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, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard and Stephen Moyer may be viewed here, here, here, here here , here, here, here, here and here.
Give us Barabbas was a Hallmark Hall of Fame tv movie shown in 1961. Pilate makes a brief appearance at the beginning of the film, asking the mob to choose between Barabbas and Christ. Washing his hands after Barabbas is chosen, Pilate, portrayed by Dennis King, seems very eager to end his role in what he clearly views as a very distasteful business. Eaten up by curiosity Barabbas has an interview with Pilate in which he questions why Christ had to die. Pilate responds that Christ spoke in riddles that puzzled Pilate and gave Pilate no grounds to spare his life. Pilate is filled with grief over the death of Christ, but does not see what else he could have done. King portrays Pilate with a great sense of world weariness, a man nearing the end of his career who did not want any involvement in this matter for which he is alone to be remembered.
It is almost a shame that this was not Barabbas the Musical as King was a noted singer, and for decades was star on Broadway. He never did much feature film work, and today is chiefly remembered for his work in early television. He died in 1971. The author of the screenplay, Henry Denker, who originally studied to be a rabbi, before making a ghastly error and becoming an attorney prior to finding his life long avocation of writing, often Christian themed religious dramas, lived until 2012, passing away at age 99.
Audience reception for the film was good and it was replayed for years near Easter on NBC.