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The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

An all-star, large scale epic film that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Directors:

George Stevens, David Lean (uncredited) | 1 more credit »

Writers:

Fulton Oursler (book), Henry Denker (source writings) | 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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 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
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Storyline

"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. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 April 1965 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

George Stevens Presents The Greatest Story Ever Told See more »

Filming Locations:

Glen Canyon, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$15,473,333
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(edited) | (re-issue) | (premiere)

Sound Mix:

3 Channel Stereo (Westrex Recording System) (5.0) (L-R)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.76 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

George Stevens was in the midst of making The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) when he learned that Twentieth Century Fox had the rights to the radio series from the early 1950s. See more »

Goofs

Throughout the film there are shots of snow on the ground and snow on the mountains of Utah. Israel rarely gets any snow. See more »

Quotes

[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 »

Alternate Versions

Original Cinerama version ran 260 minutes, subsequently cut over the years. The shortest version runs 141 minutes. Numerous versions have been shown on television. Network television print has only the main cast credits at the beginning and the technical credits at the end shown page-by-page (not "rolled up" as most prints), including a credit for "Cinerama". The most common version of the film shown today runs 195 minutes with all the credits rolled up at the beginning, and the end titles showing only the words "Released through United Artists". That particular version has been available on home video and cable TV. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The X-Files: Hollywood A.D. (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Adagio for Strings
(uncredited)
Written by Samuel Barber
Played during the Intermission
See more »

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User Reviews

von Sydow Struggles Under Greatest Role Ever Played
2 August 2004 | by artemis_5See all my reviews

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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