Screen Pilates: Arthur Kennedy

Wednesday, April 12, AD 2017

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore,  Hurd Hatfield and Vincent Regan, may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here , here and here.

The film Barabbas (1961) starring Anthony Quinn, focuses on the murderer, (Zealot?) Barabbas who was freed by Pilate instead of Christ.  As I was sure was the case with the historical Barabbas, he commits new offenses and finds himself again before Pilate portrayed by Arthur Kennedy.  Largely forgotten today, Kennedy who passed away in 1990 was a notable actor of the forties, fifties and sixties, and was considered one of the best supporting actors of his day.  He plays Pilate as something of an intellectual as he engages Barabbas in an impromptu debate as to whether states are merely bandits like Barabbas writ large.  This debate echoes this passage in book IV of the City of God by Saint Augustine:

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

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Screen Pilates: Vincent Regan

Tuesday, April 11, AD 2017

 

 

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore and Hurd Hatfield may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here and here.

A miniseries portrayal of Pilate by actor Vincent Regan, an Irish Catholic turned agnostic but who is a self-proclaimed “big fan” of both the Pope and Christ, in A.D. The Bible Continues, broadcast in 2016.   By the very nature of a miniseries Regan is given an opportunity for a fuller portrayal of Pilate by virtue of far more time on screen than the few minutes most actors portraying Pilate are allotted in a feature film.  I wish better use had been made of the time.

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Screen Pilates: Hurd Hatfield

Monday, April 10, AD 2017

 

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie and Lowell Gilmore may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here and here.

Of all the big budget Biblical epics of Hollywood, King of Kings (1961) gets the least respect and perhaps deservedly so.  The film is notable for being the first big budget Hollywood movie to depict Christ directly, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role.  Although Hunter was the correct age, 33, he looked far younger and the film has sometimes been nicknamed “I Was A Teenage Christ”.

Veteran actor Hurd Hatfield portrayed Pilate.  It is an interesting portrayal with Pilate cool, haughty and officially correct in his examination of Christ and highly emotional behind the scenes.  Josephus depicts Pilate as being irascible and possessed of a violent temper and Hatfield gives us that dimension of Pilate.

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Screen Pilates: Richard Boone

Monday, April 10, AD 2017

Richard Boone

(I am republishing this from 2011.  When I first published it then the clip of Boone in the Robe as Pilate was not available on Youtube.  Besides, this has always been one of my favorite TAC posts.)

 

The second of our series on screen portrayals of Pontius Pilate is Richard Boone in the film The Robe (1953).  ( The portrayal of Pilate by Rod Steiger in Jesus of Nazareth (1977), the first in our series, is reviewed here.)  Descended from a younger brother of Daniel Boone, Boone, a Navy veteran of the Pacific during World War ii, studied acting on the GI bill.  Boone assayed the role of Pilate only three years into his career, but he already had the three traits that made him stand out as an actor:  a commanding presence, a deep gravelly voice and an ability to suggest that a character he is portraying is not as simple as we think at first glance.  Boone went on to be a western television star in the hit show Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963) in which he played Paladin, a West Point graduate who fought for truth and justice in the old West, as long as his $1,000.00 fee was paid.  Boone portrayed Paladin as a well-educated man who would often draw upon his knowledge of history to win the day.  It was the favorite show of a very small Donald McClarey and no doubt helped inspire a love of history in me.  Here is the Paladin theme song which could be sung by almost all schoolboys in the early Sixties:

Alright, that is quite enough Memory Lane!  Back to the task at hand.   Below is  the video clip of Boone as Pilate.

We see Pilate washing his hands.  Tribune Gallio, portrayed by Richard Burton, has been ordered to report to Pilate.  Gallio is being summoned back to Rome.  However, Pilate has one task for him to perform before he leaves.  A routine assignment, the execution of three criminals.  One of them is a fanatic, who has a following and Gallio is told by Pilate to bring enough men to deal with trouble.  Pilate gives these orders in a clipped military style, wasting not a syllable.

Then, the unexpected happens.  Pilate confesses, almost talking to himself, that he had a miserable night, bedeviled by factions and no one agreeing with anyone, with even his wife having an opinion. (“Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.”). Pilate then shakes off his reverie, and wishes Gallio good luck.  He then asks a slave to bring water to wash his hands, and is reminded that he has just washed his hands.

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One Response to Screen Pilates: Richard Boone

  • Telly Sevalas also did a commendable performance in the role. From what we know of Romans and from Matthew’s account, I always thought his to be the most heartfelt though I think Boone’s better related to our present time.

Screen Pilates: Lowell Gilmore

Thursday, March 24, AD 2016

 

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth and David Bowie may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here and here.

Actor Lowell Gilmore had the distinction of portraying Pilate three times:  The Living Christ twelve part series (1951). I Beheld His Glory (1952) and Day of Triumph (1954).

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Screen Pilates: David Bowie

Wednesday, March 23, AD 2016

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson and Peter Firth may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here and here.

Perhaps the oddest portrayal of Pilate is by David Bowie, who passed away recently, in the enormously controversial film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), which was based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis.  I have a hard time being offended by either the novel or the film because Kazantzakis’ take on Christ is so bizarre, and so contrary to the historical record, that it occurred to me that the novel was not really about Christ, but a totally fictional construct by Kazantzakis in which only the name of Jesus remains the same.  The scene at the top of the post where “Pilate” interrogates “Christ” (Willem Dafoe),  is typical:  the dialogue is completely made up and is conducted listlessly by both “Pilate” and “Christ”, rather as if they were participants in a college bull session that had gone on too late into the wee hours of the morning.  One expects one of them to say, “We better turn in, or we will never get up for class.”

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4 Responses to Screen Pilates: David Bowie

  • To be honest, I found some of the scenes in TLToC unintentionally hilarious, as opposed to offensive. Everyone involved seemed to be a bit off their game, including Scorsese.

  • I was intrigued by The Last Temptation of Christ when all the controversy erupted over it. The movie house chains in St. Louis wouldn’t show it. I didn’t see it until years later when I rented the VHS tape from a Mom and Pop video store, (even Blockbuster wouldn’t carry the tape)

    SPOILER WARNING!

    I thought the movie ultimately supported Jesus’ mission because everything did happen as we have been told. His alternate life was either an hallucination or was undone by God when he begged forgiveness. It was a Prodigal Son metaphor. The idea that most powerful thing that the devil could use to tempt Jesus was to just be a normal man with a job and a family and not have the salvation of mankind on his shoulders. More tempting than all the power in the world or bread to a starving man. The idea that Satan tempted Jesus with the life we all have is very powerful. Kind of seems like we are beating the devil just by living our lives. There is nothing better he can offer us.

    But yes, the performances by Willem Dafoe and Bowie were very subdued. I am sure that was intentional to better make the characters seem human and not the famous icons they are today..

  • Agnostic Bible fanfiction? I know the gnostics did some bible fanfiction….. There’s even a special word for bible fanfiction, pseudepigraphical!

    It can be good or bad, religiously speaking. 😀

  • ..the performances by Willem Dafoe..

    THAT’S why he looked so familiar, and why it seemed so strange… The Goblin King is talking to Green Goblin.

Screen Pilates: Peter Firth

Tuesday, March 22, AD 2016

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell and Leif Erickson may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here and here.

Veteran actor Peter Firth portrays Pilate as a worried man in the currently released movie Risen (2016), afraid that if the body of Christ cannot be found unrest from His followers will occur on the eve of a visit to Judaea by the Emperor Tiberius.  The visit of Emperor Tiberius is a fictional device to heighten the drama I assume.  At the time of the execution of Christ, Tiberius was in decadent retirement on the island of Capri.  The historical Pilate had good reason to fear the wrath of Tiberius, as he was a protégé of Roman strongman Sejanus, who Tiberius had executed on October 18, 31 AD, a year of two, likely, before Christ was put to death.  The Jewish philosopher Philo, an older contemporary of Christ born in 25 BC and who would live to 50 AD, noted that Sejanus had helped foster anti-Semitic policies throughout the Empire, and that Tiberius had repudiated these policies upon the fall of Sejanus, and commanded that good relations with the Jewish communities throughout the Roman Empire be the policy of the Roman government.  This of course would have put Pilate on the spot, since he had a generally bad relationship with the Jews.  Much that is obscure about Pilate’s attitude toward Christ is made clear if Philo is accurate in his statement.  Why the screenwriters of Risen did not use these facts, rather than inventing a fictional visit of Tiberius, is beyond me.

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7 Responses to Screen Pilates: Peter Firth

  • Good flick. Fiction but scripturally compatible.

  • I’m looking forward to seeing this movie. Until I do, my top “Pilate” picks have been:

    #1-Hristov Shopov
    #2-Rod Steiger.

  • Why the screenwriters of Risen did not use these facts, rather than inventing a fiction visit of Tiberius, is beyond me.

    Probably because it would have ended up sidetracking the story too much trying to establish everything and bring the audience up to speed in a limited run time movie. Not that I’m still disappointed at times by the lack of full background.

    Though maybe a short run tv series or miniseries would be best to get the audience on the same page as the characters of the story. People will grasp the political intricacies for Game of Thrones, let’s HBO up the Bible! (yeah I know that project will never get off the ground)

  • Also because most people have heard of Tiberius, but not Sejanus.
    .
    And speaking of HBOing up the Bible, anybody watch the now cancelled Of Kings and Prophets?

  • I know you have already highlighted Barry Dennen, the Pilate from Jesus Christ SuperStar who is great but did you know there was another production in 2000?
    I think the Pilate is that production is amazing.
    Here is a link:

  • Okay, that link is to the beginning of the show. I copied and pasted the Trial Before Pilate link. Don’t know why the wrong one is there.

  • I think this is the Trial before Pilate. Fred Johanson plays Pilate. I think he is amazing

Screen Pilates: Leif Erickson

Monday, March 21, AD 2016

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, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King and Brian Mitchell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here and here.

Hill Number One (1951) was a well-done film of Family Theater Productions, a company founded by the late Father Francis Peyton, the famed Rosary Priest, who led Rosary Crusades around the globe.  Family Theater Productions produced some 700 films and television programs.  Hill Number One has a chaplain telling some GIs during the Korean War, when battles for hills were common, how Jesus took Hill Number One, Calvary, by Himself.  Leif Erickson, who later starred in the Western television series The High Chaparral (1967-71), portrays Pilate as a harsh soldier/administrator, completely baffled by the mystery of Christ.  A forgotten minor classic, this video makes excellent Holy Week viewing.  Watch for an early screen appearance by James Dean as the Apostle John.

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Screen Pilates: Keith Mitchell

Tuesday, March 31, AD 2015

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, Stephen Moyer and Dennis King may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here and here.

CBS broadcast a film adaptation of Jim Bishop’s book The Day Christ Died in 1980.  Bishop hated the film adaptation, had his name removed from the credits and attempted unsuccessfully to change the name of the film.

Brian Mitchell, best known as King Henry VIII in The Six Wives of Henry VIII gives a powerful portrayal as Pilate.  Pilate is interpreted by Mitchell as a politician who, by his own admission, believes in nothing other than his career.  He is disturbed by his wife’s desire to spare Christ.  He is intrigued by Christ and views Him as a mysterious figure.  Ultimately he reluctantly decides to have Christ crucified when Caiaphas accuses him of disloyalty to Caesar, at least that is the public excuse for him literally washing his hands of the matter before the mob.  A glance by Pilate at the pitcher prior to him offering the choice between Barabbas and Christ indicates that he planned what he would do if the mob chose Barabbas.  A good portrayal of Pilate that catches what a tricky character he no doubt was, rather than the straight forward Pilate of most other retellings of the Passion.

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Screen Pilates: Dennis King

Friday, March 27, AD 2015

 

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.

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Screen Pilates: Stephen Moyer

Wednesday, March 25, AD 2015

 

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 and Cyril Richard may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here and here.

Stephen Moyer portrays Pilate in the upcoming National Geographic TV Killing Jesus, which is being shown on Palm Sunday at 7:00 PM Central Time.  Based on the book Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly, who improbably has reaped a fortune from Killing Lincoln, Killing KennedyKilling Patton and now Killing Jesus, I will watch  this and attempt to rid my mind against my settled conviction that O’Reilly is a buffoon and a blowhard of the first order.  To be fair I have watched both of the television movies based on Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy and enjoyed both of them.

Stephen Moyer is the first screen portrayal of Pilate in the Screen Pilates series whose performance has not yet been released to the public.  I am bringing it to the attention of the blog now, in order for blog readers to watch the film and give their opinions regarding the performance in the combox after the movie.  Moyer has described himself as a lapsed atheist so that might add an interesting touch to his portrayal.

From the film clip it appears as if Moyer might be portraying Pilate as a harried politician, but no assessment of the performance will be made by me until after the film when I will update this post.

Update:

Well that was disappointing.  Moyer played Pilate as a weak man.  Throughout the film Caiaphas is putting pressure on him to have Jesus executed.  After Jesus is scourged, Pilate says that scourging is enough, and that He may not survive the scourging anyway, since many do not.  Caiaphas repeats the demand, Pilate nods weakly, and Jesus is crucified.  No second trial before Pilate.  No Ecce Homo, no Barabbas and no washing of hands.  It was like watching Hamlet in a version where the “To Be or Not to Be” speech is cut.  A waste of three hours.

 

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8 Responses to Screen Pilates: Stephen Moyer

  • I was most transfixed by Hristov Shopov. Rod Steiger comes in 2nd for me.

  • They were both very good performances. What is notable for me is how good the performances as Pilate have been. The role seems to cause actors to summon their very best when it comes to portraying the man who unknowingly judged God.

  • I’ve always felt Pilate to be the worst human character acting in the murder of Jesus. He knows Jesus is innocent, but instead of doing his duty and releasing him, he knowingly does evil by sentencing an innocent man to death. Of course everyone is a sinner, and all the actors in Christ’s death are motivated by some sinful inpulse (Jewish temple authorities by pride, Judas by greed). But Pilate is motivated by political expedience.

  • “But Pilate is motivated by political expedience.”

    My take on Pilate which I run every Good Friday:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2014/04/18/report-to-the-emperor-first-draft-2/

  • Off topic – a blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation to all at The American Catholic.

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  • From Don’s wife Cathy: The film seemed to give naturalistic explanations for phenomena described in the Bible (f.ex., the boy “possessed by demons” appeared to be having an epileptic seizure), and the miraculous healing of that boy & the filling of Peter’s fishing net are shown to be caused by prayer to God (the Father), rather than by any direct action or words of Jesus (as God the Son). Very few actual miracles depicted (those 2 & the Resurrection the only ones I noticed), and Christ does not appear on-screen post-Resurrection. I’m a little surprised that, considering Mr. O’Reilly’s Catholic background, this depiction of the life of Christ wasn’t closer to the traditional Biblical description. Were the producer & director of the “Killing Jesus” TV movie going for such an ecumenical depiction of Jesus that it would be acceptable to non-Christians?

  • I, too, noticed the absence of miracles and the general ‘pick and choose” aspect of the narrative. No feeding the five-thousand, no Lazarus resurrection. When the temple guard’s ear was cut off in Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t heal it. And then there were scenes that were just out of nowhere like Judas buying a rope from the goat-herder. What was the point of adding something that has no Biblical basis?

Screen Pilates: Vincent Varconi

Wednesday, April 16, AD 2014

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 and Cyril Ritchard may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here and here.

One of the earliest screen portrayals of Pilate was by Hungarian actor Vincent Varconi in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent screen epic King of Kings (1927).  We first see Pilate enthroned as the embodiment of Roman power before a huge imperial eagle.  Initially bored by the attempt by Caiaphas to have him execute Jesus, he refuses to look at a document that Caiaphas has prepared laying out the charges against Jesus, after he talks to Jesus he feels the power of the words and presence of Christ, and seeks to satisfy Caiaphas and his mob by having Jesus beaten.

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Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard

Tuesday, April 15, AD 2014

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.

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6 Responses to Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard

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  • 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?

  • 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!

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  • 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

Screen Pilates: Greg Hicks

Monday, April 14, AD 2014

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 and Stephen Russell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here and here.

Greg Hicks portrays Pilate in the movie Son of God (2014) as concerned above all at protecting his position.  If he does not execute Jesus Caiaphas can tell Tiberius through his agents that Pilate is coddling a rebel against Rome and that would lead to the ending of Pilate’s procuratorship and perhaps his life.  That is more than enough reason for him to deny the request for mercy for Christ from his wife Procula, disturbed by her dream of Christ.

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8 Responses to Screen Pilates: Greg Hicks

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  • “By asking the question, “Jesus or Barabbas?” he (Pilate) had already rejected the claims of Jesus. By placing the two on the same level, he had ranged himself with Christ’s enemies. This choice was in fact a failure of nerve: failure to commit himself to the defense of a man in whom he had found no crime. Niemöller , preaching in Nazi Germany with the storm troopers closing in around him, saw Pilates everywhere. “In those days and weeks,” he said, “it seems dangerous to vote or to work openly and unequivocally for this Jesus, and human foresight and shrewdness may more than once give us the tempting counsel to imitate Pilate and leave the decision to others. ‘Do choose for yourselves; you are free, you know, to decide whether you will have Barabbas or Jesus, of whom it is said is called the Christ.” ~Pontius Pilate by Ann Wroe This excerpt, from Chapter 5 “The Great Equivocator”.

  • “By asking the question, “Jesus or Barabbas?” he (Pilate) had already rejected the claims of Jesus.”

    I disagree with Ms. Roe, whose book I have read. Pilate was testing by this stratagem who was the stronger on the streets in Jerusalem: Caiaphas or the followers of Jesus, and the answer was obvious, even though Barabbas was a bandit and rebel. Pilate’s goal throughout his encounter with Jesus was to prevent a rebellion in Jerusalem during Passover, which could easily have led to full scale war. The claims of Jesus would have struck Pilate as mysterious and Jewish and largely incomprehensible to him. After the intervention of his wife, he would have preferred to have let Jesus live, but Caiaphas had prepared a clever trap, and Pilate ultimately saw the execution of Jesus as his only way out.

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Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

Thursday, March 28, AD 2013

 

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 and Frank Thring may be read here, here, here, here  here and here.

Stephen Russell portrays Pilate in The Gospel of John (2003) which is a straight forward no frills presentation of the Gospel of John.  As in the Gospel of John Pilate is shown in the film as first curious about Jesus and then sympathetic to Jesus.  He attempts to save Jesus by giving the mob a choice between Jesus and the bandit Barabbas.  When that fails he presents Jesus after He has been beaten and utters the phrase Ecce Homo, Behold the Man.

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5 Responses to Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

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  • I would like to place a challenge to you — analyse the portrayal of the Procurator in the TV adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.” It’s quite different from the Gospel standard, but well known to Russians, as it’s arguably the greatest Russian-language novel of the 20th Century. The Pilate in Vladimir Bortko’s Rossiya TV version was Kirill Lavrov, a top Russian actor (the entire cast was “A-list” of Russian TV and movie actors) A complete playlist of the TV version starts at this link, and Pilate’s first appearance in this version is at this link. It has English subtitles, and the text of those titles was cribbed from one of the leading English translations of the work.

    Anyway, it’s a unique portrayal of Pilate. Take a look at it. What do you think?

  • I read the novel the Master and Margarita when it was first translated into English. Magical Realism Russian style! A beautiful satire on Stalinist Russia, a la a combination of Faust, The Grand Inquisitor with some Thirties Slapstick tossed in. I hadn’t seen the film version before and the interplay between Christ and Pilate is interesting although it has nothing to do with the Gospels. Pilate plays the role of the Grand Inquisitor in an homage to that great section from The Brothers Karamazov. The world weariness and the cynicism I suspect is probably an accurate reflection of the historical Pilate. Mr. Lavrov did a fine job, and it is a pity that I haven’t had the time to explore Russian cinema much beyond the forties.

  • Stephen Russell’s Pilate shows reasonable wonder, and fear, accurate to the gospel account. (Now where’d the evangelists get inside info? Hard to believe a Roman governor wearing his emotions on his tunic sleeve.) This Pilate does feel very much like “us,” more so, imo, than the sneering, haughty, noxious versions. Thankfully most of “us” don’t have to worry about our families being slaughtered if we tick off our employer.

  • Thanks for sharing this information and video too.

Screen Pilates: Frank Thring

Wednesday, March 27, AD 2013

Frank Thring 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 and Telly Savalas may be read here, here, here, here and here.

The late Frank Thring, an Australian actor, had the distinction of playing both Pilate and Herod Antipas in major films, Pilate in Ben Hur (1959) and Herod Antipas in King of Kings (1961).

In Ben Hur we get a glimpse of the backstory of Pilate.  Thring portrays Pilate as an urbane Roman aristocrat dismayed that he is being sent to govern bleak and hot Judea.  At a party given by Arrius to anounce his adoption of Ben Hur, go here to view the video,  Pilate indicates his dismay at the prospect.  After Ben Hur wins his famous chariot race, Pilate cynically crowns Ben Hur as the “one true God” for the moment, of the people.  Go here to watch the clip.

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3 Responses to Screen Pilates: Frank Thring

  • Pontius Pilate serves as a rather strange figure in scripture. It is often expressed that he caved into popularity by listening to the mob and having Jesus crucified. He is described as someone who could have used his job to do the right thing, but he ignobly past that by. And so his reputation from the Christian standpoint is tarnished. He failed in his public role at so pivotal a moment as that one.

  • This series on “Screen Pilates” has been very informative. As a trivia note: there are some literary scholars who think Pilate, rather than the reluctant Pope Celestine V, is the unnamed figure in The Inferno whom Dante describes as having “in his cowardice made the great denial” — i.e. denial of responsibility for Christ’s death.

  • I had never heard that before Elaine. Of course the scholarship regarding The Divine Comedy is huge and I have only dipped a toe in that vast sea.

Screen Pilates: Telly Savalas

Tuesday, March 26, AD 2013

 

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 and Hristov Shopov may be read here, here, here and here.

Telly Savalas in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) gives a fairly stolid performance as Pilate.  He portrays Pilate as a world weary Roman functionary to whom Christ is merely a problem he does not need.  When he transfers Christ’s case to Herod, we see Jose Ferrer who gives a strikingly good portrayal of Herod Antipas.  Ferrer portrayed Herod as a man touched against his will by the words of John the Baptist.  Now however he has executed John the Baptist, and has given himself up for damned, taking refuge in drink.

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9 Responses to Screen Pilates: Telly Savalas

  • Rod Steiger was undeniably a great Pilate and Jesus of Nazareth is one of my all time favorites. But when I picture Pilate in my mind’s eye, I see and hear Hristov Shopov. He was just perfect for the role. His physical look (much like Steiger), but also his ability to convey so much with his facial expressions. He is hands down my favorite ~ he’s who I picture when I think of Pilate.

    Funny how certain movies have left me with ALWAYS picturing a certain actor when I think of the real-life person. Shopov is Pilate. Cavaziel or Robert Powell for Jesus. James Farentino is Peter. Olivia Hussey or Maia Morgenstern for the Blessed Mother.

    The Passion and Jesus of Nazareth are definitely my all-time keepers.

  • It was for this role that Telly Savalas shaved his head, creating the signature look that he kept for the rest of his career. So if it hadn’t been for Pilate, Kojak might have had hair….

  • I have watched “The Passion of The Christ” and “Jesus of Nazareth” a couple of times and those films are amazing! I will have to watch “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and see how good the movie is. Thank you for a great movie suggestion. This will be a perfect film to watch tonight with the family and feel Jesus’ undying love in our hearts. Thank you!

  • I think you will enjoy it Erin. The sequence after the Resurrection is especially good:

  • Wow, I hadn’t heard of Telly Savales in years. Guess he’s deceased by now.

  • Telly Savales was a kind man. Many years ago, my brother Gerald was shopping in a hat store in NYC. He noticed that Mr. Savales was in the store and approached him to ask what sort of hat he wore on Kojak. Telly spent some time looking with Gerry to find one of the right size and then bought it for him as a gift. As far as we know, there were no bodyguards or any entourage. Just a simple, touching encounter with a humble and kind man. I don’t think my brother knew it was paid for by Savales until he went to the cashier. They’re both gone now but I hope they get together occasionally in the Lord’s presence.

  • I have heard similar stories about Mr. Savalas, William. May his soul rest in peace, as may the soul of your brother Gerald.

  • Thank you and a Happy Easter to you and yours.