Posts Tagged ‘Angela Lansbury’

The Sword & Sandal Blogathon: 1949’s Samson and Delilah

My post today is for The Sword & Sandal Blogathon, hosted by  Debbie at Moon in Gemini.  Be sure to check out her blog to read other writers’  posts about films set in ancient times.

Sword and Sandal Blogathon

From time to time, Hollywood turns to the Bible for film plots, and due to the supernatural elements in many of the bible’s stories, movies depicting such stories are usually considered epics and/or blockbusters; containing spectacular special effects and casts of thousands.   Some Hollywood versions of famous biblical stories I have enjoyed and some I haven’t.   A year or two ago, Turner Classic aired one I had never seen before so I set my dvr and settled in to watch Cecil B. Demille’s 1949 biblical epic: Samson and Delilah.  I witnessed a pretty good film and it exceeded my expectations, for the most part.  The film was released in late December of 1949, cost around $3,000,000 to make and did boffo at the box office, earning Paramount Studios a bit over $25,000,000 in profits.  The film also won Academy Awards for Best Color  Costume Design and Best Color Art Direction.


Samson’s story, is found in the Old Testament book of Judges, chapters 13-16.  I’ve included this link if you want to read the actual story of Samson and Delilah.  Highlights are his parents promising to raise their long awaited child as a Nazirite meaning Samson will never eat or drink anything made from grapes, he’ll never have a haircut, and he’ll not touch dead bodies or gravesites.  That haircut part will eventually cause Samson’s downfall, but some say his real downfall was his wanting to be with pagan gals and not marrying a nice Israelite girl as his parents urged him to do.    In telling Samson’s story for the big screen, the screenplay was based upon Russian writer Vladimer Jabotinsky’s novel, published in 1927:  Samson Nazorei(Samson the Nazirite).

Of course, using the novel for the screenplay added story elements not found in the Book of Judges: Delilah was Samson’s sister-in-law, that the Saran of Gaza plots to have the Israeli tribe Samson hails from to turn him in due to high taxes imposed upon them, i.e. if you give us Samson, your taxes will be reduced, a bit of information about Dagon, the false god whom the Philistines worship, and Delilah sad at what happens to Samson after she betrays him and how she comes to his aid.   Samson

Victor Mature, an actor whose films I  haven’t seen much of, is very good as Samson.   He gives an earnest performance, as a strong man who is charming and stubborn,  who wants right to succeed over injustice, and who is humbled when in his weakened state, he turns back to God to sustain him in his time of tribulation.    I felt sorry for him, even when he didn’t listen to his parents and decided to hang out with pagan gals!  My only complaint, and it’s certainly not Mature’s fault, is that the fight he has with a lion is obviously not done with a real lion.  If you throw popcorn at your tv when this part of the film happens, I can nod my head in agreement with your actions!

Samson and Delilah-HedyHedy Lamar  is gorgeous as Delilah and no wonder Samson falls for her.  Delilah is at first angry and sad about her older sister’s murder by Samson’s Philistine enemies.  If it weren’t for him, her sister(ably played by Angela Lansbury, looking equally gorgeous) would still be alive.  The Saran(coolly played by the always excellent George Sanders) of Gaza knows Delilah is the type of beauty that Samson can’t resist, and he knows she is wanting revenge, so he asks her what can the Philistines do to capture Samson? Without missing a beat, Delilah comes up with a plan to seduce Samson, find out what makes him so strong and thus how to weaken him so that he can be captured.    There is a turning point in Delilah, though, and Hedy conveys it well.  She is sorry for her part in helping Samson to be taken prisoner, realizes she really loves him, and helps him with his ultimate victory over the Philistines.

Look for Russ Tamblyn(before he was in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers and West Side Story) as Israelite teen Saul, Olive Deering as Miriam-both friends of Samson’s.  Fay Holden as Hazelelponit, Samson’s mom, and Charles Evans as Manoah, Samson’s Dad.  Mike Mazurki is the leader  of the Philistine soldiers, and Henry Wilcoxen as Prince Ahtur, who wants Samson’s first wife, Semadar(Angela Lansbury).  Director Cecil B. Demille also makes an appearance, or rather his voice does, as he narrates the film’s beginning.

Samson and Delilah is available to watch via Amazon’s Instant Rent, and it is also available to purchase at TCM’s Shop.  Also, on Youtube, a kind soul has posted the entire movie, in 13 parts.  I’ll sign off with some more pictures from the film.

Semadar, Delilah's big sister, who first catches Samson's eye

Semadar, Delilah’s big sister, who first catches Samson’s eye


The Saran of Gaza discussing Samson with Delilah

The Saran of Gaza discussing Samson with Delilah


Samson hanging out with Delilah

Samson hanging out with Delilah

Delilah's plan works and Samson is captured

Delilah’s plan works and Samson is captured

Remorseful Delilah, leading Samson to the columns at Dagon's temple

Remorseful Delilah, leading Samson to the columns at Dagon’s temple

Samson, ready to destroy the Philistines for the last time

Samson, ready to destroy the Philistines for the last time




My Classic Movie Pick: Mickey Rooney Films I Greatly Enjoyed

Mickey Rooney, who had a 9 decades long career in the Entertainment Industry, passed away April 6th.   In honor of him, Turner Classic Movies is going to present on Sunday, April 13th, 13 films that Rooney starred in.  Among this list are 3 of Rooney’s films that I have already seen and instead of one post about one movie, I thought I’d write short synopses about  3 of those films that I really enjoyed.

A Family Affair, 1937 from MGM studios.  Stars Lionel Barrymore(Great-Uncle of Drew Barrymore) as Judge Hardy, running for re-election to keep his judgeship and encountering opposition from some of the citizens of the small-town where he resides.   Spring Byington plays his wife Emily, Cecilia Parker is his daughter, Marion, and Mickey Rooney is his son, Andy.  A Family Affair was shot in 15 days!  It was considered a “B” movie by the studio and Lionel Barrymore didn’t want to be in it.  Another teen actor was set to play the part of Andy, but by the time filming was to begin, he had grown too tall so the part went to Rooney.  In his autobiography, Life is too Short, Rooney wrote that he knew the movie was a “B” movie but that fact didn’t keep him from putting his all into the role.  Surprising to MGM is that when the film opened at theatres, it became a huge hit and so profitable that MGM ended up making 16 Andy Hardy films.  The Hardy Family films usually center around Andy and the amusing difficulties he gets himself into and how he finally handles the difficulties with some advice from his wise father.  Movie Poster for AFA

Judge Hardy talking with his two teenagers.

Judge Hardy talking with his two teenagers.

Boys Town, 1938, also from MGM.  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Story and Best Actor, Spencer Tracy.  Tracy plays Father Edward Flanagan who is called to the prison to hear the last confession of a prisoner scheduled to die in the electric chair.  The condemned man tells Father Flanagan that if only he had had good friends at the age of 12 instead of the delinquents he ran with, he’d probably not ended up in prison.   Father Flanagan takes the man’s words to heart, and with the attitude that their is no such thing as a bad boy, he opens up a home for boys in trouble outside of Omaha, Nebraska and calls the place Boys Town.   Mickey Rooney plays Whitey Marsh, a tough young hoodlum who’s older brother, serving time in prison, asks for Father Flanagan to take in his younger brother and try to turn his life around.  Tracy is great as the priest who is kind but very firm when he has to be.  Rooney is great as the snotty, brash, juvenile delinquint with a heart of gold.   Here’s a clip from the film Boys Town.  The film proved to be such a great box office success that in 1941 a sequel was made, Men of Boys Town and Tracy and Rooney reprised their roles.

Father Flanagan having a meeting with Whitey.

Father Flanagan having a meeting with Whitey.

Boys Town

National Velvet, 1945, from MGM.  Stars  12 year old Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown, an English  girl who loves horses.  She enters the town lottery as the prize is a neighboring farmer’s unruly and spirited horse.  The winner of the first number called doesn’t appear so  another  number is  called and Velvet wins.  With the help of Mi Taylor( Mickey Rooney), a young drifter who has a lot of knowledge about horses and racing them, Velvet decides to train the Pi(her name for her horse) for the Grand National Race.  This is a charming movie, espousing hard work, reaching for one’s dreams, and filmed in gorgeous technicolor.  Look for Angela Lansbury playing Velvet’s older sister, Edwina.  Here’s a training sequence from National Velvet, featuring Taylor and Rooney.

Rooney and Taylor

Rooney and Taylor

National Velvet

Here is also the schedule that TCM has posted for Rooney’s films on Sunday.  TCM has also made a lovely tribute video of Rooney’s career and it can be viewed here.  Be sure to tune in and/or set your dvr machine!