SPECTACLES: Piety with Profit

Decades ago Cecil B. DeMille went to Oberammergau, saw the Passion Play, and left with a vision of all the great celluloid saint-and-sinner-ramas that he hoped to produce. Last week, to attend the century's seventh production of the 300-year-old Bavarian pageant, pilgrims 'crowded into Bavaria in Peugeots, Rolls-Royces, light aircraft, bikes and buses. As the play went on and on and on, lids closed over once reverent eyes: what everyone had come to see—from seats of softest oak—was nothing less than DeMille squared, a seven-hour pseudo-Biblical presentation with a cast of 1,600 painful amateurs. As a Variety headline cried...

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