So what casting worked and did NOT work?
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD has been most infamous for its all-star cast. It has been called 'a Biblical AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS,''IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD RESURRECTION,' and 'an Easter LOVE BOAT special.' There are some weird choices, but there are star performances that I felt worked.
-Charlton Heston as John the Baptist. In a film where everyone plays things reverently and a bit slowly, Heston's overacting at times is like a shot in the arm.
-Claude Rains as Herod. Herod had been described as a decrepit paranoid old man, and Rains NAILED that.
-Jose Ferrer as Antipas
-Martin Landau as Caiaphas (It's interesting they cast a younger actor for this role; he's probably the handsomest High Priest)
-Joseph Schildkraut as Nicodemus (Schildkraut has had an interesting career portraying Jewish characters. He was Judas Iscariot in DeMille's KING OF KINGS, Dreyfuss in THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA, Otto Frank in the Broadway/movie versions of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, and a Death camp ghost in a TWILIGHT ZONE episode). His protest over Caiaphas' kangaroo court would be used in other Jesus movies.
-Donald Pleasance as the Dark Hermit.
-Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate. Yeah, I know, but Kojak definitely has presence.
-Van Heflin as Bar Amand.
-Sal Mineo as the cripple.
I would also give recommended mention to Joanna Durham as Mary Magdelene (even though her pregnancy showed) and Ina Balin as Martha, attacking Jesus at the funeral. And of course, Max Von Sydow as Jesus.
DID NOT WORK:
-Shelley Winters as the Woman with No Name.
-Ed Wynn as the blind man. I know Wynn can handle drama, but portraying a Judean old man is really stretching things (doesn't help that he is saddled with lines like 'When you were a little fella...')
-Pat Boone as the Angel in the Tomb.
-And of course, John Wayne as the Centurion.
A versatile group of Apostles, from former child stars (MacDowall, Considine), a future possible murderer (Blake) and Jamie Farr.