A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a ... See full summary »
John M. Stahl
Shortly before his death in ancient Israel King David has a vision from God telling him that his younger son Solomon should succeed him as king. His other son Adonijah is unhappy and vows ... See full summary »
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Though David has all the wealth, power, wives & children inherent for the King of Israel he does not have what he craves most: the true love of a woman who loves him as a man instead of as King. He is attracted to Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers who is more devoted to army duty than to his wife. David & Bathsheba succumb to their feelings. Their affair, her resulting pregnancy, & David's resolve to have her husband killed so Bathsheba will be free to marry, bring the wrath of God upon the kingdom. David must rediscover his faith in God in order to save Bathsheba from death by stoning, his kingdom from drought & famine, & himself from his many sins. Written by
E.W. DesMarais <email@example.com>
There's no shortage of bad dialogue in David and Bathsheba "I was quite a hand with a slingshot," "The King of all Israel out there in the darkness exposing himself to the enemy" (full marks to Dennis Hooey for delivering that one with a straight face), "Go and sit with the concubines." And somehow I doubt a bored David ever told the prophet Nathan "Whatever you say." He even tries the old "My kingdom doesn't understand me" routine on desperate housewife Bathsheba at one point. So it's probably a tribute to Henry King's direction that the film isn't at all bad despite the pitfalls much of the first third provide. Maybe it's the censor-baiting nature of the plot a married man kills a femme fatale's husband and gets away with it! but King brings out the growing moral and theological complexities in Phillip Dunne's script rather than upping the sin and sandals hokum. This is the conflicted David on the downhill slope, abandoned by a vengeful God he no longer understands, and the film doesn't back away from the awkward unanswerable questions about why a loving deity would choose to wreak vengeance on the innocent rather than the guilty. It even offers a genuinely surprising criticism of the sexual inequality of the law, where the failings of husbands result in the punishment of their wives.
Unlike King David, which sidelined the king in favour of the admittedly more interesting Saul, David is firmly at the centre of the drama and despite an interesting display of shoulder twitching and a frankly gormless overlong close-up when visiting the site of Saul and Jonathan's death, Gregory Peck's performance grows in stature as David shrinks. Susan Hayward is pure Hollywood pro, Raymond Massey is an appropriately theatrical prophet (why be naturalistic when you've got a voice that makes the very heavens quake?) and Kieron Moore's Uriah such an intransigent unreconstructed chauvinist that you can't exactly blame David for putting him in harm's way, but despite threatening to soft peddle the film doesn't allow David a moral get out of jail free card over his death. With surprisingly strong but subdued design and Technicolor photography this is definitely a cut above most 40s-50s Biblical epics.
Fox's new DVD is a good transfer, including an incredibly hokey 'candid' behind-the-scenes short and a trailer with brief shots deleted from the film's sole battle scene.
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