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A young Hebrew named Micah, unsatisfied with his father's rural life, demands his inheritance so he can try his luck in the city. Once in the city he falls under the spell of a beautiful pagan priestess who induces him to squander his money and betray his faith. Only after many trials and tribulations does Micah recover his senses and return home to his forgiving father. Written by
Based on the parable that Jesus told in St. Luke, The Prodigal is one of those biblical tales that isn't a biblical tale. Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son to show how God rejoices over any of his people who stray from the fold and return. Since it was a story to make a point the writers had a free hand to make a plot with proper biblical quotations in the script.
Edmond Purdom plays the starring role as one of two sons of Walter Hampden, the other being John Dehner who are seemingly content with their life. Dehner certainly is, but Purdom has a taste for some excitement.
While in town shopping for supplies Purdom makes essentially a grandstand play, good act that it was when he frees a mute slave played by James Mitchell from Neville Brand who is an overseer for the Baal high priest Louis Calhern. Later on Purdom cavalierly humiliates Calhern who plots a bad revenge for this slight to him and his religion.
He finds Purdom's weakness fast enough. Lana Turner who is THE Baal high priestess is something special, a lot of that due to the fact that blonds are scarce in that region of the world. And that by the way is a fact duly noted in the story. One look at her and Purdom is putty in her hands.
She leads him on quite a path of degradation, but our Prodigal hero works his way back to his father and the religion of his people.
Not that this is a great story anyway, but The Prodigal suffers from the fact that Edmond Purdom is not an actor of any great warmth. Technically proficient, Purdom never made it to the top because he was not charismatic enough to be a hero. His career was a lot like Stephen Boyd's, except Boyd realized it and became a great portrayer of villains like Messala in Ben-Hur.
As for Lana Turner, sexy yes, but Turner always fought being cast in period pieces of any kind, she always felt her best roles were in modern day dress films. Blonds did not have more fun in this film in the end. MGM was getting rid of its high priced contract players at this time and Turner was not being showcased with any great care.
The Prodigal did follow the DeMille formula of high falutin' dialog about virtue sprinkled with sex. In this film with Turner, sex laid on with a steam shovel. But it wasn't as good as those fabulous DeMille Bible epics, Samson And Delilah and The Ten Commandments.
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