Cast & Crew
James Robertson Justice
In the 11th century B.C., Israelite military leader Joab is patroling his army's camp outside the city of Rabbah, the stronghold of their enemies the Ammonites, when he realizes that David, the King of Israel, is missing. Joab is infuriated to learn that David has joined Uriah on the nightly patrol mission, and sends a hundred men to find him. After a brief battle with the Ammonites, the wounded David returns safely to camp, accompanied by Uriah, who worships the king. Although David longs for the days when he, like Uriah, was a simple captain, he returns to the safety of Jerusalem and turns his attention to other affairs of state. Upon his arrival, Nathan, a well-respected prophet, assures David that God approves of his plan to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David is disturbed by the quarreling of his sons, Absolom and Amnon, and by the nagging of his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, Israel's previous king, whom David admits he married for political purposes rather than for love. Despite her harsh outspokenness, Michal loves David and is crushed by his confession. Soon after, while David paces his balcony, he sees a lovely woman bathing in the courtyard of her house, below in the city. Although David learns that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, he cannot resist meeting her and invites her to dine at the palace. At dinner, Bathsheba reveals that she has a loveless marriage, as Uriah is only interested in battle. David tries to seduce Bathsheba, who confesses that she deliberately bathed where she knew he could see her. Bathsheba warns David that she will not have a casual affair with him, however, and instead demands his love. David and Bathsheba fall deeply in love and spend much time together, during which she questions him about his days as a shepherd boy. David describes his youth, his devotion to God and his service to Saul. While walking one day, the couple encounter an old shepherd, and his declaration that Saul's late son Jonathan should have been king reminds David of his boyhood friend, and also of the contention surrounding his reign. David and Bathsheba are returning to the city when they see a woman accused of adultery being stoned to death, and the violence casts a pall on their happiness. David then greets Nathan, who has arrived with the Ark, although tragedy strikes when a helpful soldier, trying to right the falling Ark, falls dead upon touching the sacred relic. Warning that God is exhibiting his wrath, Nathan demands that the Ark be kept outside the city walls until God has been appeased. Upon returning to the palace, David learns from Bathsheba that she is pregnant, and rather than have her face accusations of adultery, David sends for Uriah with the hope that he will spend the night with Bathsheba and thereby make the baby seem legitimate. Unwilling to allow himself any comfort denied to the other soldiers, Uriah sleeps alone, and David, his scheme thwarted, sends a secret dispatch to Joab, ordering that Uriah be placed at the front of the battle, then deserted. Michal, who knows of Bathsheba's pregnancy, overhears as David gives the fateful order, which results in Uriah's death. After the required month of mourning, Bathsheba and David marry, although their affair is common knowledge among the people, who blame them for the terrible drought that has descended upon Israel. The couple's infant son dies soon after birth, which Nathan interprets as further proof of God's displeasure. Nathan leads an angry crowd to the palace and demands that Bathsheba face their justice. David refuses to surrender his beloved, and, remembering the merciful God of his youth, goes to pray at the tabernacle containing the Ark. David becomes immersed in his prayer and while laying his hands upon the Ark, remembers how he slew Goliath and proved the prophet Samuel's proclamation that he had been anointed by God. With true repentence in his heart, David ends his reverie and is surprised to see that a heavy rain has begun. Knowing that David has made peace with God, the people praise him as he returns to the palace, where he and Bathsheba watch the rain with contentment.
James Robertson Justice
Francis X. Bushman
Mary Ellen Gleason
Joseph C. Behm
Paul S. Fox
F. E. Johnston
Dr. C. C. Mccown
E. Clayton Ward
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Costume Design
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
Best Writing, Screenplay
David and Bathsheba
The movie takes the story of David from the Book of Samuel in the Old Testament and, like practically every movie ever made that was based on the Bible, meddles with the basic story so much as to render that original story essentially non-existent. David and Bathsheba is about the romance that blooms between Bathsheba (Hayward) and the King of the Israelites (Peck) but renders it a more modern tale of seduction and guilt-induced contrition. As David leads Bathsheba to spiritual redemption at the end, the movie has done the trick all Biblical movies strive to do, basically show the naughty bits then stamp on the Hallelujah chorus, show God's rays light up the sky and say "Amen."
Before David and Bathsheba can have that moment, the movie flashes back to the moment when David became a hero, striking down a giant at the age of thirteen. It's not really necessary to show it but it would be unheard of to go to all the trouble of making a movie about David and not at least spend a few minutes showing him slay Goliath. As such, we get young David (Leo Pessin), with sling in hand, taking down the mighty Goliath (no spoiler warning necessary). It's not much of a battle but it serves the point: David came to prominence through courage and now, in his time of despair, must bring that courage once again to the fore and do what's right.
Henry King was given the directorial assignment for a couple of reasons. One of those reasons was Gregory Peck, the other was Susan Hayward. King had just finished working with Hayward on I'd Climb the Highest Mountain (1951) and just before that had completed work with Gregory Peck on two highly successful movies, The Gunfighter (1950) and Twelve O'Clock High (1949). King had also been a solid and reliable director for decades, from the silent version of Stella Dallas (1925) to the sound version of Way Down East (1935), and from Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938) to The Song of Bernadette (1943), Henry King was a director that actors and producers alike enjoyed working with and whose box office clout was unquestioned. After this one, he would work with both Peck and Hayward again on The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), another box office smash. He would work again with just Hayward alone as well, on Untamed in 1955.
Those two earlier films with Henry King, Twelve O'Clock High and The Gunfighter, had made Gregory Peck into a star in ways that previous successes like The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Spellbound (1945) had only hinted at. Those films established Gregory Peck as a serious actor and a Hollywood celebrity. But it was his work with Henry King that turned him into a mega-Hollywood star. He was box office gold after Twelve O'Clock High and didn't look back for years.
Susan Hayward came to prominence in the mid to late forties with films like Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) and My Foolish Heart (1949). Working with Henry King made her a bankable star and after four previous nominations for Best Actress, finally won on her fifth for her raw portrayal of Barbara Graham in the true crime story, I Want to Live! in 1958.
Hayward and Peck proved a good team but only worked together once more, on the previously mentioned King directed effort, The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Each would eventually go on to win Oscars and each would carve their own careers rooted almost entirely in modern day characters. They're not two actors one thinks of when one thinks of Biblical epics, but for one movie in 1951, Darryl Zanuck put them together with Henry King and proved that just because something may not be immediately apparent, doesn't mean it won't work. It worked, and their David and Bathsheba is still one of the most successful, and one of the better, Biblical epics ever made.
By Greg Ferrara
David and Bathsheba
David and Bathsheba on DVD - The 1951 Biblical epic starring Gregory Peck & Susan Hayward
David sends for the woman, who is Uriah's wife, Bathsheba (Susan Hayward at her most luscious). Although the invitation is for dinner, they find a strong mutual attraction and immediately begin an affair, though adultery is against the law, and the punishment (for the woman) death by stoning. David excuses his affair with Bathsheba, speculating that their relationship is all right because her marriage is loveless on both sides -- but even the King can't defy the law. Keeping their affair a secret becomes impossible when Bathsheba discovers she's pregnant. David decides the only thing to do is get rid of Uriah so that they can marry, and orders him sent to the forefront of battle where he is promptly dispatched. But this murder brings down the wrath of God, not just on David but on his kingdom as well. And the result is draught and famine. When the people demand the life of Bathsheba to fulfill law and appease God, it is only through an act of unspeakable bravery and atonement that David is able to redeem himself and save his beloved.
The film's strongest asset is a beautiful script by Philip Dunne that perfectly captures the nuances of a pair of star-crossed lovers trying to fool themselves. Gregory Peck gives one of his finest performances as David, conveying both his stiff-backed stoicism as the King (with whom you would not disagree) and his passion (for Bathsheba). The scene in which he walks through the angry mob to the Ark of the Covenant is amazing. Susan Hayward has never been lovelier than she is here, and rarely more effective. Her playful seductiveness fully explains David's attraction, and her later acquiescence when the situation blows up in their faces and she accepts her fate is truly moving. They are ably assisted by Raymond Massey as Nathan, the voice of God who delivers God's direct messages to the King.
The new disc from Fox features a gorgeous transfer that augments Leon Shamroy's flawless cinematography. With a film where many of the scenes take place at night, Shamroy shows a remarkable talent for getting the most out of light and shadow. But it's little more than one would expect from the man who shot everything from Cleopatra to Snow White and the Three Stooges. The colors are deep and richly saturated, and the source itself is in excellent condition, clean and free of damage. Unfortunately, the audio is showing signs of deterioration (and a sort of hollow sonic quality) that are noticeable but don't seriously impact the listening experience. The disc includes a potentially interesting featurette called "Once in 3000 Years." I say 'potentially' because it was made to promote the film, and appears to have been a short subject or extended short promo (a la the promo for The Bishop's Wife), but it abruptly snaps off at three minutes, virtually mid-sentence. It's a shame, because what there is of it is quite fun. There is also two trailers, one in color and one in black and white, and a television spot.
To order David and Bathsheba, go to TCM Shopping.
by Fred Hunter
David and Bathsheba on DVD - The 1951 Biblical epic starring Gregory Peck & Susan Hayward
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."