• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    More on Jesus of Nazareth (1956)

    Back in 2007 I made a couple of posts about two old Bible films from the BBC, Paul of Tarsus (1960) and Jesus of Nazareth (1956), after Mark Goodacre had brought them to my attention. Then last year I happened upon copies of the books that were brought out to accompany each series, both of which have a number of photos. There was seemingly very little information on the two series online, although WitlessD managed to find a good deal of information about the programme from an ancient copy of radio times.

    Then this morning I received news from Alan Chattaway (via his brother Peter) who very kindly passed on some information on the film online courtesy of Whirligig TV. There are a few photos (including the one above) and the following summary.
    Television history was certainly made in 1956 by a series of eight programmes produced weekly by the BBC. This was the first full-life reportage of the life of Jesus Christ to be created for television. In it, for the first time, an actor appeared in the complete role of Jesus; the part was taken by Tom Fleming. Treated as an experiment, Jesus of Nazareth was placed in the children's programmes slot on Sundays. But it attracted an adult audience whose appreciation placed it, as a BBC survey showed, next to the Coronation of 1953 in national appeal.

    The series was was produced by Joy Harington. It was considered her most notable work for television and she received the 1956 award of the Guild of Television Producers and Directors (now BAFTA), the first to be presented for a children's serial. A live studio production with exteriors filmed on location in Galilee and Jerusalem, it was a courageous undertaking. At that time, censorship regulations prohibited the portrayal of Christ by an actor in public performances. However, the Central Religious Council approved the project and Tom Fleming was cast as Jesus Christ. The serial was an outstanding success. Harington followed with a similar ten-part series, Paul of Tarsus (BBC, 1960), for which the exteriors were filmed mainly in Crete.
    Sadly, whilst Whirligig mentions Paul of Tarsus it doesn't appear to have any further information on it at present.

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