Oscar Movies: Greatest Story Ever Told

George Stevens’s unsuccessful attempt at a biblical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told, stars Max von Sydow as Jesus.

labor of love, the movie is epic only in its ambitious intent and running time, which originally was four hours and 20 minutes, later cut down to three hours and 15 minutes.  ”

About two dozen of Hollywood’s famous actors were asked to appear in the movie.  Thus, John Wayne was miscast in the improbable role of a Roman Centurion, leading Jesus to crucifixion in. He was given one line: “Truly, this man was a son of God,” evoked laughter in the audience and was sheer embarrassment.

Wayne’s performance, however, was just one of many other “shattering and distasteful”performances by many stars in small or cameo roles, including Dorothy McGuire and Robert Loggia as Mary and Joseph, Charlton Heston as John the Baptist, David McCallum as Judas, Claude Rains as Herod, Sidney Poitier, Carroll Baker, Shelley Winters, and Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate.

Dismissed or ridiculed by most critics, the movie was a commercial flop.  Years later, however, it began to be shown on TV around religious holidays.

Sadly, this picture signaled the decline in the career of George Stevens, who would make only one more work.

Oscar Nominations: 5

Cinematography (color): William C. Mellor and Loyal Grigg

Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color): Richard Day, William Creber, David Hall; Ray Moyer, Fred MacLean, Norman Rockett

Music Score: Alfred Newman

Costume Design: Vittorio Nino Novarese and Marjorie Best

Special Visual Effects: J. McMillan Johnson

Oscar Awards: None