Samson and Delilah (1950)

127-128 or 130 mins | Drama, Epic | 1950

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HISTORY

Onscreen credits give the following notation: "Based upon the history of Samson and Delilah in the Holy Bible, Judges 13-16." Vladimir Jabotinsky's onscreen credit reads: "From original treatments by Harold Lamb--Vladimir Jabotinsky." It appears, however, that Jabotinsky's "treatment" was his novel, The Judge and the Fool, as translated by Cyrus Brooks. The following information was taken from the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library and various news items: Cecil B. DeMille first became interested in producing Samson and Delilah as early as 1935, when he commissioned writer Harold Lamb to write a screenplay based on the biblical story, from "The Book of Judges, 13-16," and bought the rights to Vladimir Jabotinsky's 1930 novel The Judge and the Fool, as translated from the German by Cyrus Brooks. Jeanie MacPherson and Sada Cowan were also hired to work on the script. At this time, DeMille also began a public campaign to find the ideal "Delilah," sending out a sketch of the sought-after look to cities around the country. In 1936, DeMille purchased the screen rights to the 1877 French opera Samson et Dalila, (music by Camille Saint-Saens, libretto by F. Lemaire). But the $5,000,000 production was shelved shortly thereafter.
       In 1946, DeMille renewed his plans for a film based on Jabotinsky's novel and the wealth of research he had accumulated on the topic. In his autobiography, DeMille remarked that Paramount executives were initially reluctant to embark on yet another expensive biblical production, as they felt that post-war audiences were not interested in Bible stories. In order to convince the executives of the story's marketability, DeMille engaged artist Dan Sayre Groesbeck ...

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Onscreen credits give the following notation: "Based upon the history of Samson and Delilah in the Holy Bible, Judges 13-16." Vladimir Jabotinsky's onscreen credit reads: "From original treatments by Harold Lamb--Vladimir Jabotinsky." It appears, however, that Jabotinsky's "treatment" was his novel, The Judge and the Fool, as translated by Cyrus Brooks. The following information was taken from the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library and various news items: Cecil B. DeMille first became interested in producing Samson and Delilah as early as 1935, when he commissioned writer Harold Lamb to write a screenplay based on the biblical story, from "The Book of Judges, 13-16," and bought the rights to Vladimir Jabotinsky's 1930 novel The Judge and the Fool, as translated from the German by Cyrus Brooks. Jeanie MacPherson and Sada Cowan were also hired to work on the script. At this time, DeMille also began a public campaign to find the ideal "Delilah," sending out a sketch of the sought-after look to cities around the country. In 1936, DeMille purchased the screen rights to the 1877 French opera Samson et Dalila, (music by Camille Saint-Saens, libretto by F. Lemaire). But the $5,000,000 production was shelved shortly thereafter.
       In 1946, DeMille renewed his plans for a film based on Jabotinsky's novel and the wealth of research he had accumulated on the topic. In his autobiography, DeMille remarked that Paramount executives were initially reluctant to embark on yet another expensive biblical production, as they felt that post-war audiences were not interested in Bible stories. In order to convince the executives of the story's marketability, DeMille engaged artist Dan Sayre Groesbeck to make a rendering of Samson and Delilah in which Samson's brute strength, and Delilah's seductive allure were emphasized. The executives were impressed by DeMille's commitment to making the tale a love story and agreed to back the project
       Pre-production for the final film officially began in the spring of 1948, when DeMille began researching the possibility of sending a second unit to the Middle East. In Jul 1948, after Palestine was ruled out as a location, DeMille sent a second unit, headed by directors Ralph Jester and Arthur Rosson, and including unit manager Donald A. Robb, cameramen Dewey Wrigley, Paul Hill, and grip Edgar Crowder, to North Africa to shoot background scenes and obtain authentic-looking props. Among the areas they filmed were Moulayidris and Volubilis, an ancient town in Morocco, and Bou-Saada near Algiers. According to a HR news item, the unit shot in "twenty localities, from Algiers to Casablanca." Due to the extreme heat, the crew required an advance survey as to the availability of ice, which was packed around the film containers to protect the film stock.
       A Sep 1948 HR news item reported that English actress Phyllis Calvert was originally cast as "Semadar" but withdrew due to illness and was replaced by Angela Lansbury. According to modern sources, Betty Hutton was considered for the role of "Delilah." In his autobiography, DeMille noted that he based the design of the Dagon temple on historical records written by Pliny the Elder, the first century A.D. Roman scholar. Although a HR news item reported that the studio anticipated spending an estimated $250,000 on the construction of the temple, NYT reported the actual cost as approximately $30,000. Modern sources note that the temple required five months to construct. According to a NYT article, DeMille encountered trouble with his eighty-foot-square by eighty-foot-high scale model of the Philistine temple when dynamite charges, which were detonated to produce the collapse of the temple, failed to produce the desired effect. As a result, the temple, with its forty-foot statue of the god Dagon, was rebuilt at an approximate cost of $15,000, and the scene was reshot. The NYT estimated the film's final cost at approximately $3,200,000. According to an Apr 1950 HR news item, DeMille donated his research documents to the Library of Congress.
       While the film had its New York premiere on 21 Dec 1949, it was not generally released until 1950. According to a Paramount News item, the studio launched a publicity campaign with a "Mr. Samson" and "Miss Delilah" contest held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, which included "winners of A.A.U. contests held over the nation." DeMille then granted the winners auditions. Steve Reeves, winner of the "Mr. Samson" contest, later became well-known for his portrayal of "Hercules." This film received Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color), and Costume Design (color). Samson and Delilah was also nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Special Effects, and Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a program based on this film on 19 Nov 1951, featuring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr, with highlights from the Saint-Saens opera. As noted in HR news items, the film was re-issued in Nov 1959, at which time he did well at the box office. In 1984, a made-for-television version of Samson and Delilah was broadcast, directed by Lee Philips, and starring Antony Hamilton and Belinda Bauer. The television movie also featured Max von Sydow, Maria Schell, José Ferrer, and Victor Mature as Samson's father.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Oct 1949
---
Daily Variety
21 Oct 1949
p. 3, 13
Film Daily
21 Oct 1949
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1948
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1948
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1948
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1948
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1948
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1949
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 1949
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1950
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1959
p. 3
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Oct 1949
p. 57
New York Times
22 Sep 1935
---
New York Times
1 Dec 1935
---
New York Times
31 Oct 1948
---
New York Times
23 Nov 1948
---
New York Times
22 Dec 1949
p. 29
Variety
26 Oct 1949
p. 18
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Russell Tamblyn
Francis J. McDonald
Laura Elliot
Gary Lee Jackson
Curtis Loys Jackson Jr.
Bob Anderson
Philo McCollough
Chuck Hamilton
Bob Kortman
Charles J. Conrad
Allan Ray
Besse Wade
David Bond
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit dir
Unit dir
3rd and 4th unit dir
Dial supv
Dial supv
Asst dir
Chico Day
Asst dir
Danny McCauley
Asst dir
Jimmy Rosenberger
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Jesse L. Lasky Jr.
Scr
From orig trmt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Holy Land photog
Cam tech
Cam tech
Cam op
Cam op
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Set dec
Props
Props
Props
Props
Prop shop
COSTUMES
Cost
Elois W. Jenssen
Cost
Ward
Hazel Haggerty
Ward
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd rec
Cable
VISUAL EFFECTS
Dir of photog eff
process photog
process photog
Spec photog eff
Devereaux Jennings
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Theodore Kosloff
Choreographer
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
William Woods
Makeup artist
Hedy Lamarr's hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Henry Noerdlinger
Research
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Donald Robb
Asst prod mgr and 2d unit mgr
Bus mgr
Asst bus mgr
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Scr clerk
Scr clerk
Grip
Grip
Horseman
Illustrator
Set constr
Set constr
STAND INS
Dick Talmadge
Stunts
Double for Victor Mature
Double for Victor Mature
Double for Hedy Lamarr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Loosely based on the novel Judge and Fool by Vladimir Jabotinsky, as translated by Cyrus Brooks (New York, 1930).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHORS
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 21 Dec 1949; Los Angeles opening: 13 Jan 1950
Production Date:
4 Oct--14 Dec 1948; added scenes and retakes: 18 Jan and 20-21 Jan 1949
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures Corp.
25 October 1949
LP179
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
127-128 or 130
Length(in feet):
11,457
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13447
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

By 1,000 B.C., the people of Dan have been enslaved by the Philistines for forty years. Samson, the Danite son of Manoah, falls in love with Semadar, the Philistine daughter of Tubal. Although Samson's Danite neighbor Miriam has been promised to him, Samson is determined to marry Semadar. When the Lord of the Five cities, the Saran of Gaza, takes Semadar lion-hunting, Semadar's seductive sister Delilah leads Samson to the lion before the hunters arrive, and watches as Samson kills the animal bare-handed. Delilah, who is infatuated with Samson, is impressed by his show of strength and tells the royal Saran of his feat. Doubting Delilah's word, the Saran orders his massive wrestler Garmiskar to fight with Samson, and Samson easily defeats him. When the Saran offers Samson his ring as a prize, Samson asks that his prize be the Philistine bride of his choosing, and the Saran agrees, even though mixed marriages are frowned on. Delilah is furious when Samson chooses her sister, who was already promised to Ahtur, the Philistine military leader of Dan. At his week-long wedding feast, Samson challenges Ahtur's warriors, who were invited by Delilah, with a riddle, and offers luxurious tunics as a prize. Ahtur convinces Semadar to get the answer from Samson, but when Samson discovers that she has betrayed him, he leaves the feast and steals tunics from innocent travelers. By the time Samson returns, Semadar has married Ahtur instead. Samson angrily forces his way into the wedding chamber and Ahtur's warriors start a violent attack, during which Semadar and Tubal are killed. Although Ahtur's warriors are to blame for the carnage, Delilah ...

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By 1,000 B.C., the people of Dan have been enslaved by the Philistines for forty years. Samson, the Danite son of Manoah, falls in love with Semadar, the Philistine daughter of Tubal. Although Samson's Danite neighbor Miriam has been promised to him, Samson is determined to marry Semadar. When the Lord of the Five cities, the Saran of Gaza, takes Semadar lion-hunting, Semadar's seductive sister Delilah leads Samson to the lion before the hunters arrive, and watches as Samson kills the animal bare-handed. Delilah, who is infatuated with Samson, is impressed by his show of strength and tells the royal Saran of his feat. Doubting Delilah's word, the Saran orders his massive wrestler Garmiskar to fight with Samson, and Samson easily defeats him. When the Saran offers Samson his ring as a prize, Samson asks that his prize be the Philistine bride of his choosing, and the Saran agrees, even though mixed marriages are frowned on. Delilah is furious when Samson chooses her sister, who was already promised to Ahtur, the Philistine military leader of Dan. At his week-long wedding feast, Samson challenges Ahtur's warriors, who were invited by Delilah, with a riddle, and offers luxurious tunics as a prize. Ahtur convinces Semadar to get the answer from Samson, but when Samson discovers that she has betrayed him, he leaves the feast and steals tunics from innocent travelers. By the time Samson returns, Semadar has married Ahtur instead. Samson angrily forces his way into the wedding chamber and Ahtur's warriors start a violent attack, during which Semadar and Tubal are killed. Although Ahtur's warriors are to blame for the carnage, Delilah vows revenge against Samson as she watches her home burn. Ahtur spends the following year trying to track down Samson, who is protected by his fellow Danites until the Philistines begin to starve them. Samson is then captured after a single Danite betrays him, and Delilah, who is now living in Gaza as the Saran's courtesan, revels in the news. However, when Samson's guards stop on their journey for water, Samson prays to God to imbue him with the strength to fight his oppressors. Samson's prayers are answered, and after breaking free from his bonds, he slays his captors with the jawbone of an ass. Appalled that 1,000 warriors were felled by one man, the Saran accepts Delilah's plan to seduce Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. The princes of Gaza offer Delilah a wealth of silver for Samson's capture, and Delilah secures the Saran's promise that he will not kill Samson, but will force him to work on the grist mill. Delilah travels to Samson's hideout in the hills of Saul, and sets up a luxurious tent to lure him. Samson, who has been pillaging from wealthy travelers, plans to rob the tent until he discovers Delilah there, and he soon falls prey to her seduction. Although Samson initially resists her inquiries as to the secret of his strength, he finally succumbs to her and reveals that his strength is derived from his wealth of hair. When Miriam arrives to tell Samson that his family and friends are being slaughtered by the Philistines because of him, Samson plans to go to their aid, but is drugged by a jealous Delilah and collapses. Delilah then shears off Samson's hair, and he is taken in chains to Gaza, where he realizes that he has betrayed his God. Ahtur blinds Samson with a heated sword and chains him to the grist mill. As time passes, Delilah is haunted by her betrayal of Samson, whom she loves despite herself, and prays for help. After Samson's hair grows back, he breaks free of his chains and forgives Delilah. Delilah urges him to escape with her, as he will soon be taken to the temple as a trophy to the Philistine god Dagon, and will be chained between two columns and used for sport. However, Samson is bent on avenging his God and warns Delilah to stay away from the temple, as the power of God is with him. All the noblemen and citizens of the city gather at the temple to watch as Samson is tortured and trapped in a net. The Saran accedes to Miriam's plea to release Samson only if Delilah agrees, but Delilah, still jealous of Miriam, refuses. However, Delilah is sickened by Samson's humiliation and torture at the hands of dwarves and Garmiskar, and leaves the Saran's side to help him. Delilah pretends to whip Samson, then at his request, chains him to the massive columns which support the temple. After pledging his eternal love to Delilah, Samson prays to God for strength, and pulls down the columns. As the temple and the statue of Dagon collapse, killing thousands, Samson prays to die with his enemy. Miriam, who witnesses the disaster, tells young Saul that Samson's strength will never die, as his story will be told for a thousand years.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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