Posts Tagged ‘Russ Tamblyn’

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_and_Delilah_original_1949_poster

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

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My Classic Movie Pick: Father of the Bride

This weekend I’ll be traveling with my family to attend a niece’s wedding.  With the wedding on my mind, I thought I’d write about the original Father of the Bride movie, made in 1950, that starred Spencer Tracy as the father, Joan Bennett as the mother, and Elizabeth Taylor as the bride.

Elizabeth Taylor as daughter, Kay, and Spencer Tracy as her dad, Stanley

Elizabeth Taylor as daughter, Kay, and Spencer Tracy as her dad, Stanley

Fotb screen shot

What I appreciate about this film is the family’s dynamic.  In a flashback we meet Stanley Banks(Spencer Tracy)as he remembers and regales us with what has taken place in his family’s life during the past 3 months: his beloved daugther, Kay(Elizabeth Taylor) announcing to the family at dinner one night that she is in love with Buckley Dunstan(Don Taylor-no relation to Liz!) and she has accepted his proposal of marriage.

Spencer Tracy as the father, Stanley, and Joan Bennett as the mother, Ellie.

Spencer Tracy as the father, Stanley, and Joan Bennett as the mother, Ellie.

Stanley immediately realizes that this wedding is going to cost money, especially as he listens in on wife Ellie(Joan Bennett) and Kay’s animated discussions on dresses, music, food, flowers, caterers, registering for gifts, the cake!  Younger brothers Tommy and Ben(Russ Tamblyn-the future Biff in West Side Story, and Tom Irish) wisely keep quiet and out of the way.

There is the obligatory dinner with the groom and his parents.  Buckley only has eyes for his fiancee, and can’t see how annoying his ultra chatty and flighty mother(the good witch from The Wizard of Oz herself, Billie Burke) is, nor how his father(Moroni Olsen) and Stanley really have nothing in common.  The uncomfortable dinner isn’t helped when Stanley drinks too much liquor and falls asleep in the Dunstan’s living room!

Stanley keeps urging a small, simple wedding but with Buckley’s mother now in on the plans with Kay and Ellie, Stanley’s ideas are ignored and he quietly resigns himself to the ladies’ plans, and to be there to walk Kay down the aisle and to give her away.  As the wedding date draws near, Kay is upset when she finds out that Buckley’s idea for a honeymoon is a fishing trip in Nova Scotia and she calls the wedding off! It’s up to Stanley to calm her down and get her to see that she loves Buckley and that the two of them can work this disagreement out, and they do.  There’s also a funny dream sequence Stanley has about walking Kay down the aisle and how it goes horribly wrong.

Reassuring Kay that the honeymoon disagreement can be solved

Reassuring Kay that the honeymoon disagreement can be solved

In 1991, Buena Vista -part of the Disney Company, re-made Father of the Bride, starring Steve Martin as the harried father.  While I enjoyed that version, you really owe it to yourself to see the original film.  Spencer Tracy is excellent as the harried father, worried about the wedding costs, and also sad that his baby girl is all grown up and getting married.  He gives the role  warmth and tenderness, with a  wry touch of humor.  He is the calm center of the film, while all the other characters are running around due to wedding prep activities.  Elizabeth Taylor is just gorgeous in this film, and she also put forth just the right touches as the young bride to be, full of love for her fiance, excited about getting married, emotional at times, but understandably so.

I am now wondering if this dress style was all the rage for weddings in the early 1950s?

I am now wondering if this dress style was all the rage for weddings in the early 1950s?

Gorgeous shot of Elizabeth Taylor in the bridal dress for the movie

Gorgeous shot of Elizabeth Taylor in the bridal dress for the movie

MGM made a good profit from the film’s box office success and a sequel was made in 1951, Father’s Little Dividend, with the plot being that Stanley has to come to grips with the fact that daughter Kay is going to have a baby and that means he’ll become a grandfather.  This film reunited the cast from the first film as well as director Vincent Minelli.

From time to time, this gem airs on Turner Classic, so check their monthly schedule online in order to catch when it will air again.  The film is available on Amazon for purchase or to view through their instant rent program.  The film is also available at TCM’s Shop.

The film, originally based upon the best-selling novel of 1949, Father of the Bride, by Edward Streeter,  is a charming look at a put-upon father and how he copes with his daughter’s new role as bride and wife.  Seek it out, and don’t let the 1991 version be the only version of this movie that you see.

The movie poster for German audiences

The movie poster for German audiences

Classic Movie Suggestions for New Year’s Eve

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film)

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a Classic Movie fan.   I drive my family a bit nuts due to our dvr list being full of old movies’ titles.  Turner Classic Movies is my favorite channel, and I am often watching one of the movies from that channel and not watching network tv.   Our family usually stays home on New Year’s Eve, munching on favorite snacks,  and watching movies.  With all of this in mind, I thought I’d make some Classic Movie suggestions for New Year’s Eve viewing, movies that I have seen and highly recommend.

If you like a good mystery, with a bit of comedy mixed in and espionage, than The Lady Vanishes is for you.  It was one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest hits in England, and he made this movie in 1938.  The movie stars Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, and Dame May Whitty, as the vanishing lady of the movie’s title.  Most of the action takes place aboard a train  as a group of British travelers are winding their way across continental Europe in order to get to a port city in France to then take a boat back to England.  Margaret Lockwood’s character is a young, rich socialite, who befriends Dame May Whitty’s character.  Upon awakening after a nap, Lockwood goes about the train to find Whitty, and she is not there, she has vanished!  No one on the train believes her that the elderly lady was on the train.  Michael Redgrave, playing a handsome music professor, agrees to help Lockwood search the train to find the missing elderly lady.  This movie was one of Hitchcock’s last British movies before he came to America and Hollywood.  In fact, this movie did so well at the British box office, that it helped Hitchcock prove to American movie studios that he knew how to make successful movies and he was able to make  a nice, profitable deal with MGM, who he made his first American movie with.

My next movie suggestion would be for an audience of teens and adults to experience the great character study that it contains. The movie is 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet.  The movie stars Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, and John Fiedler( great character actor known for his light and high-pitched voice.  He was the voice of Piglet in many Winnie the Pooh movies and one of the regular patients of Bob Newhart’s Dr. Hartley on the Bob Newhart tv show.)

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda.

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The plot is very straightforward and pulls no punches.  A teen has been on trial for murder.  The action of the movie takes place in the jury’s deliberation room.  All but one of the jurors thinks the teen committed the murder and it is up to that one juror, Henry Fonda, to carefully relook at all of the evidence with his fellow jurors, and to see if it is possible  that the teen is innocent.  The movie is riveting,  and we also get to know each juror and what makes him tick, why some of the jurors are eager to just get a verdict in and leave so they can get on with their weekend plans.  Jurors and their prejudices are also scrutinized by Fonda and one another.   The movie is tense, dramatic, well-acted, and makes one look inward; how would we act if we were on a jury, deciding upon a life and death situation?

For an exciting family adventure, one cannot go wrong with a Disney movie and one of my favorites is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  The famous novel was written by Jules Verne and Walt Disney decided to make a movie based upon this popular book.  The movie appeared to American audiences in 1954, and it starred Kirk Douglas(who sings in the movie, and not too badly!), James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre.

Lukas and Lorre are scientists who have been hired by the U.S. Government to try and find out what is causing the mysterious sinkings of commerical ships on the high seas.  Kirk Douglas plays a sailor, Ned, who agrees to go along on the investigation.  The trio soon discovers that a technologically  advanced submarine, the Nautilus,

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo (Photo credit: gnews pics)

Captain Nemo's Office

Captain Nemo’s Office (Photo credit: Peter E. Lee)

and a strange and engimatic Captain Nemo, played by James Mason, are responsible for the sinkings.  With Captain Nemo’s dire warnings about the environment, the movie doesn’t seem that dated, and what more can one ask for then an epic submarine vs. giant squid battle!

My last movie recommendation is the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  It is a favorite at our house, even our menfolk enjoy the humor in it, and the dance numbers and songs don’t make them cringe!  It was made by MGM in 1954, directed by Stanley Dolen, choreographed by Michael Kidd, and it starred Jane Powell as Milly and Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee.  Adam is the oldest of 7 brothers.  He decides on his next visit to town, when he buys supplies, that he’ll also get himself a wife.  He wants a helpmate who will cook and clean and sew, a woman who is pretty, but who can also work hard.  He finds that wife in Milly, a local girl who works in the town’s restaurant.  Milly agrees to marry Adam, but she is angered with him when they arrive at Adam’s cabin and find that his 6 brothers live there too.  The 6 are a mess-they’re rude, dirty, and after she gets over her initial shock,

Cover of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...

Cover of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Milly takes on the task of turning these 6 new brothers-in-law into gentlemen.  She also impresses on them how to properly court a girl.  At a local barn raising, potluck and dance, the 6 brothers set their sights on 6 ladies from the town, who are unfortunately seeing 6 men from the town.  Adam, seeing his brothers moping around the cabin as winter sets in, tells them about a story written down by Plutarch, how some Roman Soldiers got wives from the Sabine Women.  The brothers take Adam’s advice  and hilarity ensues.  An interesting side note is that at the same time Seven Brides was in production, MGM was pouring more money and time into another musical, Brigadoon.  The studio fully expected Brigadoon to be a box office smash and to their surprise, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the smash hit, and Brigadoon didn’t fare as well at the box office.   The roles of the brides and brothers were mostly filled by dancers, but Julie Newmar-pre Cat Woman days, and Russ Tamblyn-before he played Riff in the movie West Side Story, are a bride and brother you might recognize.   For a fun, toe-tapping way to welcome in the New Year, don’t overlook this gem!