The Greatest Story Ever Told

Directed by George Stevens
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The Independent Culture

The Greatest Story Ever Told is a 1965 film about the life of Jesus, directed by George Stevens. Max von Sydow stars as Christ, and the film features a number of other top Hollywood stars at the time, including Charlton Heston as John the Baptist, and Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Musical Score, Best Cinematography (color), Art Direction (color), Costume Design (color), and Special Visual Effects (Joseph McMillan Johnson).


George Stevens


George Stevens

James Lee Barrett


Max von Sydow … Jesus

Dorothy McGuire … The Virgin Mary

Robert Loggia … Joseph

Charlton Heston … John the Baptist

Joanna Dunham … Mary Magdalene

Telly Savalas … Pontius Pilate

Claude Rains … Herod the Great

Jose Ferrer … Herod Antipas

Gary Raymond … Peter

David McCallum … Judas Iscariot

Roddy McDowall … Matthew

Michael Anderson Jr … James the Younger

Robert Blake … Simon the Zealot

John Considine … John

Tom Reese … Thomas

David Hedison … Philip

Jamie Farr … Thaddaeus

Burt Brinckerhoff … Andrew

David Sheiner … James the Elder

The large and notable cast also includes John Abbott, Rodolfo Acosta, Michael Ansara, Richard Bakalyan, Carroll Baker, Ina Balin, Pat Boone, Victor Buono, Richard Conte, Philip Coolidge, John Crawford, Frank DeKova, Cyril Delevanti, Van Heflin, Russell Johnson, Martin Landau, Angela Lansbury, Mark Lenard, Janet Margolin, Sal Mineo, Nehemiah Persoff, Donald Pleasence, Sidney Poitier, Joseph Schildkraut, Marian Seldes, Frank Silvera, Joseph Sirola, Abraham Sofaer, Paul Stewart, Harold Stone, Michael Tolan, John Wayne, Shelley Winters, and Ed Wynn. It should be noted that most of these stars play extremely short cameos.


  • Telly Savalas shaved his head bald for his role as Pontius Pilate. He kept his head shaved for the rest of his life.
  • During filming, the first snowstorm to strike Arizona in decades buried the whole.
  • Jerusalem set. Several hundred cast and crew members, including director George Stevens, went out with snow shovels, wheelbarrows, bulldozers, and butane flame throwers to clear the snow from the set. Just as they were done, it snowed again, even harder than before -- forcing the production to close and move to Desilu Studios in Hollywood.