Oscar Movies: David and Bathsheba (1951)

“David and Bathsheba,” Henry King’s screen version of the Old Testament story, is stale, earnest, and dignified, mostly serving as a star vehicle for Gregpry Peck and Susan Hayward.

Pecks plays King David, the beloved ruler and admired war hero, who succumbs to his erotic desires when he falls in love with Bathsheba (Susan Hayward), the wife of Uriah (Kieron Moore), one of David’s loyal and trusted soldiers.

The King’s downfall begins when he orders Uriah into a suicidal battle, so as to clear the way for his relationship with Bathsheba.

Worse yet, his infatuation with Baevastated land.

Causes problems in his kingdom and with his people, ultimately invoking the wrath of God, manifest in the devastation of the land.

Henry King is not a spectacle director like Cecil B. DeMille, but relatively speaking, the film boasts lavish production values that must have impressed the Oscar voters for the picture was nominated for five Academy Awards, though winning none.

In the supporting roles, Jayne Meadows plays the witch Michal, Francis X. Bushman King Saul and the very young Gwen Verdon (billed as Gwyneth) as a dancing girl.

“David and Bathsheba” is one of the last Biblical epic to be shot by a major studio before the technological innovation os Cinemascope led to a cycle of new historical and religious epics such as “The Robe,” in 1953.

Oscar Nominations: 5

Story and Screenplay: Philip Dunne

Cinematography: Leon Shamroy

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color): Lyle Wheeler and George Davis

Costume Design (color): Charles LeMaire and Edward Stevenson

Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Alfred Newman

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The Story and Screenplay Oscar went to Alan Jay Lerner for Minnelli’s musical, “American in Paris,” which also won the Best Picture, Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume.  The Scoring Award went to Franz Waxman for “A Place in the Sun.”


Running time: 116 Minutes.

Directed by Henry King.

Screenplay: Philip Dunne.

Released: August 10, 1951.

DVD: February 7, 2007