Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, December 28, 2018


Hedy Lamarr and Victor |Mature
SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949). Produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

In Gaza in 1000 B.C. the Danite Samson (Victor Mature), who is a hero to his people, dares to fall in love with Semadar (Angela Lansbury), even though she is a Philistine. Semadar's younger sister, Delilah (Hedy Lamarr) wants Samson for herself, and she is embittered over his rejection of her. When Samson's wedding to Semadar doesn't quite come off, it leads to violence and bloodshed, and Delilah vows to have her revenge.

Lamarr as Delilah
Samson and Delilah is an entertaining movie, but for most of its length it's curiously flat. Some of the minor supporting actors speak their lines as if they were in an old Republic serial and even for 1949 the whole production has an old-fashioned, even cheesy, tone to it. Neither Victor Mature nor even the beautiful Lamarr are especially well-cast. Their performances are good enough by old Hollywood standards, but there are other actors who could have done much, much more with the roles. (Mature would do more costume dramas such as The Robe in the future and his work in them would greatly improve.) Supporting players such as Lansbury; Henry Wilcoxon (as Ahtur, another of Semadar's suitors); Fay Holden as Samson's mother; Olive Deering [Caged] as Miriam, who loves Samson unrequitedly; Julia Faye as the maid Hisham; little Russ Tamblyn [Tom Thumb] as young Saul; and most notably, George Sanders as the Saran of Gaza, come off much better, with Sanders pretty much stealing the show.

The best acting comes from George Sanders
However, Samson and Delilah is worth the price of admission for no other reason than the last ten minutes, in which a humiliated Samson gathers his strength (why did the Dagon-worshipping Philistines let him grow his hair back?) and manages to literally bring the house down on the Philistines. Well-directed and edited, with good FX work, this sequence is a stunner even today. If only the whole movie had been on this level! Victor Young's score is disappointing, but the Oscar-winning costume designs by Edith Head and others are exquisite. The art direction also won an Oscar.

Others in the huge cast include Tom Tyler, Nils Asther, Claire Du Brey, Dorothy Adams, and -- of course --Pierre Watkin. George Reeves shows up as an injured messenger and is good, but he looks so different that I didn't even think this was the same actor who would play Superman a few years later. DeMille himself does the pompous narration that opens the film.

Verdict: Wait -- and wait -- for that great temple sequence! **3/4. 


angelman66 said...

It has been a long time since I saw this, but I do remember the production design as exquisite and the cast as first rate...especially George Sanders and the supporting roles. Now you have made me want to see it again soon!
- C

William said...

Not a great movie but decidedly an entertaining one, and the temple scene is fantastic! Enjoy!