You have lots of choices. You can go for a religious-themed film. (Easter is the highpoint of the Christian calendar, after all.) A light hearted musical. A controversial take on the subject.
Hello, everybody. Well it’s just a day away and, of course, the usual fare will be offered by the TV networks. But your classic movie guys, Joe Morella and Frank Segers, suggest you record a few films and avoid all those nasty and very secular commercials.
There are the old standbys. 1953’s The Robe starring Richard Burton (pictured below). An epic film if ever there was one. See it at least once. This was the time that Burton was installed at 20th Century Fox, making seven pictures in seven years. Most of them were pretty bad, the actor said later. “The Robe” was at least commercial.
Actually the picture was very much a commercial gamble since it was the first movie shot — at the insistence of Fox boss Daryl F. Zanuck — in Cinemascope despite the fact that many theaters still hadn’t upgraded projection equipment to accommodate the new wide screen format. Hollywood will rise or fall on the success of “The Robe,” announced Zanuck.
Based on the Lloyd C. Douglas novel about a Roman centurion who oversees Christ’s crucifixion, The Robe opened in New York to mixed reviews but very strong box office. To cap things off, Burton was nominated for an Oscar for his work in the picture.
Then there is King of Kings, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus (above). Again, if you’ve never seen it, see it at least once. (It got much better reviews than did The Robe.)
The MGM production backed by Samuel Bronston, one of the great maverick producers of Hollywood history, King of Kings was shot largely in Spain. Directed for the most part by Nicholas Ray, it covers the entire life of Jesus with the benefit of an all-star cast including Robert Ryan, Hurd Hatfield, Viveca Lindfors and Rip Torn, with narration by none other than Orson Welles.
An operatic look is 1973’s Jesus Christ, Superstar, the film version of the record album and Broadway musical. For a controversial take seek out Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) about a self-doubting Jesus. Or, for those with strong stomachs, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ (2004), which covers the last 12 horrific hours of Christ’s life.
Those films will surely provoke lively discussion.
If you’re just looking for some lighthearted fun watch (as Joe will for the umpteenth time) 1948’s Easter Parade which paired Judy Garland and Fred Astaire for the first and only time. A genuine classic and still a delight.