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The Pilgrimage Play (1949)

The Pilgrimage Play


Drama / Family / Holiday

Directed by Frank R. Strayer


Nelson Leigh as Jesus of Nazareth
Stephen Chase as Simon called Peter
Leonard Penn as Judas Iscariot
Richard Hale as Pontius Pilate
Tudor Owen as Nicodemus
John Doucette as Lord Zadok
Gene Cates as John, the Beloved
Earl Smith as Blind Beggar
Fiona O'Shiel as Mary Magdala
Helen Wood as Mary Mother
Crane Whitley as Longinus
John Parrish as John the Baptist
C. Montague Shaw as Caiaphas
King Donovan as Salathiel
Wendy Howard as Martha
Helen Glover as Mary of Bethany
Elizabeth Harrower as Woman of Samaria

The Pilgrimage Play was written by Christine Wetherill Stevenson, Pittsburgh Paint Company heiress. The first performance of the play was in 1920 in an amphitheater near the Hollywood Bowl.  When the location was destroyed by fire a permanent theater was built which was eventually donated to Los Angeles County.  The play was produced nearly every year from 1920 to 1964, when the County was sued for their participation in religious theater.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, in May 1949 a deal was made with the Hollywood Bowl Association for the production of the film to be shown in churches and in "art theatres in this country and possibly in England”, with one-third of the film’s profits to go to the Pilgrimage Play Foundation.

The opening credits state the film is “based on the Life of Jesus Christ as presented by the Hollywood Bowl Association through the Pilgrimage Play Foundation in Hollywood, California”.

In this film, a great movie to enjoy at the season of Easter, Roman Emperor Nero is persecuting Christians in 64 AD and Simon Peter, one of the Apostles, is sentenced to death and imprisoned.  In his prison cell, Simon Peter tells the story of Christ to two other prisoners.

He recounts the birth of Christ, Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist, and His forty days in the wilderness.  He continues with the miracle of restoring a blind man’s sight and the witnesses who became the first Apostles.  Christ then traveled to Samaria, where Jews were hated, and brings peace to a deranged man at Jacob’s well, and word of Christ’s power begins to spread.

Many more of the events of Christ’s life are told by Simon Peter, including the raising of Lazarus from the dead and Judas Iscariot’s betrayal.

Simon Peter’s telling of the stories of the life of Christ continue through the major events of His life, up to and including His crucifixion and entombment, His Resurrection, and His charge to the Disciples to go forth and preach His word.

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