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Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard

Cyril Richard as Pilate

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell and Greg Hicks may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here and here.

 

Cyril Ritchard had quite a career as an actor.  He was also a devout Catholic, his funeral mass in 1977 being said by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  It is therefore interesting that his portrayal of Pilate in the Studio One television play  Pontius Pilate (1952) is one of the more cynical and overtly political.  He and Caiaphas discuss the fate of Jesus privately as two seasoned pols who might as well be arguing over the division of spoils.  After the execution of Christ he is shaken by the death of Jesus under the influence of his wife, but remains convinced that he has made the right decision.  Procula leaves him and years later he finds her among a group of Christians that he must judge.  He condemns her and the other Christians, but later orders them to be released, he being unable to have the wife he still loves condemned to crucifixion.  The play ends with Pilate unsheathing his sword and telling himself that the sword is the answer to Christ’s query of “What is Truth” with the implication that Pilate will use the sword to commit suicide, having betrayed his belief in Rome out of love for his wife.

Go here to Daily Motion to view the video.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

6 Comments

  1. I grew up knowing that this man had a house in my hometown of Ridgefield, Conn. (I believe the spelling of his last name is Ritchard.) I assumed he was French, because it was said with a French pronunciation (ri-shard), but apparently he is from Australia. I knew little about him, except that he had played Captain Hook. I did not know he was a devout Catholic or that his funeral Mass was said by Archbishop Fulton Sheen! I wonder whether the Mass was held in NYC or Ridgefield, as he his buried in Ridgefield?

  2. Thank you for noting the correct spelling of his name. The post has been corrected to reflect that. He died in harness between acts in Chicago of a touring company of Sondheim’s Side by Side, the only way for a true actor like him to go!

  3. Cyril Ritchard was a wonderful actor. I discovered that he was an Aussie and a devout Catholic when reading about Vincent Price and his wife Coral Brown, both Catholic actors.
    At noon Mass at Ft. Myer chapel the priest in his homily announced that it was “Spy Wednesday” because of the Gospel on Judas’ betrayal of Christ. He sent us home with a poem by George Marion McClellan who was an African-American poet and author:
    THE FEET OF JUDAS
    CHRIST washed the feet of Judas!
    The dark and evil passions of his soul,
    His secret plot, and sordidness complete,
    His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole,
    And still in love he stooped and washed his feet.

    Christ washed the feet of Judas!
    Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him,
    His bargain with the priest, and more than this,
    In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim,
    Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss.

    Christ washed the feet of Judas!
    And so ineffable his love ’twas meet,
    That pity fill his great forgiving heart,
    And tenderly to wash the traitor’s feet,
    Who in his Lord had basely sold his part.

    Christ washed the feet of Judas!
    And thus a girded servant, self-abased,
    Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven
    Was ever too great to wholly be effaced,
    And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven.

    And so if we have ever felt the wrong
    Of trampled rights, of caste, it matters not,
    What e’er the soul has felt or suffered long,
    Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot:
    Christ washed the feet of Judas.

    “The Feet of Judas” is reprinted from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922.
    Read more at http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/the_feet_of_judas.html#COV4JtZ45JmZ4pK4.99

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