( LEIChb I ER-SQUARE. 1 HEATRE : Certificate A) . Director Henry King
"THAT giant grows bigger every time the story is told."
The speaker is David, second King of Israel. lie is modestly deprecating his slaying of Goliath and he is talking to Bathsheba, 'wife of his General, Uriah the Hittite.
This is one of the remarks that don't occur in the Second Book of Samuel on which 20th Century Fox have based their ambitious film. But on the whole there is remarkable fidelity to the text. The subject is treated with dignity and the dialogue spoken by literate actors.
David is a spectacular figure of the Old Testament. Risen from the people. a shepherd boy who wrote immortal poems. he was chosen by Saul to succeed him as king. Ile married Saul's daughter, Michel, to further his career. Already in his lifetime he had become the subject of legends. Was he as modest about these as the foregoing remark would suggest? No one knows.
Presented with the many-faceted David, it is characteristic of Hollywood that it should choose the Bathsheba incident — for a guilty love story can hardly fail.
So Philip Dunne, whom Darryl F. Zanuck entrusted with the task of compiling a scenario from Samuel II. although at first he toyed with the idea of making the film a complete, episodic account of King David's life, later decided to make Bathsheba the central theme. using a brief flashback to bring other highlighted incidents into focus.
And so, very soon after the film starts, we arc on the terrace with David, watching the famous bathing scene—which Bathsheba later admits she staged herself in order to catch the king's eye.
Well, history down the ages is peppered with the love intrigues of kings and their mistresses. But, under the Mosaic law. the woman caught in adultery was hounded out of the town and stoned to death. And that is what the Israelites demand when. stricken by famine and disaster, they feel they are being afflicted because of David's and Bath sheba's sin. Led by Nathan, the prophet, they storm the palace to lake Bathsheba off to her punishment.
Horrified at the result of his double crime—for he has murdered Uriah by proxy—David now flings himself before the Ark of the Covenant and implores God's mercy for his people and forgiveness for himself. He lays his hands on the Ark. aware that he may lose his life by doing so. The thunder rolls—and the drought is broken.
That is how Philip Dunne has told the story. How do the actors interpret it?
The weakest member of the cast is Bathsheba herself, as portrayed by Susan Hayward. She is too like a well-brought-up, immature little America] girl—never the calculating seductress who almost succeeded in wrecking a kingdom.
Gregory Peck is a spectacularly handsome and kingly David, who wears his green tunic with a royal grace. He rises triumphantly to the film's big moment—the supplication before the Ark in the Tabernacle.
But why. oh why, must we see him jumping hilariously to his feet and rushing back to the palace like a reprieved schoolboy, to tell Bath