Report to the Emperor-First Draft

(I post this each year on Good Friday at The American Catholic, and I thought that our Almost Chosen People readers might find it of interest.)

I thank you Marcus for taking on the onerous task of acting as my secretary, in addition to your regular duties as my aide, in regard to this portion of the report.  The Greek, Aristides, is competent, and like most Greek secretaries his Latin is quite graceful, but also like most Greek secretaries he does not know when to keep his mouth shut.  I want him kept away from this work, and I want you to observe the strictest security.  Caiaphas was playing a nefarious game, and I do not think we are out of the woods yet.  I do not want his spies finding out what I am telling the Imperator and Caiaphas altering the tales his agents are now, no doubt, spreading in Rome.  Let us take the Jew by surprise for once! (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Screen Pilates: Lowell Gilmore

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth and David Bowie may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here and here.

Actor Lowell Gilmore had the distinction of portraying Pilate three times:  The Living Christ twelve part series (1951). I Beheld His Glory (1952) and Day of Triumph (1954)

 

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Published in: on March 24, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Lowell Gilmore  
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Screen Pilates: Vincent Varconi

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks and Cyril Ritchard may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here and here.

One of the earliest screen portrayals of Pilate was by Hungarian actor Vincent Varconi in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent screen epic King of Kings (1927).  We first see Pilate enthroned as the embodiment of Roman power before a huge imperial eagle.  Initially bored by the attempt by Caiaphas to have him execute Jesus, he refuses to look at a document that Caiaphas has prepared laying out the charges against Jesus, after he talks to Jesus he feels the power of the words and presence of Christ, and seeks to satisfy Caiaphas and his mob by having Jesus beaten. (more…)

Published in: on April 16, 2014 at 4:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Vincent Varconi  
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Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard

Cyril Richard as Pilate

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell and Greg Hicks may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here and here.

 

Cyril Ritchard had quite a career as an actor.  He was also a devout Catholic, his funeral mass in 1977 being said by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  It is therefore interesting that his portrayal of Pilate in the Studio One television play  Pontius Pilate (1952) is one of the more cynical and overtly political.  He and Caiaphas discuss the fate of Jesus privately as two seasoned pols who might as well be arguing over the division of spoils.  After the execution of Christ he is shaken by the death of Jesus under the influence of his wife, but remains convinced that he has made the right decision.  Procula leaves him and years later he finds her among a group of Christians that he must judge.  He condemns her and the other Christians, but later orders them to be released, he being unable to have the wife he still loves condemned to crucifixion.  The play ends with Pilate unsheathing his sword and telling himself that the sword is the answer to Christ’s query of “What is Truth” with the implication that Pilate will use the sword to commit suicide, having betrayed his belief in Rome out of love for his wife.

Go here to Daily Motion to view the video.

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Cyril Ritchard  
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Screen Pilates: Greg Hicks

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring and Stephen Russell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here and here.

Greg Hicks portrays Pilate in the movie Son of God (2014) as concerned above all at protecting his position.  If he does not execute Jesus Caiaphas can tell Tiberius through his agents that Pilate is coddling a rebel against Rome and that would lead to the ending of Pilate’s procuratorship and perhaps his life.  That is more than enough reason for him to deny the request for mercy for Christ from his wife Procula, disturbed by her dream of Christ. (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Greg Hicks  
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Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas and Frank Thring may be read here, here, here, here here and here.

Stephen Russell portrays Pilate in The Gospel of John (2003) which is a straight forward no frills presentation of the Gospel of John.  As in the Gospel of John Pilate is shown in the film as first curious about Jesus and then sympathetic to Jesus.  He attempts to save Jesus by giving the mob a choice between Jesus and the bandit Barabbas.  When that fails he presents Jesus after He has been beaten and utters the phrase Ecce Homo, Behold the Man. (more…)

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell  
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Screen Pilates: Frank Thring

Frank Thring as Pilate

 

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov and Telly Savalas may be read here, here, here, here and here.

The late Frank Thring, an Australian actor, had the distinction of playing both Pilate and Herod Antipas in major films, Pilate in Ben Hur (1959) and Herod Antipas in King of Kings (1961).

In Ben Hur we get a glimpse of the backstory of Pilate.  Thring portrays Pilate as an urbane Roman aristocrat dismayed that he is being sent to govern bleak and hot Judea.  At a party given by Arrius to anounce his adoption of Ben Hur, go here to view the video,  Pilate indicates his dismay at the prospect.  After Ben Hur wins his famous chariot race, Pilate cynically crowns Ben Hur as the “one true God” for the moment, of the people.  Go here to watch the clip.

In an interview after the race Pilate attempts to convince Ben Hur to remember that he is the son of Arrius and to be content with the vengeance he has inflicted on Messala, dead as a result of injuries sustained in the chariot race:

I crossed this floor in spoken friendship, as I would speak to Arrius. But when I go up those stairs I become the hand of Caesar, ready to crush all those who challenge his authority. There are too many small men of envy and ambition who try to disrupt the government of Rome. You have become the victor and hero to these people. They look to you, their one true god as I called you. If you stay here, you will find yourself part of this tragedy. (more…)

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Frank Thring  
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Screen Pilates: Telly Savalas

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen and Hristov Shopov may be read here, here, here and here.

Telly Savalas in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) gives a fairly stolid performance as Pilate.  He portrays Pilate as a world weary Roman functionary to whom Christ is merely a problem he does not need.  When he transfers Christ’s case to Herod, we see Jose Ferrer who gives a strikingly good portrayal of Herod Antipas.  Ferrer portrayed Herod as a man touched against his will by the words of John the Baptist.  Now however he has executed John the Baptist, and has given himself up for damned, taking refuge in drink.

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Published in: on March 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Telly Savalas  
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Screen Pilates: Hristo Shopov

(Posted at The American Catholic, and I thought during Holy Week our Almost Chosen People readers might also like it.)

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began last year during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone and Barry Dennen may be read herehere and here.

Without a doubt the screen portrayal of Pilate seen by the most people around the world is that of Bulgarian actor Hristo Shopov in Mel Gibson’s hugely successful Passion of the Christ (2004).  That is good, because it is a superb portrayal.

Shopov portrays Pilate as a coolly in charge Roman prefect in public, but in private he unburdens himself to his wife Claudia who warns him that Jesus is a holy man and he must not condemn Him.  Pilate at 6:30 in the above clip repeats his query to Christ about truth to his wife.  His truth he tells her is that the Emperor has warned him that if there are any more rebellions in Judaea, he will pay for it with his own blood.  If he refuses to execute Jesus he fears that Caiaphas will lead a revolt, but that if he executes Jesus the followers of Christ might revolt.  I believe this was a key fear of the historical Pilate and he did not order the execution of Jesus until he decided that a revolt by the rent-a-mob of Caiaphas on Good Friday posed the far greater threat. (more…)

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Hristo Shopov  
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Screen Pilates: Barry Dennen

(Posted at The American Catholic, and I thought during Holy Week our Almost Chosen People readers might also like it.)

Continuing a series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began last year during Holy Week.  The figure of Pontius Pilate has always intrigued me. The fifth Prefect of Judaea, Pilate looms large in the Gospels. His name Pilate indicates that his family was of Samnite origin. Pilate is mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus as having condemned Jesus. In 1961 a block of limestone was discoved at the site of Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capital of Judaea, bearing an inscription of Pilate dedicating a Roman theater there. That is almost all we know about Pilate outside of the Gospels, Josephus and Philo. Pilate today would be forgotten, instead of being the best known Roman who ever lived, but for his role in sentencing Jesus.

Last year we looked at Rod Steiger’s portrayal of Pilate in Jesus of Nazareth, here, and at Richard Boone’s in The Robe, here.  Next up is Barry Dennen in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973).

It would take many posts for me to detail how much I disliked Jesus Christ Superstar, which for me symbolized much of what was wrong in the world in the late sixties and the seventies.  Taking pride in being historically inaccurate and a mishmash of ancient and modern, the play and film was just as confused theologically and totally divorced from traditional Christianity.  Jesus is portrayed as petulant, weak and indecisive, a depiction which might be blasphemous if it had more thought behind it.  However, amidst all of the dross there are a very few high points, and Dennen’s performance  is the best of these.

The video at the beginning of this post depicts the sequence where Pilate has a dream about the upcoming trial of Jesus.  Historically, it was Pilate’s wife who had a dream about Jesus:   [19] And as he was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.   (Matthew 27:19)  Pilate in each of the Gospel narratives is portrayed as very reluctant to have Jesus executed, mystified as to why Caiaphas had Jesus brought to him, and wary that Caiaphas was seeking to shift the responsibility for the death of Jesus over to him.  The dream of his wife was just what Pilate needed to give him a foreboding that this was not merely a routine execution, but a matter of extreme importance that he could not fathom.  The song brings all of this out quite well. (more…)

Published in: on April 4, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Barry Dennen  
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