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The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)



The Greatest Story Ever Told

(1965)

Biography / Classic / Drama / Epic / Family

260 minutes

Directed by George Stevens

Cast:

Max von Sydow as Jesus Christ
Dorothy McGuire as Virgin Mary
Robert Loggia as Joseph
Claude Rains as King Herod
Jose Ferrer as Herod Antipas
Charlton Heston as John the Baptist
Marian Seldes as Herodias
John Abbott as Aben
Rodopho (Rudy) Acosta as Captain of Lancers
Philip Coolidge as Chuza
Michael Ansara as Herod's commander
Donald Pleasence as the Dark Hermit
David McCallum as Judas Iscariot
Roddy McDowall as Matthew
Michael Anderson Jr. as James the Younger
David Sheiner as James the Elder
Gary Raymond as Peter
Burt Brinckerhoff as Andrew
John Considine as John
Jamie Farr as Thaddaeus
David Hedison as Philip
Peter Mann as Nathaniel
Tom Reese as Thomas
Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate
Angela Lansbury as Claudia
Johnny Seven as Pilate's aide
Paul Stewart as Questor
Harold J. Stone as General Varus
Mark Lenard as Balthazar
Frank Silvera as Caspar
Joanna Dunham as Mary Magdalene
Janet Margolin as Mary of Bethany
Michael Tolan as Lazarus
Carroll Baker as Veronica
Pat Boone as Young Man at the Tomb
Sal Mineo as Uriah
Van Heflin as Bar Armand
Ed Wynn as Old Aram
Shelley Winters as Woman of No Name
Chet Stratton as Theophilius
Ron Whelan as Annas
John Lupton as Speaker of Capernaum
Abraham Sofaer as Joseph of Arimathaea
Martin Landau as Caiaphas
Nehemiah Persoff as Shemiah
Joseph Schildkraut as Nicodemus
Victor Buono as Sorak
Robert Busch as Emissary
John Crawford as Alexander
John Wayne as The Centurion
Sidney Poitier as Simon of Cyrene
Richard Conte as Barabbas
Frank deKova as The Tormentor
Joseph Sirola as Dumah
Mickey Simpson as Rabble rouser
Renata Vanni as Weeping woman
Richard Bakalyan as Dismas, the Good Thief on Cross
Robert Blake as Simon the Zealot
Cyril Delevanti as Melchior
Daniel Jenkins as Philip
Russell Johnson as Scribe
Marc Cavell as Bad Thief on Cross
John M. Pickard as Peter's 2nd accuser
Celia Lovsky as Woman behind railings

The Greatest Story Ever Told is an epic retelling of the life of Jesus Christ, from the nativity to the crucifixion and the resurrection.  Key biblical stories are portrayed including King Herod's decree and murder of all male children in Bethlehem, the flight of the family into Egypt, the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, the selection of the twelve Apostles, the expulsion of the moneylenders from the temple in Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and the betrayal by Judas.

Notes:

The Greatest Story Ever Told is the last film appearance by Claude Rains.

The Greatest Story Ever Told started as a radio show in 1947, which was adapted into a novel in 1949 by Reader's Digest senior editor Fulton Oursler.

Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury was considered to write the screenplay at one time, but he did not participate.

French artist André Girard was commissioned by director George Stevens to create 352 oil paintings of biblical scenes that were used as storyboards.

During planning and production George Stevens travelled to the Vatican to speak with Pope John XXIII for advice.

In 1961 20th Century Fox pulled out from the project, since they had spent 2.3 million dollars on the project without any footage being shot.  Stevens took the project to United Artists who funded the rest of the project.

Max Von Sydow was cast as Jesus without ever being in an English film before.

The Greatest Story Ever Told was filmed primarily in Glen Canyon, Utah.

For the final release many of the stars’ roles, such as John Wayne’s and Shelley Winters’ were reduced or eliminated entirely.

William C. Mellor, the cinematographer for The Greatest Story Ever Told, suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died on the set.

For the role of Pontius Pilate, Telly Savalas agreed to shave his head.  He kept his head shaved for the rest of his life.

During filming in Arizona a freak snowstorm, the first in decades, buried the set in snow.  As soon as the crew cleared the set, it snowed even harder, forcing the crew to relocate to Desilu Studios in Hollywood.

During filming Joanna Dunham, who played Mary Magdalene, became pregnant.  This is why all of her shots later in the film only showed her from the chest up.

The centurions were played by ROTC cadets.

Originally director George Stevens had hired 550 Navajo Indians to play the centurions, but they could not remain on set as they needed to return home to participate in a tribal election.

Director David Lean helped George Stevens direct a few scenes in between his filming of Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago.

47 sets were constructed throughout the American Southwest to film The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Joseph Schildkraut died before completing his performance of Nicodemus, and George Stevens was forced to rewrite some of his scenes.

The Greatest Story Ever Told was not commercially successful.  By 1983 it had grossed less than $8 million, or about 17% of what it would have needed to break even.

The Greatest Story Ever Told was nominated for an Academy Award in five categories: Best Musical Score, Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, and Special Visual Effects.

Sir Alec Guinness was originally sought for a cameo appearance.

George Stevens originally wanted the part of Jesus to be played by Richard Burton.

Although billed as being in Cinerama, The Greatest Story Ever Told was only shot with the three camera Cinerama process for three days before switching to 70 mm Ultra Panavision 70.

Filming for The Greatest Story Ever Told started in 1962 and was completed in 1965, but it would be two more years before the film was released.

Max Von Sydow found it hard portraying Jesus.  According to him, the hardest part was that many of the cast and crew expected him to be like Jesus off the set.  As such he could not smoke between takes, have a drink after work or be affectionate with his wife.   

The Greatest Story Ever Told trailer

The Greatest Story Ever Told Radio Series 1947-1956




Directors: George Stevens
Actors: Michael Anderson Jr., Michael Ansara, Carroll Baker, Ina Balin, Robert Blake, Pat Boone, Victor Buono, Richard Conte, Frank DeKova, Jose Ferrer, Van Heflin, Charlton Heston, Russell Johnson, Martin Landau, Angela Lansbury, Robert Loggia, John Lupton, David McCallum, Roddy McDowall, Dorothy McGuire, Sal Mineo, Nehemiah Persoff, Donald Pleasence, Sidney Poitier, Claude Rains, Telly Savalas, Joseph Schildkraut, Johnny Seven, Paul Stewart, Harold J. Stone, Max von Sydow, John Wayne, Shelley Winters, Ed Wynn
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