two of the most successful film epics ever made

     Sunday, October 7: The Ten Commandments (1956)
     Sunday, November 4: Ben-Hur (1959)

     Click here for more information about this special film series.

Celluloid Bible info sheet thumbnail Download an informational brochure
with sample images.

General Exhibition Information
Hours: Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm
Admission: free, with suggested donation of $5/adults, $1/students and children
Directions and Parking information
Group visit information

La Bibbia (1966), Italian poster

A uniquely modern art form, film and its associated motion picture industry have taken Judeo-Christian scripture as subject matter from the very beginning of the medium and have continued that treatment to the present day. The Celluloid Bible: Marketing Films Inspired by Scripture examines how the Bible has been visualized on film by bringing together 53 vintage movie posters that survey films from 1898 to the present—films classic and obscure, domestic and international, grandiose and camp—along with a selection of ancillary promotional and commemorative materials.

The Bible ... In the Beginning, USA/Italy, 1966.
Italian poster.

The posters (which range from small window cards to 9-foot mural-like posters) serve as aesthetic objects in their own right, and as indicators of changing trends in the film industry’s approach to the Bible. Designed to inspire the imagination and entice viewers to make a cinematic pilgrimage, the posters allow us to trace developments in the graphic arts as well as in advertising and marketing. Many of the posters have topical imagery that links them to a particular time and place, while others achieve a timeless quality; a number deserve to be considered as bona fide works of art. The posters, like the films they promote, can reveal much about the social milieus in which they functioned. The posters also hint at the various stances filmmakers have taken toward their biblical material: reverent or irreverent, ironic or dogmatic, understated or epic.

About the collector

The Celluloid Bible draws on the extensive collection of film posters of scholar Rev. Michael Morris, O.P. Morris received his Ph.D. in Art History from the University of California at Berkeley in 1986 and for twenty years has been a Professor of Religion and the Arts at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. A special interest in film has led him to build a world-class collection of movie posters and allied material for films that charts the intersection between religion and the cinema. Morris writes for both scholarly and popular publications. His biography of the wife of the actor Rudolph Valentino (Madam Valentino: The Many Lives of Natacha Rambova, Abbeville Press, 1991) was named by The New York Times as one of the Notable Books of the Year. MOCRA is only the second venue to publicly display the Morris collection.

Golgata (France, 1935)INRI (Germany, 1923)

left: Golgata (France, 1935).
right: I.N.R.I. (Germany, 1923).
Images courtesy of Michael Morris.

Regional Arts Commission logo This exhibition is made possible in part by financial support from the Regional Arts Commission.

Additional links

Explore the The Celluloid Bible with KETC-Ch. 9's "Living St. Louis"

  • The Celluloid Bible in the media
  • Click here for more information about Michael Morris, O.P.
  • Higher purpose. Greater good.
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