April 3 in UK TV

1977: Jesus of Nazareth [Movie Munch Online] is British-Italian television miniseries directed by Franco Zeffirelli and co-written by Zeffirelli, Anthony Burgess, and Suso Cecchi d’Amico which dramatises the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. It stars Robert Powell as Jesus. The miniseries features an all-star cast of famous American and European actors, including seven Academy Award winners: Anne Bancroft (Mary Magdalene), Ernest Borgnine (Roman Centurion), Laurence Olivier (Nicodemus), Christopher Plummer (Herod Antipas), Anthony Quinn (Caiaphas), Rod Steiger (Pontius Pilate), and Peter Ustinov (Herod The Great).

Jesus of Nazareth premiered on the Italian channel Rai 1 on 27 March 1977 and was first aired in the United Kingdom on the ITV Network on 3 April 1977. It is generally well-praised, but was not received without controversy.

Although the film has been received as generally faithful to the Gospel sources, and more comprehensive than previous film versions, Zeffirelli and his screenwriters found it necessary to take some liberties with the scriptures for purposes of brevity and narrative continuity. Some of these deviations have a basis in time-honoured, extra-Biblical traditions (e.g., that the infant Jesus was visited by three “kings”; the Bible calls them “magi” or “astrologers”, yet does not state how many there were). There were also other deviations invented for the script.

The mini-series received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Special Drama or Comedy. Additionally, James Farentino, who portrayed St. Peter, received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Special. It was nominated for six British Academy Television Awards: Best Actor, Best Cameraman, Best Single Television Play, Best Editor, Best Costume Design and Best Sound. It won none.  Powell collected the TV Times “Best Actor” award.

Other stars included Olivia Hussey (Mary, mother of Jesus), James Farentino (Peter), James Earl Jones (Balthazar), Stacy Keach (Barabbas), James Mason (Joseph of Arimathea), Ian McShane (Judas Iscariot), Donald Pleasance (Melchior), Ralph Richardson (Simeon), Michael York (John the Baptist).

For more information, see http://www.excerptsofinri.com/jesus_of_nazareth.html.

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