In honour of the Oscars, Treasure Trove revisits a classic Jewish movie

With the Oscars coming up on March 10, Treasure Trove dipped into its Jewish-themed cinema archive to present the promotional material from the Austrian premiere of David and Batsheba.

Released in 1951, the movie stars Gregory Peck as King David, with Lithuanian wrestler “Iron Talun” appearing as Goliath.  It tells the story of David’s infatuation with Batsheba (played by Susan Hayward), who was at the time married to Uriah the Hittite, a captain in David’s army.  David orders Uriah to the front lines, and as expected, Uriah is killed, thereby eliminating David’s competition.

David then marries Batsheba, and a drought hits Israel.  Nathan the prophet tells David that as punishment for his misdeeds, misfortune will fall on his family. 

Seeking forgiveness and relief from the drought, David enters the Holy of Holies and asks that Israel not be punished for his sins. Gregory Peck’s depiction of King David shows a leader of Israel assuming responsibility for his actions. “Let thy punishment fall on thy servant who has earned it” he pleads. 

The movie is not great (it scored 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and its dialogue is archaic, but the lesson of responsibility is a good one.