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Queen Esther on the Big Screen Yet Again!

12th May 2005

Peter Chattaway has a note on his blog about an upcoming film based on the biblical book of Esther: One Night With the King, starring Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif (due out later this year). Chattaway further notes a few other movies made about the story of Esther.

According to my count there have been a total of nine films based on the book of Esther. Besides the 1916 silent film directed by Maurice Elvey, the French produced three silent films inspired by the biblical character: Gaumont studios produced two films in 1910: Esther and Mordecai directed by Louis Feuillade and The Marriage of Esther, while C.G.P.C. made another movie called Esther directed by Henri Andréani. In addition, the Dutch director-actor Theo Frankel directed Esther: A Biblical Episode in 1911.

Once we are out of the silent era, there are three other films inspired by Esther (all of which Chattaway mentioned): Mario Bava and Raoul Walsh’s Esther and the King (1960); Amos Gitai’s Esther (1986); and Raffaele Mertes’ Esther (1999).

As a biblical scholar I found Esther and the King quite interesting — especially how they modified the king’s reason for getting rid of Queen Vashti. In the film they have Vashti cheating on the king and actually showing up at the banquet and performing a striptease (see picture of Daniela Rocca as Vashti above right), while in the biblical account she is dumped because she refused to come at the king’s command (Esther 1:10-12). What is perhaps ironic, is that some scholars (such as Michael Fox in his excellent book, Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther (Eerdmans, 2001; Buy from | Buy from suggest that when the king asks her to come before the crowd “wearing the royal crown”, it is implied that she was to come wearing only the crown, i.e., naked. So the striptease in the movie may not be too far off the mark, after all! At any rate, the movie itself isn’t that bad — and it stars Joan Collins as Esther (see picture, above left).

Last and not least, a recent “film” on Esther that I should mention is the VeggieTales production, Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen, that came out in 2000 (and I have watched many times since with my kids!)

For a fairly complete listing of films based on the Hebrew Bible, see my The Old Testament on Film page.

Posted in Bible & Film, Esther, Film, OT Film Epics | Comments Off

New Section on the Old Testament on Film Uploaded

10th May 2005

I have uploaded a new section on The Old Testament on Film to my site (This is the first installment of pages for my Religion & Popular Culture section).

In these pages I have listed over 110 films based on the Hebrew Bible in three separate categories according to their production eras, and within each era films are listed by their release date and director. While I do not think that I have been exhaustive, I am pretty confident that I have been fairly comprehensive. I have also provided a bit of an introduction to each era, as well as links to VHS and DVD editions available on and

In creating this list I have been impressed by the sheer number of movies inspired by the Old Testament. While I knew of and have seen most of the “biblical epics” from the 1950s and 60s, I never realized how many silent films were based on the Old Testament — and I certainly didn’t realize how risque many of them were!

As a biblical scholar I have always been fascinated how the screenwriters and directors adapted the biblical narratives and solved some of the critical problems in the biblical text. Many of these films make fascinating hermeneutical studies in and of themselves. It has been a real treat watching some of them for the first time.

Happy viewing!

Posted in Bible & Film, Blog News, Film, Old Testament, OT Film Epics | Comments Off