The Silver Chalice
is a 1954 historical epic film
from Warner Bros.
, based on Thomas B. Costain
's 1952 novel of the same name
A Greek artisan is commissioned to cast the cup of Christ in silver and sculpt around its rim the faces of the disciples and Jesus himself. He travels to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome to complete the task. Meanwhile, a nefarious interloper is trying to convince the crowds that he is the new Messiah by using nothing more than cheap parlor tricks.
It marked the film début of Paul Newman
as an artist named Basil (né Ambrose), who was given the task of making a silver chalice to house the Holy Grail
. It also featured Virginia Mayo
as Helena, Pier Angeli
as Deborra, Jack Palance
as Simon Magus
, the villain
, Joseph Wiseman
as Mijamin, Alexander Scourby
as Saint Luke
, Walter Hampden
as Joseph of Arimathea
, Lorne Greene
, and an appearance by Natalie Wood
, who plays Helena as a child. Victor Saville
was the director.
Apart from being Paul Newman's first film, this film, intended to be a Biblical
epic, is remembered chiefly for the curious domes
in the unusual set designs, resembling something that might be seen in a sci-fi film
; and for its film score
by Franz Waxman
, which was nominated for an Academy Award
The film had its world premiere in the small town of Saranac Lake, New York
, which won a competition selling Christmas Seals. Saville, Mayo, Angeli and Palance attended, and participated in, a parade around the time of the town's annual winter carnival
. The premiere itself was hosted by television personality Art Linkletter
Newman's view on the movie
Paul Newman was apparently not proud of his performance. When the film was broadcast on television
in 1966, he took out an advertisement
in a Hollywood trade paper apologizing for his performance, and requesting people not to watch the film. This backfired, and the broadcast received unusually high ratings. The film is sometimes referred to as Paul Newman and the Holy Grail
. Newman allegedly called the film "the worst motion picture produced during the 1950s". He once screened it for guests at his home, handing out pots, wooden spoons, and whistles and encouraging the audience to offer noisy critiques.
So far, Warner Home Video has only released Chalice
on VHS format; no plans for a DVD version have been yet announced.