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King of Kings (1961) Poster

(1961)

Trivia

The crucifixion scene had to be re-shot because a preview audience was offended at Jesus having a hairy chest.
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Ray Bradbury wrote the narration, but was uncredited.
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Jeffrey Hunter was jokingly referred to as "I Was a Teenage Jesus" for his youthful appearance. In reality, he was 33 years old at the time of filming, Jesus' age at the time of His death and resurrection. Movie audiences were accustomed to more mature actors portraying Jesus.
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Agnes Moorehead served as Jeffrey Hunter's dialogue coach in post-dubbing.
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After its theatrical run, the film wasn't sold to the major networks, but instead went to local television stations. Because all television screens were approximately square at the time, those stations aired it in the pan/scan format, with approximately half of the wide screen picture cropped off, thus destroying the composition of the image. To date, the film has still not been shown by NBC, ABC, or CBS -- only by local affiliates of the three networks, and on cable television. As of 2017, it's in the Turner Classic Movies library, which has restored it to its original wide screen format and shows it in its correct original 70MM Technirama wide screen ratio, most often at either Christmas or Easter time, or both.
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Franz Planer, the original Director of Photography, suffered a heatstroke during principal photography of the Sermon on the Mount sequence in Spain. This became one of his last films and he passed away only a few years later.
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Most films at the time did not show Jesus' face, preferring to do shots of his hands (as in Ben-Hur (1959)) or over-the-shoulder views. This was the first large-budget major studio sound film in English to actually show Christ's face.
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This film's narrator, Orson Welles, would later narrate a portion of another Biblical work, The New Media Bible: Book of Genesis (1979). Before narrating this Biblical epic about the King of kings, Welles had earlier portrayed a king himself in another Biblical epic, David and Goliath (1960). Welles would even portray a director directing a Biblical epic in Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963), when he ironically had earlier directed himself in his own scenes in "David e Golia".
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Not only was Jeffrey Hunter's chest hair shaved for the crucifixion scene but his underarms as well. So much attention has been paid to this situation over the past fifty years, that nobody's ever noticed Hunter also wears a false putty nose throughout the film, most evident in the close-ups at the crucifixion scenes.
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Nicholas Ray considered Keith Michell, Christopher Plummer and Peter Cushing for the role of Christ before signing Jeffrey Hunter. He also expressed an interest in hiring Max von Sydow for the role - Von Sydow, of course, did play play Christ only a few years later in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
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The film began life as a very personal project for director John Farrow, who had recently made John Paul Jones (1959) for producer Samuel Bronston. Farrow, an ardent convert to Roman Catholicism and quite possibly the only Hollywood director ever to be made a Papal Knight, called the project "The Sword And The Cross" and planned to use only the words of the Bible for dialogue. His script was deemed impossible to film and producer Bronston elected to proceed without him. Farrow never directed a film again.
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Orson Welles insisted on pronouncing the word 'apostles' with a hard 't'.
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Richard Burton was originally offered the part of Jesus.
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Brigid Bazlen still holds the record as youngest Salome in movie history. She was only 16 years old.
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James Mason turned down the role of Pontius Pilate in this film. He later played Joseph of Arimathea in the TV mini-series, Jesus of Nazareth (1977).
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Hurd Hatfield was only cast as Pontius Pilate after a number of British heavyweights had passed on the part.
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Robert Ryan was keen to work with Nicholas Ray, but was more keen on the payday of $50,000 for just a week's work.
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On the way to the "Sermon on the Mount" scene, Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Ryan's car broke down. They had to push it to get it started...in costume as Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.
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The scenes between John the Baptist, Herod, Herodias, and Salome are supposedly based more on Oscar Wilde's play "Salome", than on the Bible, though Salome's grisly behavior as depicted by Wilde is not shown.
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The voice of Luis Prendes, who plays the Good Thief crucified alongside Jesus, was dubbed by another actor.
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The poster for this film was deliberately meant to resemble the one for Ben-Hur (1959). Both films were MGM releases, though only Ben-Hur was successful at the box office at the time.
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Hurd Hatfield (Pontius Pilate) and Viveca Lindfors (Claudia) had appeared together in the original Broadway stage production of "Anastasia". Lindfors played Anna Anderson and Hatfield played Prince Paul.
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Richard Johnson had a role of approximately an hour's duration, which was deleted from the final film.
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Carmen Sevilla's voice was dubbed by an uncredited actress (her real voice can be heard in Spanish Affair (1957)).
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The production was photographed in Technirama by Manuel Berenguer, Milton R. Krasner and Franz Planer, and was presented in 70mm Super Technirama at selected first-run engagements. It was the first film of the life of Christ to be presented in 70mm, which was not in use when previous films on the same subject had been made. The previous film version of Christ's life Day of Triumph (1954), had been filmed in standard "spherical" widescreen by many of the same people who had filmed television's The Living Christ Series (1951).
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The New York premiere of the film was at the Loew's State Theater.
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Gérard Tichy's voice was dubbed by an uncredited actor.
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Several scenes were directed without credit by Charles Walters.
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Aldo Sambrell's film debut.
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Miklos Rozsa originally did not want to do the score for this film. Several years earlier, he had composed the score, and won an Academy Award, for a similar film, "Ben-Hur" (1959).
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King of Kings (1961) date of release, Monday, October 30th, 1961, was 23 years after off-screen narrator, Orson Welles (& other Mercury Theatre Radio station co-workers & members) scared numerous radio listeners, all across the United States of America, of the science-fiction novel written by H.G. Wells, he titled "The War of the Words". Their live CBS radio broadcast occurred on Sunday evening, October 30th, 1938.
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Although Jeffrey Hunter was given some makeup to make him appear as the appropriate ethnicity, he was not fitted with contacts. This led to much criticism of having a Jesus with bright blue eyes.
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