Helen of Troy (1956)

114 or 118-119 mins | Biography, Drama | 11 February 1956

Full page view
HISTORY

Voice-over narration, heard at the beginning of the film, explains that Troy built impenetrable walls around the city after a brutal Spartan attack and became prosperous by levying taxes on ships passing through an important route to the east that was under its control. The Greek goddesses Aphrodite and Athena, representing peace and beauty, and war, respectively, are mentioned several times in the film. As noted in the MPH review, some of the dialogue is dubbed. The film ends with voice-over narration by Jack Sernas as "Paris," who claims that what he and Helen had is not lost.
       Although not acknowledged onscreen, the story of Helen and Paris was drawn from The Iliad by Homer. A Sep 1953 HR news item reported that Warner Bros. bought the film rights to Helen of Troy from Italian producers Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis. Aug 1953 HR and LADN news items announced that the film would be shot in the Warner SuperScope widescreen format. According to a Feb 1956 LAT article, Samuel Bischoff claimed that the studio employed him as producer of the film in Nov 1951 and that, until Jun 1953, he collaborated with writers, Hugh Gray and John Twist, on a screenplay that was approved by the studio. Shortly after director Michael Curtiz was signed to the production, Bischoff claims, he was notified to discontinue the production in California and the film was then made in Italy without the participation of either Bischoff or Curtiz. The LAT article reports that Bischoff filed $395,000 suit against Warner Bros. Pictures, charging breach of ... More Less

Voice-over narration, heard at the beginning of the film, explains that Troy built impenetrable walls around the city after a brutal Spartan attack and became prosperous by levying taxes on ships passing through an important route to the east that was under its control. The Greek goddesses Aphrodite and Athena, representing peace and beauty, and war, respectively, are mentioned several times in the film. As noted in the MPH review, some of the dialogue is dubbed. The film ends with voice-over narration by Jack Sernas as "Paris," who claims that what he and Helen had is not lost.
       Although not acknowledged onscreen, the story of Helen and Paris was drawn from The Iliad by Homer. A Sep 1953 HR news item reported that Warner Bros. bought the film rights to Helen of Troy from Italian producers Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis. Aug 1953 HR and LADN news items announced that the film would be shot in the Warner SuperScope widescreen format. According to a Feb 1956 LAT article, Samuel Bischoff claimed that the studio employed him as producer of the film in Nov 1951 and that, until Jun 1953, he collaborated with writers, Hugh Gray and John Twist, on a screenplay that was approved by the studio. Shortly after director Michael Curtiz was signed to the production, Bischoff claims, he was notified to discontinue the production in California and the film was then made in Italy without the participation of either Bischoff or Curtiz. The LAT article reports that Bischoff filed $395,000 suit against Warner Bros. Pictures, charging breach of contract and claiming that the studio promised him worldwide publicity and screen credit.
       A Jul 1957 LAT article reported that Atalanta Productions, Inc. filed a suit charging that a literary composition titled “Atalanta” was submitted to Warner Bros. in Apr 1953 for possible use in a picture, but not used until production of Helen of Troy , and then without compensating the owners of the Atalanta script. According to the plaintiff, the rights to the script were assigned to Atalanta Productions by author Sir Gerald Hargreaves. Defendants in the case were Bischoff, Gray, Nash and writer John Twist, who were all identified as having participated in the preparation of the Helen of Troy script. The outcome of the two suits has not been determined.
       Helen of Troy marked French star Brigitte Bardot’s first film production shot outside of France. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, the following actors were added to the cast by HR news items: Christina Fanton, Walter Sherer, Leda Raffi, Remington Olmstead, Frank Colson, Ricardo Garroni, Robert Hage, Tessa Prendergast, Maria Zanoli, Dean Severance, Joseph Chevalier and Pete Damon. A Jan 1954 HR news item added propmaster John “Scotty” More to the crew and a Dec 1953 DV news item added Frank Mattison as assistant director, but their contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. The film was shot entirely in Rome, according to HR production charts and news items.
       Many problems occurred during the making of the film. An Aug 54 DV article reported that a fire, reportedly started by a cigarette, razed eighty percent of the eighteen-unit, two-acre Rome set and injured five workmen. According to an Aug 1954 LAEx article, several extras were injured by a runaway chariot, a stuntman was injured falling from a wall and Rossana Podestà suffered both a foot injury and an eye problem. The film marked Podestà's first American-made film. A modern source reported that three men were killed during the film’s production.
       The character Helen of Troy also appears in the following films: First National Picture’s 1927 production of The Private Life of Helen of Troy , directed by Alexander Korda and starring Maria Corda, Ricardo Cortez and Lewis Stone (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ); the 1931 Itala Film Co. production La regina di Sparta , directed by Manfred S. Noa (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ); The Trojan Horse , a 1962 production distributed by Colorama Features and Capitol Films, and directed by Giorgio Ferroni, which featured John Drew Barrymore as “Ulysses”; and the 1968 Columbia Pictures release Doctor Faustus , produced and directed by Richard Burton, and starring Burton as Faust and Elizabeth Taylor as Helen (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ).

More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Dec 54
p. 594.
Box Office
24 Dec 1955.
---
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1953.
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1953.
---
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1954.
---
Daily Variety
21 Dec 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Dec 55
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 55
p. 3.
Life
11 Oct 1954
pp. 189-190.
Los Angeles Daily News
6 Aug 1953.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
20 Aug 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Feb 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Mar 1955
pp. 10-12.
Los Angeles Times
8 Feb 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Jul 1957.
---
Mirror-News
27 Jan 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Dec 55
p. 713.
New York Times
8 Aug 1954.
---
New York Times
27 Jan 56
p. 21.
New Yorker
4 Feb 1956.
---
Variety
21 Dec 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Warner Bros.-First National Picture
A Werner Bros.-First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d unit dir
WRITERS
Scr
Adpt
Cont sketches
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog spec eff
DANCE
Bacchanal choreography
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on The Iliad by Homer (ca. 8th century, B.C.).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 February 1956
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 26 January 1956
Production Date:
late March--late August 1954 at Cinecittà Studios, Rome
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 February 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7778
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
WarnerColor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
114 or 118-119
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16968
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1100 B.C., Paris, son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, rulers of the wealthy city of Troy, desires peace, despite his reputation as a skilled warrior. Believing Troy must reconcile with the war-loving Greeks, Paris proposes to serve as ambassador to the various Greek kingdoms. Despite the prophecies of his sister Cassandra, who is haunted by visions of disaster, Paris sets sail to his first destination, Sparta, the war-mongering nation that invaded Troy years before. During the voyage, a violent storm erupts, causing Paris to fall overboard. Believed drowned by his companions, Paris washes ashore on a Spartan beach and is found by Helen, wife of brutish Spartan king Menelaus. To Paris, Helen seems like the embodiment of his favorite goddess Aphrodite, and he becomes enamored of her. Helen returns his affection, although she does not, at first, reveal who she is. She hides the injured Paris and secretly arranges for his care with her former nurse. After his recovery, Paris approaches a council of bickering Greek kings, unaware they have met to discuss war against Troy. The leaders, among them Achilles, Agamemnon and Ulysses, covet Troy’s treasures, but know that the walls surrounding the city, which were built after Sparta’s invasion, are impregnable. When Paris introduces himself, the leaders force him to prove that he is the great warrior by defeating the warrior king Ajax in a hand-to-hand fight. Then, after pretending to listen to his proposal, they consider how to use his presence to further their war plans. When Helen learns that Menelaus plans to torture Paris, she sends her slaves, Andraste and deaf-mute Adelphous, to help the Trojan escape to a cove where a ... +


In 1100 B.C., Paris, son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, rulers of the wealthy city of Troy, desires peace, despite his reputation as a skilled warrior. Believing Troy must reconcile with the war-loving Greeks, Paris proposes to serve as ambassador to the various Greek kingdoms. Despite the prophecies of his sister Cassandra, who is haunted by visions of disaster, Paris sets sail to his first destination, Sparta, the war-mongering nation that invaded Troy years before. During the voyage, a violent storm erupts, causing Paris to fall overboard. Believed drowned by his companions, Paris washes ashore on a Spartan beach and is found by Helen, wife of brutish Spartan king Menelaus. To Paris, Helen seems like the embodiment of his favorite goddess Aphrodite, and he becomes enamored of her. Helen returns his affection, although she does not, at first, reveal who she is. She hides the injured Paris and secretly arranges for his care with her former nurse. After his recovery, Paris approaches a council of bickering Greek kings, unaware they have met to discuss war against Troy. The leaders, among them Achilles, Agamemnon and Ulysses, covet Troy’s treasures, but know that the walls surrounding the city, which were built after Sparta’s invasion, are impregnable. When Paris introduces himself, the leaders force him to prove that he is the great warrior by defeating the warrior king Ajax in a hand-to-hand fight. Then, after pretending to listen to his proposal, they consider how to use his presence to further their war plans. When Helen learns that Menelaus plans to torture Paris, she sends her slaves, Andraste and deaf-mute Adelphous, to help the Trojan escape to a cove where a ship will take him home. At the shore, Helen says goodbye, but when soldiers arrive, Paris takes her with him when he escapes. Throughout their voyage to Troy, Helen worries about the far-reaching consequences of leaving Sparta. Meanwhile, the Greek kings are delighted to hear about Helen’s “abduction,” which gives them an excuse to build an enormous army and unite for war. When Paris returns to Troy, the citizens are grateful to Helen for saving his life, until they realize that she is the queen of Sparta. Their warmth then turns to anger against the lovers, and everyone prepares for a long war. Later, a thousand Greek ships approach Troy’s shores. After disembarking, the Greeks approach the walls of Troy and the battle ensues. Although the Trojans win the first skirmish, their mightiest warrior, Paris’ brother Polydorus, is killed and a funeral is held for him. During the following years of stalemate between the two armies, the Greeks loot and rape the surrounding villages, while the Trojans make night raids on the Greek camps. The Greek leaders bicker among themselves and Agamemnon, tired of Menelaus’ debauchery and incompetence, threatens to leave with his troops. When the Trojans consider banishing Paris from Troy, Helen, wishing to stop the war and restore Paris’ reputation, volunteers to return to her husband. Paris’ family, without his knowledge, negotiates her return with the Greeks and takes her to their camp. However, after she is reunited with Menelaus, the Greeks, who had planned to double-cross the Trojans all along, demand treasures and a fight commences. Paris, who has learned of Helen’s sacrifice, arrives in time to rescue her, and kills the Greek Patroclus as they escape. The Trojans, now realizing that the Greeks are fighting for wealth, not for Helen, forgive her. To avenge the death of Patroclus, Achilles demands a hand-to-hand combat, which Hector, another brother of Paris, accepts. Outside the Trojan gate, the combatants meet, and after a struggle, Achilles kills Hector. Disrespectfully, Achilles drags Hector’s body from his chariot and then proudly parades before the mourning Trojans. Seeing his brother dishonored, Paris tries to shoot Achilles, but his arrows bounce away from the seemingly invincible Greek. Then, praying to Zeus, Paris aims again and the arrow hits his enemy’s heel, causing Achilles to fall and fatally strike his head on a rock. The Greeks feel defeated, until Ulysses shares with them a plan he has devised. Later, the Greeks present a statue of a giant horse at the gates of the Trojan wall, and then pretend to sail away, secretly leaving behind an army hidden in the woods. Seeing the ships depart, the Trojans rejoice and, despite the misgivings of Cassandra, Helen and Paris, bring the statue into the city. In an ensuing celebration, the wine flows freely as tensions of war are released. Consequently, few Trojans are conscious later, when Greeks waiting patiently inside the horse quietly open its secret door and roam the city freely. They open the gates, allowing more Greeks to flood the city. Before the slumbering Trojans are fully awake, the city has been overtaken. In chaos and panic, the Trojans fight in the streets. Priam commands Paris and Helen to flee, but Menelaus finds the lovers. Before Paris can defeat Menelaus in an honorable fight, a Greek soldier fatally stabs Paris in the back. Once Troy is destroyed, the Greeks sail home with Trojan wealth, and Helen is forced to return with Menelaus to an uncertain future.
+

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.