Were You There?
IT’S EASTER ALREADY? I guess that it has sort of sneaked up on me this year. I was just putting away all of the Christmas stuff when – Poof! I turn on the TV and it is filled with all of the Jesus Movies. That’s what I used to call those Biblical Epic movies when I was a kid.
The 1950s was a big decade for Jesus Movies – “Ben Hur,” “King of Kings,” “The Robe” with Richard Burton chewing the scenery like a rabid Schnauzer. We saw them all as soon as they hit the Wide Screen.
My mother was a big fan of those CinemaScope, Cinerama, and VistaVision films. She dragged me along to see all of them. I was really just her beard so she could justify buying the Big Popcorn. I barely saw a kernel. My father didn’t care to go along. I think the last movie he saw was before Sound came in. I never figured out why he didn’t like going with us. Maybe he resented not getting any of the Popcorn too.
This weekend will be packed with back to back Jesus Movies. I’ll pop a bag or two of Orville Redenbacher and open a couple cans of Diet Whatever. It’ll almost be like a trip in the Time Machine back to my youth.
Ben-Hur is on the TV right now. Charlton Heston is flexing those jaw muscles and his Pit Crew is getting his chariot ready to roll. One of my favorite stories about Heston had to do with that race scene. Chuck was an intense actor. He was racing for keeps, beating the heck out of his horses. The Stunt Coordinator, a Hollywood fixture named Yakima Canute, had to take Heston aside and tell him to take it easy.
“Relax, Chuck. Trust me – you are going to win the race.”
Now that I think about it, it was just a baby step for Heston from Ben-Hur to Planet of the Apes with lots of Method Angst and clenched jaws.
Later today I’ll be kicking back and watching “The Robe.” I love watching Richard Burton in his Pre-Elizabeth Taylor days. In The Robe he played a drunken and disillusioned Roman named Marcellus. Aside from the Roman part this was Type-Casting at its best. When he was half in the bag Burton’s acting slid from really good all the way down to where he could have played the horde of locusts in The Good Earth. To say that he was known for “Chewing the Scenery” – overacting, was being kind. In The Robe it was like he was possessed.
“Were you there? Were you there?”
“Yes, Richard. We were all there and saw you gnawing at the woodwork like a termite.”
He made William Shatner’s 1960s acting look calm by comparison.
I don’t know if Burton and Heston ever worked together. The results would have been cataclysmic. I can see Heston with his hands around Burton’s throat and yelling, “If you don’t stop overacting they will have to pry my cold, dead, hands from around your neck.”
Ah, yes, it is Easter again – Time for a trip to the B.O.M.B. – the Big Overeaters Memorial Buffet for dinner. Too much food and more trips to the Dessert Table than makes sense. I’ll fall asleep halfway through “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” I’ll see Max von Sydow do his Jesus bit, but it’ll be a struggle to stay awake so I can see Charlton Heston again as John the Baptist. That was another great role for him. He got to scream, bellow, and look really tense. It was a good part to help him prepare for his 1973 epic, “Soylent Green.”
Happy Easter to all!
“Were you there? Were you there?