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Samson and Delilah (1949)

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$25,070,000 US Box Office Gross

Drama, Romance

February 5, 2004

October 31, 1949

Not Rated

Jesse Lasky Jr. & Fredric M. Frank - screenplay

Harold Lamb - original treatment

Vladimir Jabotinsky - treatment

Vladimir Jabotinsky - novel Judge and Fool, aka Samson the Nazarite, Samson & Prelude to Delilah

Victor Young

George Barnes – Director of Photography

Anne Bauchens

Paramount Pictures

United States


Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California, USA

Bou-Saada, Algiers, Algeria

Moulayidris, Morocco

Paramount Studios - 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA – studio

Volubilis, Meknès, Morocco

Victor Mature,Hedy Lamarr,Samson and Delilah Victor Mature,Angela Lansbury,Samson and Delilah Hedy Lamarr,Victor Mature,Samson and Delilah

Victor Mature Hedy Lamarr Angela Lansbury
George Sanders Henry Wilcoxon Olive Deering Fay Holden Julia Faye Russ Tamblyn William Farnum

“Before the dawn of history, ever since the first man discovered his soul, he has struggled against the forces that sought to enslave him...” – Prologue narrated by Cecil B. DeMille

Sex, Biblical Pageantry, spectacle – stir rapidly, add Cecil B. DeMille and voila – instant box office block-buster.

With those ingredients and more, Samson and Delilah became the number-one film of 1949, netting Paramount its biggest take of the ‘40s. Part of the reason was the cast. Brawny, beefy Victor Mature was the “and more” for the ladies in the audience. He was the hunk of the year and can easily be seen as a Rambo prototype by today’s audiences, right down to the sweatband. As he swings the ass’s jawbone, crushing all foes, it seems likely that Sylvester Stallone had to have had this image in mind when he created his Rambo character, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Victor Mature. Overwhelmed by the attention afforded him by the females, Mature relinquished his title as “America’s Number One Sweater Boy”. Hollywood Legends quoted him as stating at the time that “I can’t help it if I’ve got something more. I’m tired of being nothing but a male strip-teaser”.

As one-half of the title role, Mature’s Samson was up to his ass’s jawbone in women. Hedy Lamarr, at age 36, seemed a bit old for the part of Delilah, but even more bizarre was the casting of Angela Lansbury as her older sister, Semadar, since she was only 24.

Notable among others in the cast was George Reeves in the minor part of the Wounded Messenger. Reeves, television fans will recall, later became a muscle man in his own right when he landed the part of Superman. The one-time wrestler seemed to have a promising acting career in the late ‘30s, but his film roles were basically supporting ones, including a brief but memorable cameo as one of the Tarleton Twins in Gone With The Wind. Reeves also appeared in From Here to Eternity. He starred as the Man of Steel in the weekly Superman television series from 1951 to 1957, and the handsome actor eventually found himself typecast after this long TV stint as Superman. It eventually became too much for him to cope with, and Reeves took his own life in 1959.

DeMille, of course, was the acknowledged master of Biblical epic, having already made one version of The Ten Commandments in 1923 (another would follow in the ‘50s), as well as other religious spectacles such as The King of Kings, The Sign of the Cross, and The Crusades. Of his 18 sound films, 12 are built around historical situations. Samson and Delilah helped kick off the ‘50s trend of Biblical spectaculars.

While DeMille excelled at managing crowd scenes, he was lax in other areas, for example, the unconvincing scene where Samson has to wrestle with and kill the lion. The poor beast was noticeably tranquilized into la-la-land while Samson appeared to vanquish the animal, complete with dubbed roars. Like Superman he bends rather fake-looking steel (or iron) in his bare hands. And the effect of his pulling down the temple would have been more believable if it had not been supported by two tiny pillars.

Critics were mixed in their appraisal of Samson and Delilah. Time noted: “even lovers of cinematic art who recognize Samson and Delilah as run-of-DeMille epic should enjoy it as a simple-minded spree. In its way, it is as much fun as a robust, well-organized circus.” Puns of DeMille’s name abounded, as in The New York Times review; “If ever there was a movie for DeMillions, here it is...Victor Mature as Samson is a dashing and dauntless hunk of man...Hedy Lamarr as Delilah is a sleek and bejeweled siren whose charms have a strictly occidental and twentieth-century grace and clarity.”

In 1984, Samson and Delilah was remade as a movie for television, with Antony Hamilton as the strongman and Belinda Bauer as the Philistine temptress. Shown occasionally for late-night viewing, it is worth catching for a special reason—the part of Samson’s father was played by Victor Mature, still going strong after all those years.

At the premiere, Cecil B. DeMille asked Groucho Marx what he thought of the film. Groucho replied, "Well, there's just one problem, C.B. No picture can hold my interest where the leading man's tits are bigger than the leading lady's." DeMille was not amused, by Marx's remark, but Victor Mature apparently was.

During the temple-destruction sequence, Henry Wilcoxon was struck by a falling column and approached Cecil B. DeMille with blood streaming down his face. According to biographer Charles Higham, DeMille remarked, " Good God, Harry, you look terrible; you're going to hold up production." Wilcoxen sardonically replied, "Well, I wouldn't be the first actor to be destroyed by a column."

Saran of Gaza: He was not captured by force of arms, but by their softness.

Samson: Your arms were quicksand. Your kiss was death. The name Delilah will be an everlasting curse on the lips of men.

Samson: You came to this house as wedding guests. Fire and death are your gifts to my bride. For all that I do against you now, I shall be blameless. I'll give you back fire for fire, and death for death!

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