AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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David and Bathsheba
Director: Henry King (Dir)
Release Date:   Sep 1951
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 14 Aug 1951; Los Angeles opening: 30 Aug 1951
Production Date:   24 Nov 1950--late Jan 1951; addl seq mid-Feb 1951
Duration (in mins):   115-116 or 123
Duration (in feet):   10,401
Duration (in reels):   13
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Cast:   Gregory Peck (King David)  
    Susan Hayward (Bathsheba)  
    Raymond Massey (Nathan)  
    Kieron Moore (Uriah)  
    James Robertson Justice (Abishai)  
    Jayne Meadows (Michal)  
    John Sutton (Ira)  
    Dennis Hoey (Joab)  
    Walter Talun (Goliath)  
    Paula Morgan (Adultress)  
    Francis X. Bushman (King Saul)  
    Teddy Infuhr (Jonathan)  
    Leo Pessin (David as a boy)  
    Gwyneth Verdon (Specialty dancer)  
    Gilbert Barnett (Absolom)  
    John Burton (Priest)  
    Lumsden Hare (Old shepherd)  
    George Zucco (Egyptian ambassador)  
    Allan Stone (Amnon)  
    Paul Newlan (Samuel)  
    Holmes Herbert (Jesse)  
    Robert Stephenson (Executioner)  
    Harry Carter (Executioner)  
    Richard Mickelson (Jesse's 1st son)  
    Dick Winters (Jesse's 2d son)  
    John Duncan (Jesse's 3rd son)  
    James Craven (Court announcer)  
    John Marshall (Court announcer)  
    Gary Stewart (Shepherd boy)  
    Billy Severn (Shepherd boy)  
    Dan White (Soldier)  
    David Newell (Soldier)  
    Shepard Menken (Police guard)  
    Helena Benda (Attendant)  
    Loulette Sablon (Attendant)  
    Ann Cameron (Wife)  
    Mildred Brown (Wife)  
    Anne Molinari (Wife)  
    Mary Ellen Gleason (Wife)  
    Shirley Karnes (Wife)  
    Carmen Lopez (Wife)  
    John Dodsworth (Ahithoplel)  
    Kay Barkley    
    Cecil Weston    
    Arthur Loeb    
    Anthony Natale    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Henry King (Dir)
  F. E. Johnston (Asst dir)
  Joe Rickards (Asst dir)
  Tom Connors (Asst dir)
  Robert Webb (2d unit dir)
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (Prod)
Writer: Philip Dunne (Wrt for the screen by)
Photography: Leon Shamroy (Dir of photog)
  Irving Rosenberg (Cam op)
  Al Lebovitz (Asst cam)
  Clifton Maupin (Stills)
  Anthony Ugrin (Stills)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  George Davis (Art dir)
Film Editor: Barbara McLean (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Paul S. Fox (Set dec)
  Charles Perrin (Set painter)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
  Edward Stevenson (Cost des)
  Dorothea Hulse (Fabric weaver)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus)
  Edward Powell (Orch)
Sound: E. Clayton Ward (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Dance: Jack Cole (Choreog)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Dr. C. C. McCown (Biblical tech adv)
  Joseph C. Behm (Unit mgr)
  Teresa Brachetto (Scr supv)
  Lois Craft (Gregory Peck's harp instructor)
Stand In: Dorothy Abbott (Stand-in for Susan Hayward)
Color Personnel: Leonard Doss (Technicolor col consultant)
  Johnny Greer (Technicolor crew)
  "Chuckles" Plant (Technicolor crew)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: Hymn, words from the 23rd Psalm by King David, music by Alfred Newman.
Composer: King David
  Alfred Newman
Source Text: Based on "The Second Book of Samuel," Old Testament. The Bible.
Authors: Bible

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 15/8/1951 dd/mm/yyyy LP1352

PCA NO: 15029
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor

 
Genre: Biography
Sub-Genre: Religious
 
Subjects (Major): Bathsheba (Biblical character)
  David, King of Israel
  Faith
  Israel
  Love affairs
  Religion
 
Subjects (Minor): Baths and showers
  Battles
  Beauty, Personal
  Droughts
  Duty
  Fathers and sons
  Forgiveness
  Goliath (Biblical character)
  Jealousy
  Prayer
  Pregnancy
  Prophets
  Relics and reliquaries
  Saul, King of Israel
  Shepherds
  Wives

Note: 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 30 Nov 1950 HR news item, Robert Stephenson replaced Robert Adler as one of the "executioners" when Adler was re-cast in The Frogmen (see below). Although HR 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 Nov 1950 HR 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 Dec 1950 NYT 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 Sep 1951 IP 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-Jul 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 Jul 1950.
       The Var review lists a running time of 153 minutes at a 9 Aug 1951 tradeshow. On 10 Aug 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 24 Oct 1951 DV 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 Jun 1952, HR 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 19 Oct 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." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   18 Aug 1951.   
Box Office   25 Aug 1951.   
Daily Variety   15 Aug 51   p. 3.
Daily Variety   24 Oct 1951.   
Film Daily   15 Aug 51   p. 8.
Hollywood Citizen-News   27 Feb 1952.   
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 50   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 50   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Oct 50   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 50   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Nov 50   p. 2, 11
Hollywood Reporter   30 Nov 50   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Dec 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Dec 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jan 51   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jan 51   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jan 51   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 51   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 51   p. 1, 12
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 51   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Aug 51   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Aug 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Feb 52   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jun 52   p. 4.
International Photographer   Sep 1951.   
Los Angeles Daily News   31 Aug 1951.   
Los Angeles Times   7 Oct 1951.   
Los Angeles Times   31 Aug 1951.   
Motion Picture Daily   15 Aug 1951.   
Motion Picture Herald   18 Aug 51   p. 31.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   25 Aug 51   pp. 990-91.
New York Times   8 Jun 1950.   
New York Times   4 Oct 1950.   
New York Times   17 Dec 1950.   
New York Times   12 Aug 1951.   
New York Times   14 Aug 51   p. 19.5
New York Times   15 Aug 51   p. 23.
Newsweek   20 Aug 1951.   
Time   20 Aug 1951.   
Variety   3 Jan 1951.   
Variety   15 Aug 1951.   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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