The Big Fisherman

Last updated
The Big Fisherman
Bigfishpos.jpg
Directed by Frank Borzage
Produced by Rowland V. Lee
Screenplay by Howard Estabrook
and Rowland V. Lee
Based onthe novel by Lloyd C. Douglas
Starring Howard Keel
Susan Kohner
John Saxon
Martha Hyer
Herbert Lom
Music by Albert Hay Malotte
Cinematography Lee Garmes, A.S.C.
Edited by Paul Weatherwax, A.C.E.
Production
company
Centurion Films, Inc.
Rowland V. Lee Production
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
August 4, 1959 (US)
Running time
180 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$4 million [1]
Box office$3 million (US/Canada rentals) [2]

The Big Fisherman is a 1959 American historical and drama film directed by Frank Borzage about the life of Simon Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus. Starring Howard Keel, Susan Kohner and John Saxon, the production is adapted from the 1948 novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, which is closely related to Douglas' previous book, 1942's The Robe which, six years earlier, in 1953, had been adapted for the screen under the same title, The Robe . The film was shot at Universal-International studios but released by Buena Vista, the film releasing company of Walt Disney Productions.

Contents

The Robe ends with "the Big Fisherman" as a nickname for Peter; [3] Jesus called him "the fisher of men" and "the Rock".

Plot

The story traces Peter's journey from self-sufficient fisherman to his dependency on a risen Christ. It also presents another story of redemption and forgiveness, as he takes in a young Arab/Jewish girl, Fara. As they both learn of Jesus, it changes their lives.

The young Fara discovers that she is the daughter of Herod Antipas who married and shortly discarded her Arab mother in favor of Herodias. Disguised as a boy, Fara goes to Galilee to assassinate Herod in revenge.

Robbed by bandits, Fara is discovered by John the Baptist who advises her to listen to the great teacher, Jesus. She comes under the protection of Peter but vows to kill Herod. She manages to be employed in Herod's household to translate a series of prophecies.

Fara and Peter hear Jesus teaching. Fara turns away when he urges nonviolence. Peter is initially cynical, but in stages is drawn to become his disciple.

Fara gains an opportunity to kill Herod, and reveals her identity to him. As Peter watches, Herod urges her not to sink to murder. Fara recalls the words of Christ, and lowers her knife. Peter declares her free of her own chains.

Peter takes Fara to Arabia where they rescue Voldi, an Arab prince who wishes to marry her. However, Fara realises that her mixed race would jeopardize his future rule, so she leaves with Peter to spread the word of peace.

Cast

Production

The film was Rowland V. Lee's first in over 10 years. [1] It was shot in Super Panavision 70 (the first film so credited) by Lee Garmes. The original music score was composed by Albert Hay Malotte, an American composer who is best known for his musical setting of The Lord's Prayer, composed in 1935, and introduced on radio that year by John Charles Thomas.

Though originally rejected by Walt Disney because of its religious tone, the film was supported by Roy Disney, and was distributed by Buena Vista, making it one of the few religious films ever associated with the Disney Company.

It was shot on location in the San Fernando Valley in California. Portions were shot at La Quinta, California. [4] :168–71 [5]

After having starred in a number of MGM film musicals from 1950 ( Annie Get Your Gun ) to 1955 ( Kismet ), Howard Keel switched to straight acting roles with the 1958 British noir thriller Floods of Fear , followed by The Big Fisherman. He starred or co-starred in six additional features (four of which were westerns) between 1961 and 1968 and made his final appearance in a 2002 film, playing a supporting role.

John Saxon was borrowed from Universal. [6]

It was Borzage's last film that he completed.

Reception

Variety called it "pious but plodding." [7]

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (2012 edition) gave The Big Fisherman 2½ stars out of 4, describing it as a "sprawling religious epic" and deciding that it is "seldom dull, but not terribly inspiring." Steven H. Scheuer's Movies on TV and Videocassette (1993–1994 edition) also settled on 2½ stars out of 4, writing that "the story of Simon called Peter" "unfolds with predictable pageantry and uplifting sermonizing".

Assigning 2 stars (out of 5), The Motion Picture Guide (1987 edition) found it to be "long, often-enraging and totally miscast" with "a nonsinging Keel as Saint Peter". Evaluating the presentation as "just so much biblical nonsense because such liberties are taken that any serious student of the life and surrounding events will take exception, the write-up decides that "Douglas wrote the novel but made the mistake of entrusting it to the wrong people." After pointing out the film's "numerous technical mistakes: microphone boom shadows, klieg lights, Martha Hyer's vaccination mark", the Guide concludes that "to make a love story the focal point of such a potentially dynamic saga of history's most memorable era was a bad decision. One of the rare bummers by Disney in those years." [8]

Leslie Halliwell in his Film and Video Guide (5th edition, 1985) dismissed it as a "well-meaning but leaden adaptation of a bestselling novel which followed on from The Robe. He concluded that it is "too reverent by half, and in many respects surprisingly incompetent." Halliwell's quoted Monthly Film Bulletin ("its overall flatness of conception and execution is a stiff price to pay for the lack of spectacular sensationalism characterizing its fellow-epics") and The Hollywood Reporter ("the picture is three hours long, and, except for those who can be dazzled by big gatherings of props, horses and camels, it is hard to find three minutes of entertainment in it").

Running time

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (2012 edition) notes that the film's running time was originally 184 minutes, then cut to 164 minutes then to 149 minutes.

Awards and honors

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards:

Related Research Articles

John the Baptist 1st-century Hebrew preacher and later Christian saint

John the Baptist was a Jewish itinerant preacher in the early 1st century AD. Other titles for John include John the Forerunner in Eastern Christianity, John the Immerser in some Baptist traditions, and the prophet John (Yaḥyā) in Islam. He is sometimes alternatively called John the Baptizer.

Salome daughter of Herodias

Salome, the daughter of Herod II and Herodias, is known from accounts in the New Testament, where she appears as an unnamed daughter of Herodias, and an account by Flavius Josephus, where the daughter of Herodias is named Salome. In the New Testament she is mentioned as the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, demanding and receiving the head of John the Baptist. According to Josephus, she was first married to her uncle Philip the Tetrarch, after whose death, she married her cousin Aristobulus of Chalcis, thus becoming queen of Chalcis and Armenia Minor.

Herodias 1st century AD Herodian Dynasty princess

Herodias was a princess of the Herodian dynasty of Judaea during the time of the Roman Empire.

<i>Jesus</i> (1979 film) 1979 film by Peter Sykes, John Krish

Jesus is a 1979 biblical drama film directed by Peter Sykes and John Krish, and produced by John Heyman. In Jesus, the life of Jesus Christ is depicted, primarily using the Gospel of Luke as the main basis for the story. A voice-over narration is featured sporadically throughout the film, providing background information on characters and events.

<i>The Greatest Story Ever Told</i> 1965 film

The Greatest Story Ever Told is a 1965 American epic film produced and directed by George Stevens. It is a retelling of the Biblical account about Jesus of Nazareth, from the Nativity through to the Ascension. Along with the ensemble cast, it is Claude Rains's final film role. It received five Academy Award nominations.

Herod Antipas 1st century AD tetrarch of Galilee and Perea

Herod Antipater, known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch and is referred to as both "Herod the Tetrarch" and "King Herod" in the New Testament, although he never held the title of king. He is widely known today for accounts in the New Testament of his role in events that led to the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.

Chronology of Jesus Timeline of the life of Jesus

A chronology of Jesus aims to establish a timeline for the events of the life of Jesus. Scholars have correlated Jewish and Greco-Roman documents and astronomical calendars with the New Testament accounts to estimate dates for the major events in Jesus's life.

<i>Salome</i> (play) Tragedy by Oscar Wilde

Salome is a tragedy by Oscar Wilde. The original 1891 version of the play was in French. Three years later an English translation was published. The play tells in one act the Biblical story of Salome, stepdaughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipas, who, to her stepfather's dismay but to the delight of her mother Herodias, requests the head of Jokanaan on a silver platter as a reward for dancing the dance of the seven veils.

Martha Hyer American actress

Martha Hyer was an American actress. She is best remembered for her role as Gwen French in Some Came Running (1958), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her autobiography, Finding My Way: A Hollywood Memoir, was published in 1990.

Dance of the Seven Veils

The Dance of the Seven Veils is Salome's dance performed before Herod II. It is an elaboration on the biblical story of the execution of John the Baptist, which refers to Salome dancing before the king, but does not give the dance a name.

<i>King of Kings</i> (1961 film) 1961 English-language film directed by Nicholas Ray depicting the life of Jesus

King of Kings is a 1961 American Biblical epic film made by Samuel Bronston Productions and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Nicholas Ray, the film is a dramatization of the story of Jesus of Nazareth from his birth and ministry to his crucifixion and resurrection, with much dramatic license.

Herod Archelaus Ethnarch of Samaria/Judea/Idumea from 4 BC to 6 AD

Herod Archelaus was ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea, including the cities Caesarea and Jaffa, for a period of nine years. Archelaus was removed by Roman Emperor Augustus when Judaea province was formed under direct Roman rule, at the time of the Census of Quirinius. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, and was the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod II. Archelaus came to power after the death of his father Herod the Great in 4 BC, and ruled over one-half of the territorial dominion of his father.

Aretas IV Philopatris King of the Nabataeans (r. 9 BC-40 AD)

Aretas IV Philopatris was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BC to AD 40.

Mark 6 Gospel according to Mark, chapter 6

Mark 6 is the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. In this chapter, Jesus goes to Nazareth and faces rejection by his own family. He then sends his Apostles in pairs to various cities in the region where they also face rejection. Finally, Jesus goes back to the Sea of Galilee and performs some of his most famous miracles, including the feeding of the 5000 and walking on water. This chapter also gives an account of the murder of John the Baptist.

<i>Salomes Last Dance</i> 1988 film by Ken Russell

Salome's Last Dance is a 1988 film by British film director Ken Russell. Although most of the action is a verbatim performance of Oscar Wilde's 1891 play Salome, which is itself based on a story from the New Testament, there is also a framing narrative written by Russell himself.

Kristo is a 1996 Filipino biblical drama film depicting the life of Jesus Christ. Produced by Cine Suerte Productions and Oasis of Love Movement, Kristo stars Mat Ranillo III in the title role, together with Rez Cortez, Ruel Vernal (Peter), Michael Locsin (John), freelance model and then college student Charmaine Rivera, and Amy Austria.

<i>The Visual Bible: Matthew</i> 1993 film by Regardt van den Bergh

The Visual Bible: Matthew is a 1993 film portraying the life of Jesus as it is found in the Gospel of Matthew. The complete Gospel is presented word-for-word based on the New International Version of the Bible. It was directed by South African film maker Regardt van den Bergh and stars veteran actor Richard Kiley in the role of St. Matthew, newcomer Bruce Marchiano as Jesus, and Gerrit Schoonhoven as Peter. Marchiano portrays Jesus as a joyous, earthy, personal man with a sense of humour.

<i>Killing Jesus</i> (2015 film) 2015 American miniseries of National Geographic

Killing Jesus is an American television film inspired by the 2013 book of the same title by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. This is National Geographic's third installment of television adaptations of O'Reilly's non-fiction books which included Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. The cast includes Haaz Sleiman, Kelsey Grammer, Stephen Moyer, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and John Rhys-Davies.

The Messiah is a 1975 Italian / French film directed by Roberto Rossellini.

References

  1. 1 2 "Rowland V. Lee Brings in 'Big Fisherman'". Variety . February 4, 1959. p. 20. Retrieved July 5, 2019 via Archive.org.
  2. "Rental Potentials of 1960". Variety . January 4, 1961. p. 47. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  3. Hayes, John. "The Epic That Disappeared: The Big Fisherman" Widescreen Movies Magazine (last revised 6 November 2009)
  4. Niemann, Greg (2006). Palm Springs Legends: creation of a desert oasis. San Diego, CA: Sunbelt Publications. p. 286. ISBN   978-0-932653-74-1. OCLC   61211290. (here for Table of Contents)
  5. The Big Fisherman at the American Film Institute Catalog
  6. Vagg, Stephen (July 29, 2020). "The Top Twelve Stages of Saxon". Filmink.
  7. Review of film at Variety
  8. The Motion Picture Guide (Chicago, 1987), volume I, page 193