March 25, 2016

"Give Us Barabbas!" on Hallmark Hall of Fame, 1961

FROM THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, PILATE PRESENTS JESUS AND BARABBAS TO THE MASSES
From Palm Sunday, March 27, 1961, NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame presents James Daly and Kim Hunter in "Give Us Barabbas," written by Henry Denker and directed by George Schaefer. It appears here under the banner of George Schaefer's Showcase Theatre, a syndicated package of Schaefer's Hall of Fame presentations, but aside from the opening credits, everything you see is as it was on Hall of Fame.

It's actually surprisingly good, and I say that not to damn with faint praise. As many of you know, religious drama is difficult to get right - too often it's either artless hagiography or a succession of greatest hits scenes from the Bible, but this gives us a rather interesting twist to the psychological makeup of Barabbas, of whom little is known. It also contains some good performances; Daly is always an interesting, literate actor, and his occasional forays into over-the-top histrionics is, I think, more a representation of the anger and wildness that would have driven a man such as Barabbas. In that sense it reminds me of Harry Guardino's take on Barabbas in King of Kings, although Guardino seems to be to be capable of far less subtlety as an actor than Daly. "Give Us Barabbas!" also reminds me of the Anthony Quinn movie Barabbas which attempts to accomplish the same thing, rather unsuccessfully, I think, even though it's based on a novel written by a Nobel prizewinner.

Tell me, in all honesty - can you imagine anything like this being presented on network television today? Not as a rerun of a beloved special, I mean, or a revisionist version that casts devils as angels or angels as incredibly un-angelike, or a musical version that tries to update the setting to modern times, but as original, orthodox programming?

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this. I've read that Schaefer tried to market his HALLMARK HALL OF FAME specials for local syndication but that he didn't succeed too well. I'm glad the tapes have been saved at least. They could be nice for a DVD set someday. I have seen a couple of these. I remember seeing "The Littlest Angel" rerun on local tv at Christmas time 1980. I also saw another Hallmark special about the writing of Handel's Messiah, originally telecast 12/15/1963, "A Cry of Angels", one time when I visited the Paley Museum in NYC, though it was a B&W kine. I'd love to see other specials like "Victoria Regina", "The Invincible Mr. Disraeli", and "The Magnificent Yankee". Maybe a few of them are on YouTube anyway.

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    1. BTW, "Give Us Barabbas" originally aired on March 26, 1961, which was Palm Sunday that year, not March 27.

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