King of Kings

King of Kings, Ray’s second film for MGM, is truly his “epic” (featuring narration by Orson Welles!), a lavish historical ensemble drama chronicling the life of Jesus Christ (Jeffrey Hunter), but still very much a Ray film in its intimate focus on individual crises. The film’s main temporal focus is the lead-up to Jesus’ crucifixion, complete with the shady, back-alley political maneuverings and sweeping drama. While the film was shot in Technirama 70mm, with thousands of extras, excessive studio involvement made it so “the tension between ambition and compromise is rarely more glaringly obvious than it is with King of Kings.”—Bernard Eisenschitz.

Genres: Drama, Historical

Other Films by Nicholas Ray

Johnny Guitar

Widely cited as an allegory for the anti-Communist hearings overseen by the House Un-American Activities Committee that led to the Hollywood blacklist of 1955, Johnny Guitar is one of the fiercest Westerns ever made. Vienna (an unforgettable Joan Crawford), a saloon owner in a small Arizona town, walks a fine line between the conservative townsfolk,

We Can’t Go Home Again

In 1971, Ray, at the invitation of experimental filmmakers Larry Gottheim and Ken Jacobs, took a teaching post at SUNY Binghamton in the fledgling film production department. The major project to come out of the period is this film, an experimental meta-narrative centering on a teacher (Ray) and his students (played by his real-life students),

Lightning Over Water

Ray, dying of cancer, fought hard to make this last film, a document of his final days in New York City. Wenders, by then a close friend of Ray’s, comes to New York after being on location shooting a noir in Los Angeles. What follows is Ray, with Wenders’ tender assistance, reminiscing about his life

Party Girl

A latter-day mob tale made for glamorous MGM—ironic, at that most softboiled of studios—Ray follows the gritty gangster classics of the 1930s by crafting the center of Party Girl’s story on mafia lawyer Thomas Farrell (Robert Taylor), who has a sterling record defending crooks and murderers. Farrell, in the course of his work for archetypal

On Dangerous Ground

Injecting atmosphere and detailed character development to an already very strong script by A.I. Bezzerides, Robert Ryan stars as Jim Wilson, a hardboiled-as-can-be New York detective sent upstate to investigate a murder. What Wilson happens upon, however, is far more complicated, as the murder-suspect Danny (Sumner Williams) is mentally ill, and Wilson is quickly paired