There are two movie excerpts which, over the years, I’ve come to regard as wonderful examples of English diction and classic readings of the Bible. The first, from MGM’s 1936 biopic Rembrandt, is a fictional setting of some of the artist’s inner and outer struggles, and features Charles Laughton in the title role. The scene begins with the artist’s disillusionment and return home, and leads into a reading of portions of Psalm 77. It is not only memorable aurally but also provides a fine illustration of the Bible’s place in the life of post-Reformation Europe.
The second clip is from John Huston’s 1956 version of Melville’s Moby Dick, the nineteenth century’s Great American Novel. No one is likely to surpass Orson Welles’ portrayal of Father Mapple, and the episode, brief as it is, provides a foil to both the later overwhelming action scenes and the maniacal character of Captain Ahab. Although Huston necessarily edited down the sermon, it still stands as a powerful reading of the book of Jonah.
The voices of these two great actors are often in my head as I work with biblical texts.
Check the times below for the ends of scenes–although both movies are worthwhile viewing in their entirety.