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Samson and Delilah (1949 film)

samson and delilah (1949 film), samson and delilah (1949 film)mougli)viedeo
Samson and Delilah is a 1949 American romantic biblical drama film produced and directed by Cecil B DeMille and released by Paramount Pictures It depicts the biblical story of Samson, a strongman whose secret lies in his uncut hair, and his love for Delilah, the woman who seduces him, discovers his secret, and then betrays him to the Philistines It stars Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature in the title roles, George Sanders as the Saran, Angela Lansbury as Semadar, and Henry Wilcoxon as Ahtur

Preproduction on the film began as early as 1935, but principal photography officially commenced in 1948 The screenplay, written by Jesse L Lasky, Jr and Fredric M Frank, is based on the biblical Book of Judges and adapted from original film treatments by Harold Lamb and Vladimir Jabotinsky

Praised upon release for its Technicolor cinematography, lead performances, costumes, sets, and innovative special effects,456 the film was a box-office success It was the highest-grossing film of 19507 Of its five Academy Award nominations, the film won two for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design8


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
    • 31 Development
    • 32 Casting
    • 33 Filming
  • 4 Release
    • 41 Critical response
    • 42 Box office
    • 43 Accolades
  • 5 Home media
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Bibliography
  • 9 External links


Samson, a Danite Hebrew placed under Nazirite vows from birth by his mother Hazelelponit, is engaged to a Philistine woman named Semadar At their wedding feast, Samson loses a bet with his wedding guests because of Semadar and attacks 30 Philistines to strip them of their cloaks to pay his betting debt When his deeds become known, Semadar and her father Tubal are killed; Samson becomes a hunted man and in his fury he begins fighting the Philistines The Saran of Gaza imposes heavy taxes on the Danites, with the purpose of having Samson betrayed by his own people The Saran's plan works, and frustrated Danites hand over Samson to the Philistines, much to the joy of Delilah, Semadar's younger sister Samson is taken by Prince Ahtur, the military governor of the land of Dan, and a regiment of Philistine troops En route back to Gaza, Ahtur decides to taunt Samson Samson rips apart his chains and ropes and begins to combat the Philistines, toppling Ahtur's war chariot and using the jawbone of an ass to club the Philistine soldiers to death

News of the defeat of Ahtur at the hands of Samson reaches the Saran The Saran ponders how to defeat Samson Delilah comes up with the idea of seducing Samson, thus having him reveal the secret of his strength and then deliver him for punishment Her plan works; she cuts his hair, which he feels gives him his strength To fully neutralize him, Samson is blinded by his captors and put to slave work, and is eventually brought to the temple of Dagon for the entertainment of the Philistines and the Saran

However, Delilah has been in love with Samson ever since his engagement with Semadar, and his blindness and torture make her feel deep remorse over her betrayal She initially had betrayed him because she wanted to avenge the deaths of her father and sister, which she thought were caused "because of Samson"

Delilah later attends the public torture of Samson wielding a whip which he uses to be guided by her to the temple of Dagon's main support pillars Once he stands between them, he tells Delilah to flee, but she remains, unseen by him, as he pushes the pillars apart The pillars give way and the temple collapses, burying Samson, Delilah, and all the Philistines inside alive, including the court In the end, the temple lies in rubble, and Saul and Miriam, his two closest Danite Hebrew friends, are left to mourn Samson's passing

It is implied that the disaster has caused utter chaos among the Philistines, who are then forced to give up Israel to deal with their internal crisis


  • Hedy Lamarr as Delilah
  • Victor Mature as Samson
  • George Sanders as The Saran of Gaza
  • Angela Lansbury as Semadar
  • Henry Wilcoxon as Ahtur
  • Olive Deering as Miriam
  • Fay Holden as Hazelelponit
  • Julia Faye as Hisham
  • Russ Tamblyn as Saul
  • William Farnum as Tubal
  • Lane Chandler as Teresh
  • Moroni Olsen as Targil
  • Francis McDonald as Storyteller
  • Wee Willie Davis as Garmiskar
  • John Miljan as Lesh Lakish
  • Arthur Q Bryan as Fat Philistine Merchant
  • Laura Elliot as Spectator
  • Victor Varconi as Lord of Ashdod
  • John Parrish as Lord of Gath
  • Frank Wilcox as Lord of Ekron
  • Russell Hicks as Lord of Ashkelon
  • Boyd Davis as First Priest
  • Fritz Leiber as Lord Sharif
  • Mike Mazurki as Leader of Philistine Soldiers
  • Davison Clark as Merchant Prince
  • George Reeves as Wounded Messenger
  • Pedro de Cordoba as Bar Simon
  • Frank Reicher as Village Barber
  • Colin Tapley as Prince
  • Charles Evans as Manoah uncredited
  • Harry Woods as Gammad uncredited
  • Cecil B DeMille as Narrator uncredited



In 1935, DeMille paid $10,000 to historian Harold Lamb to write a film treatment of the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, which DeMille regarded as "one of the greatest love stories of all time"9 However, DeMille later abandoned the film project in favor of The Plainsman,9 but returned to it once Unconquered was completed in 194710 DeMille hired illustrator Henry Clive to paint his visualization of Delilah on canvas in spring of 19489 DeMille described his Delilah as "warm, soft, cunning" with a "dangerous capacity for vengeance"9 He further expressed her as a "combination of Vivien Leigh and Jean Simmons with a dash of Lana Turner"9

Adding to his dramatization of the biblical story, DeMille bought the rights to Judge and Fool, a novel by Vladimir Jabotinsky which portrayed Delilah as the younger sister of Samson's wife111 He felt the novel "made possible a connected drama" for the film11 The final screenplay was written by Jesse L Lasky, Jr and Fredric M Frank, based on the biblical account, Lamb's treatment, and Jabotinsky's novel


Mature and Lamarr as Samson and Delilah

When DeMille first commenced production on the film in 1935, some of the famous women suggested for the part of Delilah were Dolores del Río, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Crawford12

He later claimed front-runners were Miriam Hopkins as Delilah and Henry Wilcoxon as Samson13

Once production restarted in 1947, DeMille and his staff considered dozens of Hollywood actors and actresses for the title roles He said, "For Samson, I want a combination Tarzan, Robin Hood, and Superman For Delilah a sort of distilled Jean Simmons, Vivien Leigh and a generous touch of Lana Turner"13

Those considered were Märta Torén, Viveca Lindfors, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Jane Greer, Greer Garson, Maureen O'Hara, Rhonda Fleming, Jeanne Crain, Lucille Ball, Jennifer Jones, Vivien Leigh, Gail Russell, Alida Valli, Linda Darnell, Patricia Neal, Jean Simmons, and Nancy Olson141516 DeMille cast Hedy Lamarr as Delilah after screening the film The Strange Woman, which featured Ian Keith a contender for the role of the Saran17 DeMille first wanted Lamarr to play Esther in a biblical film he was planning to make in 1939,18 but the film was never realized However, he was content with Lamarr's performance as Delilah, describing it as "more than skin-deep" He also described her as "a gazelle–incapable of a clumsy or wrong move", and she would flirtatiously refer to herself as "Delilah" and DeMille as her "Samson"19

Burt Lancaster was the original choice to play Samson, but he declined due to a bad back20 Body builder Steve Reeves was also considered and DeMille lobbied long and hard to get the studio to pick up Reeves,16 but both DeMille and the studio wanted Reeves to tone down his physique, which Reeves, still young and new to the industry, ultimately refused to do21 DeMille finally decided to cast Victor Mature as Samson after admiring his performance in the film Kiss of Death2022

Phyllis Calvert was originally cast as Semadar, but she relinquished the part due to her illness15 Therefore, DeMille cast Angela Lansbury in the role in July 194815 When Lawrence Perry of The Pittsburgh Press interviewed Lansbury on September 24, 1949, he told her that the Bible does not describe Delilah as having a sister23 Lansbury replied, "Anyway, if Delilah didn't have a sister, Mr DeMille has supplied one"23

Kasey Rogers auditioned and was screen-tested for the role of Miriam, the Danite girl who loves Samson24 But DeMille told her, "You're too pretty and you're too young", and Rogers was cast as a Philistine spectator in the temple scene and credited in the film as "Laura Elliot"24 Olive Deering was cast as Miriam, instead She later played the real biblical Miriam, sister of Moses, in DeMille's last and most successful film The Ten Commandments


The 37-foot tall model of the temple of Dagon

Principal photography began on October 4, 1948 and ended on December 22, 19481 The scenes involving the plowed field were shot on January 4, 1949, and added scenes and closeups were shot between January 18 and January 21, 19491

DeMille's legendary status led him to play himself in Billy Wilder's film noir Sunset Boulevard25 The film is about a fictional silent film star named Norma Desmond played by Gloria Swanson who, no longer active, once worked as an actress for DeMille For the scene in which Desmond visits DeMille at Paramount, an actual set of Samson and Delilah was reconstructed to show the director at work25 The first day scheduled to shoot the scene was May 23, 1949, months after filming on Samson and Delilah had ended25 After the scene was shot in a total of four days, Wilder patted DeMille on the back and humorously told him, "Very good, my boy Leave your name with my secretary I may have a small part for you in my next picture"25 Wilder later said that DeMille "took direction terrifically He loved it He understood it He was very subtle"25

The film's special effects were supervised by Gordon Jennings26 The "money shot" was the toppling of the temple of Dagon, the god of the Philistines26 It is the penultimate scene in the film, cost $150,000, and took a year to shoot26 The bottom portion of the temple was constructed full-scale26 A separate 37-foot high model with a 17-foot high Dagon statue was built for the photographic effects26 The model was destroyed three times in order to shoot it through different camera angles26 Footage of the full-scale set was merged with footage of the scale model using a "motion repeater system" fabricated by Paramount, which enabled the exact repetition of camera moves26


The film received its televised world premiere at two of New York City's Broadway theatres, the Paramount and the Rivoli, on December 21, 1949, in order to "accommodate the 7,000,000 movie-goers in the greater New York area"2728

It was successfully re-released in November 195929

Critical responseedit

Samson and Delilah received moderately positive reviews upon its release in 1949 Variety described the film as a "lusty action story with a heavy coating of torrid-zone romance"5 The magazine also appreciated the film's cast by writing, "Victor Mature fits neatly into the role of the handsome but dumb hulk of muscle that both the Bible and DeMille make of the Samson character Hedy Lamarr never has been more eye-filling and makes of Delilah a convincing minx George Sanders gives a pleasantly light flavor of satirical humor to the part of the ruler, while Henry Wilcoxon is duly rugged as the military man"5 Bosley Crowther of The New York Times admired the "dazzling displays of splendid costumes, of sumptuous settings and softly tinted flesh which Mr DeMille's color cameras have brilliantly pageanted Color has seldom been more lushly or unmistakably used"4

Film critic Leonard Maltin, in his review for Samson and Delilah, wrote: "With expected DeMille touches, this remains a tremendously entertaining film"30

Box officeedit

Samson and Delilah was enormously successful, taking in $11,000,000 at the box office, making it the top moneymaker for 19503132 At the time of its release, it was the third highest-grossing film ever, behind Gone with the Wind 1939 and The Best Years of Our Lives 194633 It was the second most popular film at the British box office that year34


Samson and Delilah won Academy Awards for Best Color Art Direction art directors Hans Dreier and Walter H Tyler and set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer and Best Color Costume Design Edith Head, Dorothy Jeakins, Elois Jenssen, Gile Steele, and Gwen Wakeling8 It was also nominated for Best Color Cinematography George Barnes, Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Victor Young, and Best Special Effects Cecil B DeMille Productions8

The film was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Color Cinematography George Barnes35

Cecil B DeMille won a French film award the Film Français Grand Prix for the film36

The Christian Herald and the Protestant Motion Picture Council awarded its December 1949 Picture of the Month Award to DeMille for Samson and Delilah37

Parents' magazine awarded its Parents' Magazine Medal to DeMille for "thirty-five years of devotion to research in the production of historical pictures culminating in his greatest achievement, Samson and Delilah"38

Boxoffice magazine awarded its Boxoffice Barometer Trophy to DeMille for producing Samson and Delilah, the "highest-grossing picture of the year"39

Samson and Delilah was one of the Best Pictures of 1949 at Look's Annual Film Awards in 195040 DeMille received the All Industry Achievement Award for the film40

Hedy Lamarr's Delilah was voted the year's 10th "best screen performance by an actress" at the British Picturegoer Awards in 195141

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2002: AFI's 100 Years100 Passions – Nominated42
  • 2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated43
  • 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:
    • Nominated Epic Film44

Home mediaedit

In 2012, a 4K-scanned digital restoration of Samson and Delilah was completed45 The restored version received its premiere at Cineteca Bologna's Il Cinema Ritrovato 201246 Paramount Home Media Distribution released the film for the first time on DVD format with English, French, and Spanish audio and subtitles on March 12, 201347 The film was released on Blu-ray Disc with the original theatrical trailer on March 11, 201448

See alsoedit

  • List of epic films


  1. ^ a b c d Birchard 2009, p 334
  2. ^ https://archiveorg/stream/variety173-1949-01#page/n20/mode/1up
  3. ^ Block, Alex Ben 2010 George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success HarperCollins p 323 ISBN 9780061963452 
  4. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley "The New York Times – Movie Review: Samson and Delilah 1949" The New York Times Retrieved August 7, 2013 
  5. ^ a b c "Variety – Review: "Samson and Delilah" Variety Retrieved August 7, 2013 
  6. ^ McKay 2013, p 76
  7. ^ Barton 2010, p 174
  8. ^ a b c "23rd Academy Awards Winners" wwwoscarsorg 
  9. ^ a b c d e "De Mille Gets a Delilah in Oil to Start His Hunt for Actress" The Milwaukee Journal April 26, 1948 Retrieved September 15, 2013 
  10. ^ Thomas, Bob May 21, 1947 "Maureen for Eire Film" The Windsor Daily Star Retrieved September 18, 2013 
  11. ^ a b Creelman, Eileen November 21, 1949 "De Mille Discusses Changes In 'Samson and Delilah' Epic" The Youngstown Vindicator Retrieved September 18, 2013 
  12. ^ Morin, Relman November 19, 1935 "DeMille Gets Lots of Help Naming Samson and Delilah Characters in His Picture" St Petersburg Times Retrieved September 15, 2013 
  13. ^ a b HAIRCUT BY DE MILLE: Biblical Strong Man Meets Tough Foe in Director By PHIL KOURYHOLLYWOOD New York Times 1923-Current file New York, NY 20 June 1948: X3
  14. ^ Barton 2010, p 169
  15. ^ a b c Shearer 2010, chpt 15
  16. ^ a b Birchard 2009, p 336
  17. ^ Barton 2010, p 170
  18. ^ Graham, Sheilah March 11, 1939 "Robert Morley, Hedy Lamarr Sought For DeMille Vehicle" The Miami News Retrieved September 18, 2013 
  19. ^ Barton 2010, p 171
  20. ^ a b McKay 2013, p 74
  21. ^ An Interview with Steeve Reeves from The Perfect Vision Magazine, Volume 6 Issue, July 22, 1994, at drkmr gallery
  22. ^ Eyman 2010, p 387
  23. ^ a b Perry, Lawrence September 24, 1949 "Film Star Glad She's Still Alive! Survives Peril of De Mille Film" The Pittsburgh Press Retrieved September 15, 2013 
  24. ^ a b Weaver, Tom 2002 Science Fiction Confidential: Interviews with 23 Monster Stars and Filmmakers McFarland p 249 ISBN 9780786411757 
  25. ^ a b c d e Eyman 2010, p 1
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Eyman 2010, p 392
  27. ^ a b "BoxOffice Magazine – December 10, 1949, p 26" BoxOffice 
  28. ^ "Holiday Premieres Enliven the New York Scene: Both Paramount and 20th Fox Introduce Important Films" Boxoffice Retrieved May 6, 2014 
  29. ^ "Samson and Delilah 1950 – Notes" Turner Classic Movies Retrieved May 6, 2014 
  30. ^ "Samson and Delilah 1950 – Overview" tcmcom Retrieved August 10, 2013 
  31. ^ Steinberg, Cobbett 1980 Film Facts New York: Facts on File, Inc p 21 ISBN 0-87196-313-2  When a film is released late in a calendar year October to December, its income is reported in the following year's compendium, unless the film made a particularly fast impact p 17
  32. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, January 6, 1960 p 34
  33. ^ List of highest-grossing films
  34. ^ "Vivien Leigh Actress of the Year" Townsville Daily Bulletin Qld: National Library of Australia December 29, 1951 p 1 Retrieved July 9, 2012 
  35. ^ "Golden Globe Awards Official Website – Samson and Delilah – 1 nomination" goldenglobesorg Retrieved August 29, 2013 
  36. ^ McCaffrey, Donald W 1999 Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema Greenwood Publishing Group p 108 ISBN 0313303452 
  37. ^ "Register of the Cecil B DeMille Photographs, ca 1900s-1950s, 1881–1959 – Awards" Retrieved August 29, 2013 
  38. ^ "Boxoffice Magazine – December 10, 1949, pg 31" Boxoffice Retrieved August 29, 2013 
  39. ^ "Boxoffice Magazine – December 30, 1950, pg 16" Boxoffice Retrieved August 29, 2013 
  40. ^ a b "Look's Annual Film Awards Put Paramount On Top" Boxoffice March 11, 1950 Retrieved October 10, 2014 
  41. ^ "Anna Neagle's Film Award" The Mercury May 10, 1951 Retrieved October 10, 2014 
  42. ^ "AFI's 100 Years100 Passions Nominees" PDF Retrieved August 19, 2016 
  43. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" PDF Retrieved August 19, 2016 
  44. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10" PDF Retrieved 19 August 2016 
  45. ^ "PHE Press Release: Samson and Delilah" Home Theater Forum Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  46. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato 2012" Cineteca Bologna Retrieved April 1, 2014 
  47. ^ "Samson & Delilah DVD" TCM Shop Retrieved August 7, 2013 
  48. ^ Sluss, Justin "1949 Cecil B DeMille film "Samson and Delilah" on Blu-ray March 2014" High Def Disc News Retrieved April 1, 2014 


  • Barton, Ruth 2010 Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film University Press of Kentucky ISBN 9780813126104 
  • Birchard, Robert S 2009 Cecil B DeMille's Hollywood University Press of Kentucky ISBN 9780813138299 
  • Eyman, Scott 2010 Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B DeMille Simon & Schuster ISBN 9781439180419 
  • McKay, James 2013 The Films of Victor Mature McFarland & Company ISBN 9780786449705 
  • Shearer, Stephen Michael 2010 Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr Macmillan Publishers ISBN 1429908203 

External linksedit

  • Samson and Delilah at the American Film Institute Catalog
  • Samson and Delilah on Internet Movie Database
  • Samson and Delilah at the TCM Movie Database
  • Samson and Delilah at AllMovie
  • Samson and Delilah at Rotten Tomatoes

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