The Greatest Story Ever Told

The rain came down steadily and made me feel miserable.  I went out to Target to buy some items, and I had a rest at a table, where I used my computer, and then I headed home.  I took a nap while watching game shows, and then I walked out in the rain to the theatre where “Silence” was showing.  A lot of people were going to the movies on the holiday.  I was seeing “Silence” for the second time, and I did like it somewhat better this second time, although I kept wondering how the priests made their way from Portugal to Japan.  The Inquisitor’s accent didn’t sound any better this time.  I went home to watch the DVD of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”  It was a lot of religion in movies for one day.  I was curious about this movie because it was directed by George Stevens, who had won Oscars for “A Place in the Sun” and “Giant.”  I thought that Max von Sydow gave a pretty good performance as Jesus, but the movie went along at a pretty slow pace and was unexciting as a whole.  The scenery was impressive, as it made this Biblical movie look like a Western, and the number of extras and celebrities was nearly unbelievable.  I knew what was going to happen with the story and waited for the dialogue I knew I was going to hear.  When you are way ahead of the movie, you can’t feel too engaged with it.  It was rather wrenching to see Claude Rains in his last movie.  I could see people like Victor Buono and Charlton Heston in a Biblical epic, but not John Wayne or Ed Wynn.  I saw that three of the disciples at the Last Supper were Ilya Kuryakin, Cornelius, and Corporal Klinger.  Some of the other cast members were Jose Ferrer, Martin Landau, Angela Lansbury, Pat Boone, Janet Margolin, Dorothy McGuire, Sal Mineo, Donald Pleasence, Sidney Poitier, Telly Savalas, Shelley Winters, Robert Blake, Russell Johnson, and Robert Loggia.  By my count, eight of the cast members are still alive today.  The terrible thing is that the cinematography didn’t look so good in this DVD edition.  High definition should make it look much better.  I imagine the film looked very good in its original presentation back in 1965.  The wide screen wasn’t enough to entice people to leave their television sets for this lesson about Jesus, however.  The original cut was 260 minutes long, which must have been absolutely numbing to sit through.  This film was amazingly expensive for its time, and it looks like it.  I don’t know how the studio expected a hit from another Sunday school lesson.  The celebrity cameos made it all seem like Stevens was doing a Biblical version of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”  I don’t think I would have wanted to spend an entire evening of three and a half hours plus an intermission seeing this movie.  It lacked drama and emotion.  When I compare it to later versions of the Christ story, it is uninteresting.  Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” did have some feeling to it, even if Willem Dafoe wasn’t the perfect Christ.  Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” had energy in it.  I guess I must have disliked this movie if I’m comparing it unfavorably to a Mel Gibson film.  After “Shane” in 1953, George Stevens directed only four more films: “Giant” in 1956, “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 1959, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965, and “The Only Game in Town” in 1970.  Stevens had a heart attack and died in 1975.  His son produced and directed the documentary “George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey” in 1984.  Seeing “The Greatest Story Ever Told” did make me want to go back and see this documentary one more time.  I went to sleep.  During the night, I heard the news that David Cassidy had announced that he was suffering some dementia.  He’s had all sort of financial, legal, and marital problems in recent years.  I found it hard to see that he could stop performing and concentrate on his health and his life, as he said he was going to do.  I watched a bit of CBS This Morning, and they showed how Charlie Rose was recovering from heart surgery.  I took some towels out to the laundromat and came back to watch the end of “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.”  Those last moments with Jeff Bridges were very sad.  It would have been good if he could have at least rested underneath one of those trees.  Michael Cimino died on July 2, 2016.  His friends had been unable to reach him by phone, and they called the police, who found him dead in bed in his house in Beverly Hills.  He was 77 years old, and the cause was heart failure.  Some of the people who died on February 22 include Mabel Normand (1930), Florence Ballard (1976), Alexander Scourby (1985), Andy Warhol (1987), John Fahey (2001), and Chuck Jones (2002).  Today is a birthday for Khalil Mack (26), Drew Barrymore (42), and Julie Walters (67).

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