Stories of Biblical Women in Movies and Television
By the mid-1900s, movies and television exerted a powerful influence on popular culture and the roles of women in the Bible, as Hollywood began to produce movies that drew upon the biblical narratives. One of the first movies about the life of Jesus, From the Manger to the Cross, was made in 1912. Characters included men such as Joseph and Herod, but also women — the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Martha. In 1927, Cecil B. DeMille made the silent movie The King of Kings, about the life of Christ. The movie unrealistically portrayed Mary Magdalene in scant attire, wondering where her lover had gone. In the 1930s when a version of the movie with music added was reissued, the film became a hit.
In 1949, DeMille made another biblically themed movie, Samson and Delilah. This epic film starred Hedy Lamarr as the lady in the Old Testament who brings down the strongest man in the world (Victor Mature) with a haircut.
In 1951, Susan Hayward starred as a tempestuous Bathsheba in the movie David and Bathsheba, the biblical tale of the king who fell in love with a married woman, and then arranged the murder of her soldier husband. Gregory Peck was cast as David, and Jayne Meadows played his wife.
A more recent version of the Samson and Delilah story appeared in 1996, featuring Elizabeth Hurley as Delilah and Eric Thal as Sampson, in a three-hour miniseries titled When the Son of the Sun Met Desire. The film combined plenty of Hollywood-style sex and violence for a quick-paced, action-packed portrayal of that well-known biblical tale.
Finally, The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's 2004 film on the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus, has been hailed by some as an accurate portrayal of the gospels, with realistic and sensitive portrayals of Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene. Pope John Paul II approved of the film and, according to Vatican sources that were widely reported in the media, believed it was powerful and accurate.