The Prodigal (1955)
“The story of Woman’s Beauty and Man’s Temptation!”
The Prodigal (1955)
Director: Richard Thorpe
Cast: Lana Turner, Edmund Purdom, Louis Calhern
Synopsis: A wealthy young Hebrew traveling in Damascus renounces his faith after he is seduced by an alluring pagan priestess and cheated of his fortune by the High Priest as well.
Undoubtedly the richest source for movie material, the Bible has spawned more than its fair share of turkeys, many of them from the spate of epics made in Hollywood during the mid- to late-fifties. The Prodigal has no problem taking its rightful place in the Religious Movie Hall of Shame alongside other flops such as Salome (1953), The Robe (1953), and The Silver Chalice (1954).
The pace of this dreary movie is slower than a Sunday morning sermon. While Micah’s obsession with the High Priestess (Lana Turner – Cass Timberlane) is quickly established, as soon as he embarks on the road to Damascus in pursuit of the object of his affections we are subjected to endless talk, most of it delivered in that pious tone reserved exclusively for tacky biblical epics, that leaves us bored with the story and uncaring about the fate of the protagonists.
Well, that’s not quite true. I cared deeply about what happened to Micah (Edmund Purdom). He was such a self-centred, arrogant bonehead that I couldn’t wait to see him destroyed – not a good thing when he’s supposed to be The Prodigal’s hero. Purdom was no leading man; he was too bland, he was incapable of expressing emotion, and for this role his voice was too cultured and mild; no wonder he never became the big star MGM were grooming him to become when they made this movie. Lana Turner sleepwalks through her part. By the mid-fifties she was getting a little long in the tooth to be playing this kind of siren role, but she does still look good.
The Prodigal does pick up the pace for the last 45 minutes, but by then you’ll be past caring.
(Reviewed 9th May 2002)