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. Continue Reading