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George Stevens' epic production. "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" It is towards this climactic crossroads that the story of Jesus of Nazareth leads, and to which, at the final moment, it again looks back in triumphant retrospect. It is the anguishing crossroads where the eternal questions of faith and doubt become resolved. Star-studded cast includes Max Von Sydow (as Jesus), Dorothy McGuire (as Mary), Robert Loggia (as Joseph), Charlton Heston (as John the Baptist), Michael Anderson, Jr., Robert Blake, Jamie Farr, David McCallum, Roddy McDowall, Ina Balin, Janet Margolin, Sidney Poitier, Carroll Baker, Pat Boone, Van Heflin, Sal Mineo, Shelley Winters, Ed Wynn, John Wayne, Telly Savalas, Angela Lansbury, Paul Stewart, Harold J. Stone, Martin Landau, Joseph Schildkraut, Victor Buono, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains, Donald Pleasence, Richard Conte and Cyril Delevanti. Written by
Differences from the Bible accounts, and other historical inaccuracies, are not being counted as goofs, especially when they're reliant on sectarian traditions or Renaissance/Baroque art. See more »
In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. I am He. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, was made nothing that has been made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of man. And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not. The greatest story ever told...
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von Sydow Struggles Under Greatest Role Ever Played
The story of Jesus Christ may be the greatest story ever told, but George Stevens movie does not provide the most convincing telling of that story. In spite of beautiful cinematography and music, there is something missing of the power of other tellings. With the exception of a couple of scenes, Max von Sydow does not seem quite up to the role, despite clearly being a good actor. This is not necessarily von Sydow's fault, as it takes more than great acting to convince the audience that you are the character. Imagine Ingrid Bergman as Scarlett O'Hara instead of Vivian Leigh or Gregory Peck as Rhett Butler. Max von Sydow has moments of passion and succeeds in occasionally moving you, but somehow seems too much like the actors who play his apostles to distinguish himself from them, a necessary feat for an actor who hopefully is surrounded by twelve other good actors at all times.
Max von Sydow's highlights are the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the sequence of his entry into Jerusalem and speech at the temple. In fact, I would say that for those two scenes, he outdoes many of his fellow actors that have donned the robe of Jesus. But two scenes are not enough to carry the movie. In fact, with all my respect to the impressive cast which participated in this movie, Stephens seems to have completely missed the mark when it came to casting a few of the roles: Ed Wynn of "Mary Poppins" fame as the blind man, John Wayne as a Roman centurion, and Shelley Winters as "Woman of no name." On the other hand, few actors can portray the almost fanatic mania of John the Baptist, "a voice crying in the wilderness," like Charlton Heston. Jose Ferrer also puts in a good performance as Herod Antipas, and Roddy McDowall convincing plays both a smart aleck and a reverent follower. His exchange with Jesus over collecting taxes offers one of the few somewhat humorous moments.
It is not a surprise to learn that George Stevens put so much effort into his movie. Like Mel Gibson with "The Passion of the Christ," "Greatest Story" is like a painting, with each stroke carefully put onto the canvas. However, unlike Gibson, whose characters seem right out of 1st Century Judah, there is modern quality to Stephens film. There are, however, more positive aspects to this film than negative. Besides the cinematography and the wise choice of Hendel's beautiful "Messiah", other positives are showing Mary Madgelene as traveling with the apostles (there is even a wonderful little scene where Mary annoints Jesus with oil which shows a kind of intimacy between them lacking from other versions of the story).
While some commentators have criticized the screenplay, I think it is one of the best. As much as it pains me to say this, I think casting alone made this movie less powerful. Still I recommend that everyone see it at least once.
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