The Bible: In the Beginning...

The Bible: In the Beginning... is a 1966 American-Italian religious epic film produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by John Huston. It recounts the first 22 chapters of the biblical Book of Genesis, covering the stories from Adam and Eve to the binding of Isaac.[4] Released by 20th Century Fox, the film was photographed by Giuseppe Rotunno in Dimension 150 (color by DeLuxe Color), a variant of the 70mm Todd-AO format. It stars Michael Parks as Adam, Ulla Bergryd as Eve, Richard Harris as Cain, John Huston as Noah, Stephen Boyd as Nimrod, George C. Scott as Abraham, Ava Gardner as Sarah, and Peter O'Toole as the Three Angels.

The Bible: In the Beginning...
Original film poster
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
Screenplay byChristopher Fry
Based onBook of Genesis
StarringMichael Parks
Ulla Bergryd
Richard Harris
John Huston
Stephen Boyd
George C. Scott
Ava Gardner
Peter O'Toole
Narrated byJohn Huston
Music byToshiro Mayuzumi
Ennio Morricone (uncredited)
CinematographyGiuseppe Rotunno
Edited byRalph Kemplen
Distributed byTwentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date
Running time
174 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15-$18 million[2][1]
Box office$25.3 million (worldwide rentals)[3]

In 1967, the film's score by Toshiro Mayuzumi was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score.[5] The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures included the film in its "Top Ten Films" list of 1966.[6] De Laurentiis and Huston won David di Donatello Awards for Best Producer and Best Foreign Director, respectively.[7]


The film[8] consists of five main sections: The Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah's Ark, and the story of Abraham. There are also a pair of shorter sections, one recounting the building of the Tower of Babel, and the other the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sections vary greatly in tone. The story of Abraham is somber and reverential, while that of Noah repeatedly focuses on his love of all animals. Cats (including lions) are shown drinking milk and Noah's relationship with the animals is depicted as harmonious. It was originally conceived as the first in a series of films retelling the entire Old Testament, but these sequels were never made.


As of December 2018, Zoe Sallis, Franco Nero, Gabriella Pallotta, Maria Grazia Spina, Flavio Bennati, and Giovanni Di Benedetto are the only surviving cast members.


Seven Arts Productions contributed 30% of the budget.[9]


Ulla Bergryd was an anthropology student living in Gothenburg, Sweden when she was discovered by a talent scout, who photographed her in a museum there, and then promptly hired to play Eve.[10] In an interview for The Pittsburgh Press, Bergryd recalled the experience:

I was especially surprised by the fact that I started to work four days after signing a contract. Although I've always been interested in movies and the theater, I'd never seen any actual shooting, and it was all very exciting.[10]

Huston originally considered Alec Guinness (who was unavailable) and Charlie Chaplin (who declined) for the part of Noah until he finally decided to play it himself.[11]

Ava Gardner was reluctant at first to play the part of Sarah, but after Huston talked her into it, she accepted.[12] She later explained why she accepted the role:

He (Huston) had more faith in me than I did myself. Now I'm glad I listened, for it is a challenging role and a very demanding one. I start out as a young wife and age through various periods, forcing me to adjust psychologically to each age. It is a complete departure for me and most intriguing. In this role, I must create a character, not just play one.[12]

Anglo-Persian actress Zoe Sallis, who was cast as Hagar, was originally known as Zoe Ishmail, until Huston decided that she change her name because of its similarity to the name of Ishmael, her character's son.[13]

The film marks the debut of Italian actress Anna Orso, who portrays the role of Shem's wife.[14] It also introduced Franco Nero to American audiences; Nero, who was working as the film's still photographer, was hired by Huston for the role of Abel due to his handsome features. At the time, Nero could not speak English, and Huston gave him recordings of Shakespeare with which to study.[15]


The scenes involving the Garden of Eden were shot at a "small zoological garden" in Rome instead of a "beautiful place of trees, glades and wildflowers" which had been demolished shortly before the shooting began.[16] Ulla Bergryd, who was cast as Eve, later recalled, "Paradise was, in fact, an old botanical garden on the outskirts of Rome."[10]

There were five reproductions of Noah's Ark built for the film.[17] The largest reproduction, which stood on the backlot of the De Laurentiis Film Center, was 200 feet long, 64 feet wide, and 50 feet high; it was used for the long shot of Noah loading the animals.[17] The interior reproduction, which was one of the "largest interior sets ever designed and constructed," was 150 feet long and 58 feet high and had "three decks, divided into a hundred pens" and a ramp that ran "clear around the ark from top to bottom."[17] The third reproduction was a "skeleton" ark, built for the scenes depicting Noah and his sons constructing the Ark.[17] The fourth reproduction was "placed at the foot of a dam" for the inundation sequences and the fifth reproduction was a miniature for the storm sequences.[17] The cost of building the five reproductions was more than $1 million.[17] The building took months and more than 500 workers were employed.[17] The animals were delivered from a zoo in Germany.[18] The whole segment of Noah's Ark had a total budget of $3 million.[17]


The Bible: In the Beginning ... premiered at New York City's Loew's State Theatre on September 28, 1966.[19] The day after the premiere, Ava Gardner remarked, "It's the only time in my life I actually enjoyed workingmaking that picture." [20]

Critical reception

Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Director John Huston and his associates have wrought a motion picture that is not only magnificent almost beyond cinematic belief but that is also powerful, quaint, funny, thought-provoking and of course, this being the Old Testament, filled with portents of doom."[21] Variety noted that "the world's oldest storythe origins of Mankind, as told in the Book of Genesisis put upon the screen by director John Huston and producer Dino De Laurentiis with consummate skill, taste and reverence."[22] It also commended the "lavish, but always tasteful production [that] assaults and rewards the eye and ear with awe-inspiring realism."[22]

Other reviews were less positive. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that the film had "extraordinary special effects" but was lacking "a galvanizing feeling of connection in the stories from Genesis," and "simply repeats in moving pictures what has been done with still pictures over the centuries. That is hardly enough to adorn this medium and engross sophisticated audience."[23] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post described the film as "cautiously literary, impressive in some instances, absurd in others."[24] The Monthly Film Bulletin opined that "the seven or eight episodes are diffusely long, tediously slow, depressingly reverent. The liveliest of the lot is The Ark, with Huston himself as a jolly, Dr. Dolittle old Noah, and a lot of irrestistibly solemn and silly animals; but even here sheer length eventually wears down one's attention."[25] Episcopal priest and author Malcolm Boyd wrote, "Its interpretation of Holy Scripture is fundamentalistic, honoring letter while ignoring (or violating) spirit. John Huston got bogged down in material of the Sunday School picture-book level and seems unable to have gotten out of the rut. It is an over-long (174 minutes plus intermission) picture, tedious and boring."[26] In Leonard Maltin's annual home video guide the film is given a BOMB rating, its review stating, "Only Huston himself as Noah escapes heavy-handedness. Definitely one time you should read the Book instead."[27]

Box office

The film earned rentals of $15 million in the United States and Canada during its initial theatrical release,[28] from a gross of $34.9 million.[29]

The film was the second most popular Italian production in Italy in 1966 with 11,245,980 admissions, just behind The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and is the 15th most popular of all-time.[30]

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $26,900,000 in rentals to break even and made $25,325,000 worldwide, making a loss of $1.5 million.[1][3]

Home media

20th Century Fox released the film on Blu-ray Disc on March 22, 2011.[31]


Award Category Name Outcome
Academy Awards Music (Original Music Score) Toshiro MayuzumiNominated
David di Donatello Awards Cinematography (Golden Plate) Giuseppe Rotunno Won
Best Foreign Director John Huston Won
Best Producer Dino De Laurentiis Won
Production Design (Golden Plate) Mario Chiari Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Original Score - Motion Picture Toshiro Mayuzumi Nominated
National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Top Ten Films of 1966 Won
Silver Ribbon Awards Best Cinematography, Color Giuseppe Rotunno Nominated
Best Costume Design Maria De Matteis Nominated
Best Producer Dino De Laurentiis Nominated
Best Production Design Mario Chiari Won

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also


  1. Hall, S. and Neale, S. Epics, spectacles, and blockbusters: a Hollywood history (p. 179). Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan; 2010. ISBN 978-0-8143-3008-1. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  2. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p254
  3. Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 325.
  4. Shevis, James M. (July 15, 1966). "John Huston Narrates Film, Directs, Portrays Noah". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  5. "The 39th Academy Awards (1967) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  6. "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures - Top Ten Films of 1966". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  7. "David di Donatello - La Bibbia". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  8. "The Great Bible Figures". Archived from the original on 2011-08-12. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  9. "7 Arts 30% 'Bible' Share: $4,550,000". Variety. October 6, 1965. p. 3.
  10. Heimbuecher, Ruth (October 19, 1966). "'Bible's' Eve Disliked Her Fig Leaf Costume". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  11. Pearson, Howard (October 19, 1966). "A Director Speaks - Huston: 'Bible' Unique Film". The Deseret News. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  12. "Biblical Role Scares Ava". The Spokesman-Review. September 6, 1964. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  13. "What's In A Name?". The Pittsburgh Press. December 13, 1964. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  14. "E' morta l'attrice Anna Orso, Aveva recitato con Al Pacino". la Repubblica. 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  15. Texas, Adios (Franco Nero Bio) (DVD). Los Angeles, California: Blue Underground. 1966.
  16. Huston 1994, p. 322.
  17. "Ark Easier For Noah To Build". The Deseret News. February 2, 1965. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  18. Hughes, p.70f
  19. Crowther, Bosley (September 29, 1966). "The Bible (1966) The Screen: 'The Bible' According to John Huston Has Premiere:Director Plays Noah in Film at Loew's State Fry's Script Is Limited to Part of Genesis". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  20. Boyle, Hal (October 5, 1966). "Ava Gardner Declares Public Image Not Real". Sarasota Journal. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  21. Scheuer, Philip K. (October 2, 1966). "Movies: 'The Bible' Powerful and Faithful". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 9.
  22. "Review: 'The Bible – In the Beginning . . .'". Variety. December 31, 1965. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  23. Crowther, Bosley (September 29, 1966). "The screen: 'The Bible' According to John Huston Has Premiere". The New York Times. 59.
  24. Coe, Richard L. (October 30, 1966). "The Bible". The Washington Post. G1.
  25. "La Bibbia (The Bible ... In the Beginning)". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 33 (394): 163. November 1966.
  26. Boyd, Malcolm (November 27, 1966). "Houston's [sic] 'The Bible' Fails to Make a Moral Statement". The Washington Post. G5.
  27. Maltin, Leonard, ed. (1995). Leonard Maltin's 1996 Movie & Video Guide. Signet. p. 107. ISBN 0-451-18505-6.
  28. Solomon p 230
  29. "The Bible: In the Beginning, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  30. "La classifica dei film più visti di sempre al cinema in Italia". January 25, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  31. "Bible-In The Beginning Blu-ray". TCM Shop. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  32. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.


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