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This film was loosely based on the life of King David, who ruled Israel for approximately forty years (c. 1000 B.C. to 960 B.C.). According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio first became interested in the subject of King David after the 1943 publication of the book David by Duff Cooper. Although the studio purchased the rights to Cooper's book, it was not used in the preparation of the film's screenplay.
According to a November 30, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, Robert Stephenson replaced Robert Adler as one of the "executioners" when Adler was re-cast in The Frogmen (see below). Although Hollywood Reporter news items noted that James Millican was being considered for a role, and that Ray Atchley had been cast in the picture, their appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed. A November 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that six-foot, eight-and-a-half-inch tall Walter Talun, who played "Goliath," was a professional wrestler who competed under the name "The Polish Angel." A December 1950 New York Times article noted that technical advisor C. C. McCown was an "international authority on archaeology and biblical history."
Although several contemporary news items reported that the picture would be shot in the Holy Land, "with frozen funds," a September 1951 International Photographer article noted that due to the Korean War and the subsequent deployment of part of the U.S. fleet to the Mediterranean, exterior sequences were instead shot near Nogales, AZ. Studio publicity announced that the "town" constructed for the set was officially named "David and Bathsheba, AZ."
According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen Office rejected the film's screenplay in mid-July 1950. According to an internal memo, the screenplay was disapproved for three reasons: "the adultery...is developed in too lurid detail....There is not proper punishment for this adultery....[and] David's cynicism and irreligion verges, at times, on profanity and, as such, seems highly offensive." To support its position, the PCA sought the viewpoint of Monsignor John J. Devlin, who was frequently used by various studios as a technical advisor. The monsignor stated, "it would be highly offensive to have David, a forerunner of Christ and from whose house Christ actually came, to be doubting the actual existence of God." The revised script was approved in late July 1950.
The Variety review lists a running time of 153 minutes at a August 9, 1951 tradeshow. On August 10, 1951, in connection with publicity for the film, Susan Hayward placed her hand-and footprints in concrete in the famed forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. According to a October 24, 1951 Daily Variety news item, Church of Christ parishioners picketed the film at one theater in Los Angeles, protesting the depiction of Biblical matters and also accusing Gregory Peck and Philip Dunne of being "known Reds." In June 1952, Hollywood Reporter noted that the film was "headed for a domestic gross of between six and seven million dollars, an all time high" for the studio.
The film received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Art Direction (Color); Cinematography (Color); Costume Design (Color); Music (Scoring Dramatic or Comedy Picture); and Writing (Story and Screenplay). Actresses Paula Morgan and Kay Barkley made their screen debuts in David and Bathsheba. On October 19, 1954, Michael Rennie and Arlene Dahl co-starred in a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of the story. In 1985, Richard Gere starred as "David" in King David, a Paramount release that was directed by Bruce Beresford and co-starred Alice Krige as "Bathsheba."