The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

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    Plot Summary
    The life of Jesus Christ.

    Full Cast
    Max von Sydow .... Jesus
    Michael Anderson Jr. .... James the Younger
    Carroll Baker .... Veronica
    Ina Balin .... Martha of Bethany
    Pat Boone .... The figure in the tomb
    Victor Buono .... Sorak
    Richard Conte .... Barabbas
    Joanna Dunham .... Mary Magdalene
    José Ferrer .... Herod Antipas
    Van Heflin .... Bar Amand
    Charlton Heston .... John the Baptist
    Martin Landau .... Caiaphas
    Angela Lansbury .... Claudia
    Janet Margolin .... Mary of Bethany
    David McCallum .... Judas Iscariot
    Roddy McDowall .... Matthew
    Dorothy McGuire .... The Virgin Mary
    Sal Mineo .... Uriah
    Nehemiah Persoff .... Shemiah
    Donald Pleasence .... The Dark Hermit - Satan
    Sidney Poitier .... Simon of Cyrene
    Claude Rains .... King Herod
    Gary Raymond .... Peter
    Telly Savalas .... Pontius Pilate
    Joseph Schildkraut .... Nicodemus
    Paul Stewart .... Questor
    John Wayne .... Centurion at crucifixion
    Shelley Winters .... Woman who is healed
    Ed Wynn .... Old Aram
    John Abbott .... Aben
    Rodolfo Acosta .... Captain of lancers
    Michael Ansara .... Herod's commander
    Robert Blake .... Simon the Zealot
    Burt Brinckerhoff .... Andrew
    Robert Busch .... Emissary
    John Considine .... John
    Philip Coolidge .... Chuza
    John Crawford .... Alexander
    Frank DeKova .... The tormentor (as Frank de Kova)
    Cyril Delevanti .... Melchior
    Jamie Farr .... Thaddaeus
    David Hedison .... Philip
    Russell Johnson .... Scribe
    Mark Lenard .... Balthazar
    Robert Loggia .... Joseph
    John Lupton .... Speaker of Capernaum
    Peter Mann .... Nathanael
    Tom Reese .... Thomas
    Marian Seldes .... Herodias
    David Sheiner .... James the Elder
    Frank Silvera .... Caspar
    Joseph Sirola .... Dumah
    Abraham Sofaer .... Joseph of Arimathaea
    Harold Stone .... Gen. Varus (as Harold J. Stone)
    Chet Stratton .... Theophilus
    Michael Tolan .... Lazarus
    Ron Whelan .... Annas
    Gene Roth
    Richard Bakalyan .... Good thief on cross (uncredited)
    Nesdon Booth .... (uncredited)
    Marc Cavell .... Bad thief on cross (uncredited)
    Jay C. Flippen .... Drunken soldier (Herod Antipas' court) (uncredited)
    Kay Hammond .... (uncredited)
    Dal Jenkins .... Philip (uncredited)
    Celia Lovsky .... Woman behind railings (uncredited)
    Victor Lundin .... Centurion guard (uncredited)
    Dorothy Neumann .... (uncredited)
    Gil Perkins .... Jacob of Bethlehem (uncredited)
    Joseph V. Perry .... Archelaus (uncredited)
    John Pickard .... Peter's accuser #2 (uncredited)
    Frank Richards .... (uncredited)
    Johnny Seven .... Pilate's aide (uncredited)
    Mickey Simpson .... Rabble rouser (uncredited)
    Norm Taylor .... Roman Soldier at Crucifixion (uncredited)
    Randall Taylor .... Male Baby Extra (uncredited)
    Renata Vanni .... Weeping woman (uncredited)
    Ronald Walkshorse .... Male Child Extra (uncredited)
    Harry Wilson .... (uncredited)
    Jimmy Yates .... Herodian Guard (uncredited)

    George Stevens
    David Lean (uncredited)
    Jean Negulesco (uncredited)

    Frank I. Davis .... executive producer
    George Stevens Jr. .... associate producer
    George Stevens .... producer
    Antonio Vellani .... associate producer

    Writing Credits
    Fulton Oursler (book)
    Henry Denker (source writings)
    James Lee Barrett (screenplay) andGeorge Stevens (screenplay)
    Carl Sandburg uncredited

    Original Music
    Alfred Newman
    Hugo Friedhofer (uncredited)
    Fred Steiner (uncredited)

    Loyal Griggs
    William C. Mellor

    Henry Wills .... stunt coordinator
    Carol Daniels .... stunts (uncredited)
    Johnny Hagner .... stunts (uncredited)
    Loren Janes .... stunts (uncredited)
    Neil Summers .... stunts (uncredited)
    Norm Taylor .... stunts (uncredited)
    Bob Terhune .... stunt double: John Wayne (uncredited)
    Henry Wills .... stunts (uncredited)

    Cinematographer William C. Mellor suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died on the set.

    Telly Savalas shaved his head bald for his role as Pontius Pilate. He kept his head shaved for the rest of his life.

    During filming, the first snowstorm to strike Arizona in decades buried the whole Jerusalem set. Several hundred cast and crew members, including director George Stevens, went out with snow shovels, wheelbarrows, bulldozers, and butane flame throwers to clear the snow from the set. Just as they were done, it snowed again, even harder than before - forcing the production to close and move to Desilu Studios in Hollywood.

    Joanna Dunham, who played Mary Magdalene, became pregnant during filming. The director worked around this by shooting her from the chest up as much as possible, making her later scenes markedly unlike the earlier ones.

    Director George Stevens originally hired 550 Navajos from a local reservation to be Roman legionnaires, but they couldn't stay on the set for very long and eventually went back home to participate in a tribal election. Stevens replaced them with ROTC cadets.

    George Stevens originally wanted Richard Burton to play Jesus.

    While between his films Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), David Lean directed some interior scenes with Claude Rains and José Ferrer as a favor for George Stevens, who was bogged down with the production in Nevada. Jean Negulesco, meanwhile, directed the Nativity scene.

    Filming began using 3-strip Cinerama process. After three days of filming with the 3-strip camera, the production switched to 70mm Ultra Panavision 70.

    This film was slightly over 30 days in production using the original 3-panel Cinerama process when orders were given to abandon the Cinerama camera in favor of Ultra-Panavision 70; thus ending forever the cumbersome 3-panel Cinerama process in Hollywood. Numerous scenes had to be re-shot in the new single-lens Ultra-Panavision 70 process.

    Alec Guinness was sought for a cameo.

    Being a perfectionist, George Stevens did many takes of John Wayne's single line, "Truly, this man was the son of God." A rumor has long persisted that at one stage Stevens pleaded with Wayne to show more emotion, an overwhelming sense of awe. During the next take, Wayne changed the line to, "Aw, truly this man was the son of God."

    Martin Landau has said in interviews that half of his part was deleted in the editing stage.

    During an interview on "The Mike Douglas Show" (1961), Jamie Farr related the story of how he was so desperate for work when he auditioned for the picture that he prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, that he would get the job. He was ironically cast as the apostle Thaddeus, an alternate name for St. Jude (possibly used to avoid confusion with Judas Iscariot).

    Final film of Claude Rains.

    Filming began in 1962 and was completed in 1963, but the movie went unreleased for another two years.

    Max von Sydow said that the hardest part about playing Christ was the expectations people had of him to remain in character at all times. He couldn't smoke between takes, have a drink after work, or be affectionate with his wife on the set.

    * Incorrectly regarded as goofs: As always, differences between the film and its source material are not considered goofs. Nor are historical inaccuracies, especially when connected to heavily debated religious traditions.

    * Incorrectly regarded as goofs: SPOILER: In the film Judas Iscariot kills himself by jumping into a fire, but the Gospel accounts of this story say he hung himself. Also, after the Gospels, at the beginning of the Book of Acts, it is reported that Judas also died when he fell and his body split open, perhaps in the act of hanging himself. No where is his death associated with a fire. However, the director certainly was aware of these reports. As in other scenes in the movie, he may have decided to use a theatrical device to suggest something to the audience. Because Hell is popularly linked with fire, the implication may be that Judas sent himself to Hell, as if he literally jumped into it.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Arches National Park, Moab, Utah, USA
    Arizona, USA
    California, USA
    Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah, USA
    Crazy Canyon, Page, Arizona, USA
    Culver City, California, USA
    Dead Horse Point State Park - State Highway 313, Moab, Utah, USA
    Death Valley National Park, California, USA
    Desilu Studios - 9336 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, California, USA
    Glen Canyon, Utah, USA
    Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah, USA
    (Sermon on the Mount scene)
    Illinois, USA
    (Holy Land)
    Kanab, Utah, USA
    Lake Moab, Utah, USA
    Lake Powell, Utah, USA
    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios - 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, California, USA
    (studio) (crucifixion)
    Moab, Utah, USA
    Nevada, USA
    Page, Arizona, USA
    Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, Nevada, USA
    (Sea of Galilee - Capernaum)
    Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, Nevada, USA
    Utah, USA
    (southern border: Holy Land)

    Watch the Clip



    Here is a link to previous discussion:-

    The Greatest Story Ever Told

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 14 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The Greatest Story Ever Told is a 1965 American epic film
    produced and directed by George Stevens and distributed by United Artists.
    It is a retelling of the story of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through the Resurrection.
    This film is notable for its large ensemble cast and for being the last film
    appearance of Claude Rains.

    The Greatest Story Ever Told originated as a U.S. radio series in 1947,
    half-hour episodes inspired by the Gospels.
    The series was adapted into a 1949 novel by Fulton Oursler, a senior editor at Reader's Digest.
    Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, acquired the film rights
    to the Oursler novel shortly after publication,but never brought it to pre-production.

    In 1958, when George Stevens was producing and directing
    The Diary of Anne Frank at 20th Century Fox, he became aware
    that the studio owned the rights to the Oursler property.
    Stevens created a company, "The Greatest Story Productions", to film the novel.

    It took two years to write the screenplay.
    Stevens collaborated with Ivan Moffet and then with James Lee Barrett.
    It was the only time Stevens received screenplay credit for a film he directed.
    Ray Bradbury and Reginald Rose were considered but neither participated.
    The poet Carl Sandburg was solicited though it is not certain if any of his contributions were included.
    Sandburg, however, did receive screen credit for "creative association."

    Financial excesses began to grow during pre-production.
    Stevens commissioned French artist André Girard to prepare
    352 oil paintings of Biblical scenes to use as storyboards.
    Stevens also traveled to the Vatican to see Pope John XXIII for advice.

    In August 1961, 20th Century Fox withdrew from the project,
    noting that $2.3 million had been spent without any footage being shot.
    Stevens was given two years to find another studio or 20th Century Fox would reclaim its rights.
    Stevens moved the film to United Artists.

    Stevens cast Swedish actor Max von Sydow as Jesus.
    Von Sydow had never appeared in an English-language film
    and was best known for his performances in Ingmar Bergman's dramatic films.
    Stevens wanted an unknown actor free of secular
    and unseemly associations in the mind of the public.

    The Greatest Story Ever Told featured an ensemble of well-known actors,
    many of them in brief, even cameo, appearances.
    Some critics would later complain that the large cast distracted from the solemnity,
    notably in the appearance of John Wayne as the Roman centurion
    who comments on the Crucifixion, in his well-known voice, by stating:
    "Truly this man was the son of God."

    Well, here it is, apart from The Conqueror which must be the worst movie Duke made,
    this must be the worst acting he ever did.

    In just 8 words, he nearly proved his critics right!!!
    He uttered those words, just so bad, they were laughable.
    Why, oh why, did, he put himself into this situation,
    a Roman Centurion, was bad enough, but to deliver Roman diagogue!!!!!


    Truly this man was the son of God

    The film was boring enough, and to wait all this long for the MAN,
    and to listen to this, was the biggest let, down, in my film watching days!!

    Charlton Heston, said of Duke,


    There are actors, who can do period roles, and actors, who can't......
    God knows, Duke Wayne, couldn't play a first-century Roman!

    User Review

    Chuck, you just about sum it up!!

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 4 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Obviously, we can't realistically call this a John Wayne movie, only that he made a VERY brief appearance it it. However, for the die-hard collector, that one line makes this movie one to have. While not one of the best, it is a story that is important to many people.

    Deep Discount DVD has it for under $10.

    Amazon has it on DVD, VHS, the book of the same title, audio CD of the score.

    Chester :newyear:

  • I guess the 0/10 rating is based on John Wayne's effort (event though he wasn't in it long enough to get a rating at all). I think this movie is OK. More like 6/10. Mind you with my lack of knowledge of the bible I guess a lot more of this story was new to me than to most people. :)

    Popol Vuh

  • I haven't been able to force myself to watch the whole movie, it's incredibly dull and long. Max van Sydow is very good in Ingmar Bergman films and many later ones too, but in this, horrible. Duke's part I've watched many times over, I find it hilarious

    I don't believe in surrenders.

  • Hi

    A colleague at work who liked John Wayne told me the following story that one Easter TGSET was on and that John Wayne was appearing in it. He sat in his favourite chair and settled down to watch the movie Three quarters through he got bored and briefly dozed off just as the crucifixtion scene was about to take place and missed Duke's appearance.
    I think the movie isn't that bad and Dukes appearance prpbably paid a bill or two.

    As for the quote David Niven in his book The Moons A Balloon was one of the first to tell the story but quickly rubbished it as just a myth. A very good one but a myth nevertheless.



    Walk Tall - Talk Low

  • I thought the big guy looked sincere while speaking his line.

    Greetings from North of the 49th

  • Seeing this film as a young teen on the big screen I eagerly waited for Dukes sceen. As I walked out at the end shaking my head thinking this is one film Duke should have passed up. Even his centurion costume looked to small.
    He looked more like Goliath from the bible.:ohwell:

    ''baby sister i was born game and intend to go out that way.''

  • As for the quote David Niven in his book The Moons A Balloon was one of the first to tell the story but quickly rubbished it as just a myth. A very good one but a myth nevertheless.

    Aw-w-w-w, Arthur! That was one of my favorite stories about this movie and John Wayne.
    It showed he had a quick wit and a good sense of humor :))):.
    Chester :newyear:

  • Etsija and I are on the same page about this one. The film has some very decent actors in substantial roles, but when the celebrities start popping up like some demented whack-a-mole game, it ruins any sense of reverence.
    The whole movie looks like a moving (barely) Hallmark card.

    We deal in lead, friend.

  • Well . . . despite the mostly dismal reviews of this film, I did pick up a copy at a rummage sale today, for a whopping $2! It is on DVD, "Special Edition" Vintage Classics, with one whole disc devoted to special features (and I am a special features 'junkie' so that disc will probably get more air time than the movie itself. For the price, I don't mind adding it to the collection of John Wayne films.

    Mrs. C :angel1:

  • I love the extras on films and often will replace a DVD with a Blu Ray just for them (although a bonus is that the film images are much clearer). However, I think you still paid too much for this one. I'll be more impressed if you guys sit through it and enjoy the experience.
    I really wanted to like this film, but it misfired - to me anyway - on so many levels that it's first on my list of movies that replace ambien.

    We deal in lead, friend.