Screen Pilates: Arthur Kennedy

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, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore,  Hurd Hatfield and Vincent Regan, may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here , here and here.

The film Barabbas (1961) starring Anthony Quinn, focuses on the murderer, (Zealot?) Barabbas who was freed by Pilate instead of Christ.  As I was sure was the case with the historical Barabbas, he commits new offenses and finds himself again before Pilate portrayed by Arthur Kennedy.  Largely forgotten today, Kennedy who passed away in 1990 was a notable actor of the forties, fifties and sixties, and was considered one of the best supporting actors of his day.  He plays Pilate as something of an intellectual as he engages Barabbas in an impromptu debate as to whether states are merely bandits like Barabbas writ large.  This debate echoes this passage in book IV of the City of God by Saint Augustine:

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.” (more…)

Published in: on April 12, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Screen Pilates: Vincent Regan

 

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, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore and Hurd Hatfiled may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here and here.

A miniseries portrayal of Pilate by actor Vincent Regan, an Irish Catholic turned agnostic but who is a self-proclaimed “big fan” of both the Pope and Christ, in A.D. The Bible Continues, broadcast in 2016.   By the very nature of a miniseries Regan is given an opportunity for a fuller portrayal of Pilate by virtue of far more time on screen than the few minutes most actors portraying Pilate are allotted in a feature film.  I wish better use had been made of the time. (more…)

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 4:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Screen Pilates: Hurd Hatfield

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, David Bowie and Lowell Gilmore may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here and here.

Of all the big budget Biblical epics of Hollywood, King of Kings (1961) gets the least respect and perhaps deservedly so.  The film is notable for being the first big budget Hollywood movie to depict Christ directly, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role.  Although Hunter was the correct age, 33, he looked far younger and the film has sometimes been nicknamed “I Was A Teenage Christ”.

Veteran actor Hurd Hatfield portrayed Pilate.  It is an interesting portrayal with Pilate cool, haughty and officially correct in his examination of Christ and highly emotional behind the scenes.  Josephus depicts Pilate as being irascible and possessed of a violent temper and Hatfield gives us that dimension of Pilate. (more…)

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)

 

(more…)

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

 

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 and Peter Firth may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here and here.

 

Perhaps the oddest portrayal of Pilate is by David Bowie, who passed away recently, in the enormously controversial film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), which was based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis.  I have a hard time being offended by either the novel or the film because Kazantzakis’ take on Christ is so bizarre, and so contrary to the historical record, that it occurred to me that the novel was not really about Christ, but a totally fictional construct by Kazantzakis in which only the name of Jesus remains the same.  The scene at the top of the post where “Pilate” interrogates “Christ” (Willem Dafoe),  is typical:  the dialogue is completely made up and is conducted listlessly by both “Pilate” and “Christ”, rather as if they were participants in a college bull session that had gone on too late into the wee hours of the morning.  One expects one of them to say, “We better turn in, or we will never get up for class.” (more…)

Published in: on March 23, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Screen Pilates: Peter Firth

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 and Leif Erickson may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here and here.

Veteran actor Peter Firth portrays Pilate as a worried man in the currently released movie Risen (2016), afraid that if the body of Christ cannot be found unrest from His followers will occur on the eve of a visit to Judaea by the Emperor Tiberius.  The visit of Emperor Tiberius is a fictional device to heighten the drama I assume.  At the time of the execution of Christ, Tiberius was in decadent retirement on the island of Capri.  The historical Pilate had good reason to fear the wrath of Tiberius, as he was a protégé of Roman strongman Sejanus, who Tiberius had executed on October 18, 31 AD, the year, likely, before Christ was put to death.  The Jewish philosopher Philo, an older contemporary of Christ born in 25 BC and who would live to 50AD, noted that Sejanus had helped foster anti-Semitic policies throughout the Empire, and that Tiberius had repudiated these policies upon the fall of Sejanus, and commanded that good relations with the Jewish communities throughout the Roman Empire be the policy of the Roman government.  This of course would have put Pilate on the spot, since he had a generally bad relationship with the Jews.  Much that is obscure about Pilate’s attitude toward Christ is made clear if Philo is accurate in his statement.  Why the screenwriters of Risen did not use these facts, rather than inventing a fictional visit of Tiberius, is beyond me. (more…)

Published in: on March 22, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Screen Pilates: Leif Erickson

 

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 and Brian Mitchell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here and here.

Hill Number One (1951) was a well-done film of Family Theater Productions, a company founded by the late Father Francis Peyton, the famed Rosary Priest, who led Rosary Crusades around the globe.  Family Theater Productions produced some 700 films and television programs.  Hill Number One has a chaplain telling some GIs during the Korean War, when battles for hills were common, how Jesus took Hill Number One, Calvary, by Himself.  Leif Erickson, who later starred in the Western television series The High Chaparral (1967-71), portrays Pilate as a harsh soldier/administrator, completely baffled by the mystery of Christ.  A forgotten minor classic, this video makes excellent Holy Week viewing.  Watch for an early screen appearance by James Dean as the Apostle John.

Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Leif Erickson  
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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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