- Film Genre: Historical Fiction, Drama
- Cast: 820 actors made up of faculty, students, and friends of Bob Jones University
- Crew: Division of Cinema faculty and students
- Locations: Bob Jones University campus and surrounding countryside
- Music: Written by Dr. Joseph Schmoll who conducted the Bob Jones University Orchestra
In its day, Wine of Morning was the most-honored evangelical motion picture ever produced and probably the most spectacular religious film ever created outside of Hollywood.
Wine of Morning was the first film to win all four major awards of the National Evangelical Film Foundation.
In 1958, Wine of Morning was selected by the University Film Producers Association (now the University Film and Video Association) to represent American colleges and universities at the International Film Festival in Cannes, France, for a meeting of the International Congress of Motion Picture and Television School Directors. There, Katherine Stenholm, who directed the film, delivered the keynote address and received a standing ovation from over 3,000 filmmakers from around the world. The committee that selected the film for this international exhibition felt that Wine of Morning would demonstrate the high quality of cinema training available in the United States and also that the film’s forthright evangelistic message would provide a revealing contrast to the entries from Russia and other Communist-dominated countries.
THE TITLE, “Wine of Morning”
While not a direct scriptural quotation, the inspiration of the title is found in the second chapter of acts, where Peter, speaking about the reaction of the disciples to Pentecost, says, “For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing that it is but the third hour of the day.” Wine of Morning refers to the joy and fullness of true Christianity as contrasted with the drunkenness of wine. The title refers, therefore, to the joy found in Christ, Whose Spirit gives light to men.
Wine of Morning, a fanciful dramatization of the life of Barabbas (the man whom Pilate released at the demand of the mob and on whose cross Jesus Christ was crucified) was based on a novel by the same name written by Dr. Bob Jones Jr. and published in 1950. With nothing more to go upon than the Bible statement that he was a murderer and robber, Dr. Jones spun out in colorful and dramatic fashion what might very well have been the background and final destiny of Barabbas. Ingeniously woven into the story are a number of miracles of Jesus Christ including the turning of the water into wine at the wedding at Cana of Galilee and the healing of the man whose friends let him down through the roof.
Dr. Jones, then president of Bob Jones University, had planned for a long time to write a novel dealing with Barabbas. Between his evangelistic meetings, his administrative duties at the University, his Youth Conferences here and abroad, he never seemed able to find time to start working on the novel until he was laid up with a bout of pleurisy. During the two months he spent in bed, Dr. Jones completed the first draft of the novel. He wrote and re-wrote, and had the final manuscript in the hands of the publisher six months later. When the novel was transferred to the screen by Unusual Films, Dr. Jones made enough time in his busy schedule to play the part of Pontius Pilate in the film.
Unusual Films spent over two years in research into costumes, manners, and costumes of first-century Palestine. Though the University possessed a fabulous wardrobe containing thousands of costumes from practically every era of history, Wine of Morning demanded hundreds of new first-century costumes. Included in the inventory of dresses and robes designed for the production was every type of Greek, Roman, and Palestinian garment.
All furniture and properties had to be specially built—even the pottery was specially designed. Over fifty sets, both indoor and outdoor, were created.
A fifty-foot tank was set up on the sound stage for the filming of the storm at sea, using a miniature Roman ship designed and constructed to scale, complete in every detail down to the moving oars.
ANIMALS ON SET
Every actor dreads playing a scene with children and every director breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of having to shoot a scene with animals, for children invariably steal the scene from the most seasoned actor, and animals are completely unpredictable.
In looking back upon the year of shooting Wine of Morning, Katherine Stenholm, former director of Unusual Films, said, “My clearest memories are of the birds and the animals. It seems to me we had at least one in every scene.” The sources of especially poignant recollections were a peacock that insisted upon keeping his tail wet and a bird that chose an actor’s beard for a nest.
A beautiful peacock selected to dress the scene in the house of Prince Manaen was perfectly willing to stay in place provided he chose the place—and that was upon the top of the fountain with his long plumage trailing over the edge and into the basin. The director, animal trainers, and self-appointed experts on the scene did everything possible to entice him down or encourage him to fan out his tail, but Mr. Peacock preferred to let it drag and drip.
Semi-tame pigeons were used in a number of scenes. In one where a sick man was being carried along on a stretcher, one affectionate and friendly bird insisted upon flying straight for the stretcher and the sick man’s beard where he would settle down and coo contentedly. Fortunately, he did not lay an egg!
One special incident which the crew of Wine of Morning can look back upon with amusement but which at the time was a source of great annoyance concerns Romeo, the camel, who had been rented from a circus. Everything was in readiness for a big scene. To ride the camel the farsighted director had selected a senior student in the University who came from the land of camels and was a full-blooded Arab from the Kingdom of Jordan. Ida had ridden camels all her life and knew how to talk to them in Arabic. She was, therefore, an ideal choice to ride Romeo—except for the fact that Romeo, American-born, did not understand Arabic, and Ida, being a lady, wouldn’t use the kind of “English” that Romeo was accustomed to hearing around the circus lot. Romeo spat and snarled and grumbled. Ida retired in defeat, and the camel went unridden before the cameras.