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The Greatest Story Ever Told
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The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) More at IMDbPro »

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The Greatest Story Ever Told -- Director George Stevens disavowed gimmicks and, in his epic retelling of the Four Gospels of the New Testament, set this dramatization in a panoramic framework of splendidly evocative backgrounds, including the astonishing buttes of Utah. Jesus is portrayed by Max von Sydow in a difficult and highly praised performance. A huge all-star cast (including Charlton Heston as John the Baptist) animate the vast landscape of the film. Based on The Bible, Fulton Oursler's "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and radio scripts by Henry Denker. Carl Sandburg was a creative associate.

Overview

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6.6/10   5,989 votes »
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Up 16% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Writers:
Fulton Oursler (book)
Henry Denker (source writings)
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for The Greatest Story Ever Told on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
9 April 1965 (UK) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
The life of Jesus Christ. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Awards:
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 1 win See more »
NewsDesk:
(86 articles)
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User Reviews:
Somewhat flawed, but imposing nonetheless See more (97 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Max von Sydow ... Jesus

Michael Anderson Jr. ... James the Younger

Carroll Baker ... Veronica
Ina Balin ... Martha of Bethany

Victor Buono ... Sorak

Richard Conte ... Barabbas
Joanna Dunham ... Mary Magdalene

José Ferrer ... Herod Antipas

Van Heflin ... Bar Amand

Charlton Heston ... John the Baptist

Martin Landau ... Caiaphas

Angela Lansbury ... Claudia

Pat Boone ... Angel at the Tomb

Janet Margolin ... Mary of Bethany

David McCallum ... Judas Iscariot

Roddy McDowall ... Matthew

Dorothy McGuire ... The Virgin Mary

Sal Mineo ... Uriah

Nehemiah Persoff ... Shemiah

Donald Pleasence ... The Dark Hermit - Satan

Sidney Poitier ... Simon of Cyrene

Claude Rains ... King Herod

Gary Raymond ... Peter

Telly Savalas ... Pontius Pilate

Joseph Schildkraut ... Nicodemus

Paul Stewart ... Questor

John Wayne ... Centurion at crucifixion

Shelley Winters ... Woman who is healed

Ed Wynn ... Old Aram

John Abbott ... Aben
Rodolfo Acosta ... Captain of lancers

Michael Ansara ... Herod's commander

Robert Blake ... Simon the Zealot
Burt Brinckerhoff ... Andrew
Robert Busch ... Emissary

John Considine ... John
Philip Coolidge ... Chuza
John Crawford ... Alexander

Frank DeKova ... The tormentor (as Frank de Kova)
Cyril Delevanti ... Melchior

Jamie Farr ... Thaddaeus

David Hedison ... Philip

Russell Johnson ... Scribe

Mark Lenard ... Balthazar

Robert Loggia ... Joseph
John Lupton ... Speaker of Capernaum
Peter Mann ... Nathanael

Tom Reese ... Thomas

Marian Seldes ... Herodias

David Sheiner ... James the Elder
Frank Silvera ... Caspar

Joseph Sirola ... Dumah

Abraham Sofaer ... Joseph of Arimathaea

Harold J. Stone ... Gen. Varus
Chet Stratton ... Theophilus

Michael Tolan ... Lazarus
Ron Whelan ... Annas
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Richard Bakalyan ... Good Thief on Cross (uncredited)
Nesdon Booth ... (uncredited)
Marc Cavell ... Bad Thief on Cross (uncredited)

Jay C. Flippen ... Drunken Soldier - Herod Antipas' Court (uncredited)
Kay Hammond ... (uncredited)
Dal Jenkins ... Philip (uncredited)
Kyle Johnson ... Simon of Cyrene's Son (uncredited)
Felix Locher ... Elderly Man Who Touches Jesus (uncredited)

Celia Lovsky ... Woman Behind Railings (uncredited)
Victor Lundin ... Centurion Guard (uncredited)
Leonard Mudie ... Man (uncredited)
Dorothy Neumann ... (uncredited)
Gil Perkins ... Jacob of Bethlehem (uncredited)
Joseph V. Perry ... Archelaus (uncredited)
John Pickard ... Peter's Accuser #2 (uncredited)
Frank Richards ... (uncredited)
Gene Roth ... (uncredited)
Johnny Seven ... Pilate's Aide (uncredited)
Mickey Simpson ... Rabble-Rouser (uncredited)
Norm Taylor ... Roman Soldier at Crucifixion (uncredited)
Randall Taylor ... Male Baby Extra (uncredited)
Renata Vanni ... Weeping Woman (uncredited)

Ronald Walkshorse ... Male Child Extra (uncredited)
Harry Wilson ... (uncredited)
Jimmy Yates ... Herodian Guard (uncredited)

Directed by
George Stevens 
David Lean (some scenes) (uncredited)
Jean Negulesco (some scenes) (uncredited)
 
Writing credits
Fulton Oursler (book)

Henry Denker (source writings)

James Lee Barrett (screenplay) and
George Stevens (screenplay)

Carl Sandburg  uncredited

Produced by
Frank I. Davis .... executive producer
George Stevens Jr. .... associate producer
George Stevens .... producer
Antonio Vellani .... associate producer
 
Original Music by
Alfred Newman 
 
Cinematography by
Loyal Griggs 
William C. Mellor 
 
Film Editing by
Harold F. Kress 
Argyle Nelson Jr. 
J. Frank O'Neill  (as Frank O'Neil)
 
Casting by
Lynn Stalmaster 
 
Art Direction by
William J. Creber  (as William Creber)
Richard Day 
David S. Hall  (as David Hall)
 
Set Decoration by
Fred M. MacLean  (as Fred MacLean)
Ray Moyer 
Norman Rockett 
 
Costume Design by
Marjorie Best 
Vittorio Nino Novarese 
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Paul Baxley .... second unit director
Ridgeway Callow .... assistant director
William Hale .... second unit director
Richard Talmadge .... second unit director
John Veitch .... assistant director
 
Art Department
Sam Gordon .... property master
 
Sound Department
Charles E. Wallace .... sound
 
Special Effects by
Johnny Borgese .... special effects
Daniel Hays .... special effects (uncredited)
 
Visual Effects by
A. Arnold Gillespie .... special visual effects
Robert R. Hoag .... special visual effects
J. McMillan Johnson .... special visual effects
Clarence Slifer .... special visual effects
Jan Domela .... matte painter (uncredited)
Cliff Shirpser .... effects camera operator (uncredited)
Albert Simpson .... matte painter (uncredited)
Matthew Yuricich .... matte painter (uncredited)
 
Stunts
Paul Baxley .... stunt coordinator
Henry Wills .... stunt coordinator
Carol Daniels .... stunts (uncredited)
John Epper .... stunts (uncredited)
Jerry Gatlin .... stunts (uncredited)
Johnny Hagner .... stunts (uncredited)
Loren Janes .... stunts (uncredited)
Neil Summers .... stunts (uncredited)
Norm Taylor .... stunts (uncredited)
Bob Terhune .... stunt double: John Wayne (uncredited)
Henry Wills .... stunts (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
R.B. Garig .... grip
Michael A. Jones .... lighting technician
Tom May .... key grip
Owen Marsh .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Homer Plannette .... gaffer (uncredited)
 
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Diana Wilson .... costumer
John Intlekofer .... costumer (uncredited)
 
Editorial Department
Don Guidice .... assistant editor
Hal Ashby .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Eliot Elisofon .... color coordinator (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Ken Darby .... choral supervisor
Jack Hayes .... orchestrator
Alfred Newman .... conductor
Leo Shuken .... orchestrator
Hugo Friedhofer .... composer: additional music (uncredited)
Fred Steiner .... composer: additional music (uncredited)
 
Transportation Department
Gene Clinesmith .... driver
James E. Haynes .... driver
 
Other crew
John Dutton .... script supervisor (as John C. Dutton)
Carl Sandburg .... creative associate
Tony Van Renterghem .... director of research
Ralph Helfer .... animal supervisor: Africa U.S.A, (uncredited)
 

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"George Stevens Presents The Greatest Story Ever Told" - UK (complete title), USA (complete title)
See more »
Runtime:
199 min (edited version) | USA:141 min (re-issue version) | USA:225 min (premiere version)
Country:
Language:
Color:
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
2.76 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
3 Channel Stereo (RCA Sound Recording) (5.0) (L-R)
Certification:
Argentina:Atp | Australia:G | Chile:TE | Finland:S | Germany:6 (DVD rating) | Mexico:A | South Korea:All | Spain:T | Sweden:11 | UK:U | UK:U (video rating) (1993) | USA:Approved (original release) | USA:G (re-rating) (1972) | West Germany:6 (f)
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas and Max von Sydow all went on to play the James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld: Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967), Savalas in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and von Sydow in Never Say Never Again (1983). In fact, the only actor to play Blofeld and not appear in this film was Charles Gray, who played the role in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).See more »
Goofs:
Incorrectly regarded as goofs: 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 »
Quotes:
Narrator:[first lines]
Narrator: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...
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in A Decade Under the Influence (2003)See more »
Soundtrack:
Hallelujah ChorusSee more »

FAQ

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
15 out of 18 people found the following review useful.
Somewhat flawed, but imposing nonetheless, 23 October 2003
Author: virek213 from San Gabriel, Ca., USA

Without a doubt, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most difficult story to ever put on the screen. More blood and ink have been spilled over this one man than any other human being that ever walked this planet, so there really can't be a definitive film on his life that will satisfy everyone. But during the first half of the 1960s, director George Stevens (A PLACE IN THE SUN; SHANE; GIANT) toiled to at least come close in that regard. The result was THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. At a cost of twenty million dollars, it was one of the most expensive films Hollywood had released in that era. At an original length of four hours and twenty minutes, it was one of the longest movies ever. It was also critically savaged and was only a modest commercial success, though not an expensive flop like CLEOPATRA had been.

Although it doesn't stick to ALL the facts of the Good Book, GREATEST STORY does an exquisite job at depicting Jesus life and persecution, his miracles, his death, and his eventual resurrection. Utilizing a massive tome of a script that he co-wrote with James Lee Barrett and Carl Sandburg, among others, Stevens filmed much of the film on location in the Glen Canyon region along the Arizona/Utah border, with the Colorado River as a stand-in for the River Jordan (a move for which Stevens was sharply criticized). Aided by veteran cameraman Loyal Griggs (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS), he also shot scenes in this movie that must rank as being among the most brilliantly filmed ever, including Lazarus' resurrection, and Jesus' being baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

One particular aspect about GREATEST STORY that continues to raise eyebrows and much ire to this day is the fact that Stevens cast much of Hollywood's acting elite in what were essentially walk-ons. This tactic had been done extensively before (THE LONGEST DAY; HOW THE WEST WAS WON), and would be done countless more times in the ensuing decades. To me, the flaw in this technique insofar as this movie goes is not the fact that Stevens succumbed to that temptation, but the fact that the roles he placed some of his actors in were ones they probably weren't cut out to play.

Given the whole weight of the world being placed on him, Max von Sydow did quite an impressive portrayal of Jesus in this film. I would have to rank this as one of the single greatest performances in cinematic history; his credibility (even with the Swedish accent) in the role is, to me, unimpeachable. Stevens also scored by giving Charlton Heston (no stranger to Biblical epics he) the role of John the Baptist, and it still ranks as one of Heston's best. Telly Savalas, years away from "Kojak", makes for a chilling Pontius Pilate. Claude Rains is a supremely nasty King Herod; and Donald Pleasance, with HALLOWEEN still a decade and a half in his future, makes for a deliciously unpleasant Satan.

In other areas, Stevens' all-star casting ranges from sublime (Dorothy McGuire; Roddy McDowall; Sidney Poitier; David McCallum; Jose Ferrer; Victor Buono) to strange (Russell Johnson; Jamie Farr; Sal Mineo; Shelley Winters). But it is in his casting of John Wayne as a Roman centurion at the Crucifixtion that Stevens went overboard (thus the reason for my giving GREATEST STORY an '8' rather than a '10'). To this day, it's hard not to notice the Duke looking out of place as a Roman, and harder still not to groan at the flat way he utters his line ("Truly, this man was the Son of God").

Still, despite the slightly questionable casting and the obvious extreme length of the film, Stevens has indeed fashioned as great a film as there has ever been on a story that has fascinated, frustrated, and even torn the world apart for over two thousand years. How others view it is up for themselves to decide. I myself think that, though slightly imperfect, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD still lives up to its title.

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Who is Narrator? denvertrends
John Wayne = hysterical eganp-1
So what casting worked and did NOT work? angmc43
Worst. Haircut. Ever. psbowlay
The Palm Sunday/Temple scene : did Jesus abandon his flock? buttsronc
Anointing at Bethany michaeldoherty801
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