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Saturday, 17 November 2012

Samson and Delilah (1949) - Star of the month... Angela Lansbury

"No man leaves Delilah" - Hedy Lamarr (as Delilah in 'Samson and Delilah')

'Samson and Delilah' is a 1949 biblical epic produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It stars Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury and Henry Wilcoxen with Fay Holden, Russ Tamblyn and George Reeves.
Hedy Lamarr & Victor Mature as Samson & Delilah

The story of Samson and Delilah is adapted from the Book of Judges in the bible. It tells of a Hebrew, Samson (played by Moore), who is engaged to be married to a Philistine woman, named Semadar (played by Lansbury). Semadar's sister Delilah (played by Lamarr) is in love with Samson, and sabotages the wedding. Consequently, Samadar is killed and Samson becomes a wanted man. Delilah, who's jealousy is deeper than her love for Samson betrays him on a number of occasions in order to punish him for not loving her.

Did you know...

Angela Lansbury posing in costume as Samadar
  • Burt Lancaster was considered for the role of Samson, but was thought to be too young - he also had a bad back
  • Henry Wilcoxon was considered for the role of Samson, but was thought to be too old
  • Betty Hutton, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner & Jean Simmons were all considered for the role of Delilah - MGM refused to loan Paramount Turner and Columbia refused to loan Hayworth 
  • Phyllis Calvert was originally cast as Samadar, but due to illness was replaced by Angela Lansbury
  • This is one of few pre-1950 films made by Paramount, which is still owned by Paramount
  • When filming the scene where Samson kills the lion, Victor Mature refused to wrestle a tame movie lion; after Cecil B. DeMille advised him the lion had no teeth, Mature replied, "I don't want to be gummed to death, either" - the film shows a stung man wrestling the lion, with close ups of Mature wrestling a lion skin
  • Cecil B. DeMille asked actor Groucho Marx what he thought of the film at the premiere, to which 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"
  • In the film 'Sunset Boulevard' (1950), when the character played by Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond) visits Cecil B. DeMille, he is directing 'Samson and Delilah' - the cast and crew can be seen briefly in 'Sunset Boulevard' taking a break
  • Many of the smaller roles were played by Victor Mature's friends from Pasadena, including a young George Reeves as the Wounded Messenger
  • The destruction of the Temple of Dagon had to be filmed on two attempts - during the first attempt, some of the dynamite didn't set off at the right time - the set was required to be built for a second attempt - the film features footage from both attempts
  • 'Lux Radio Theatre' broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the film on 19 November 1951, with Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature reprising their film roles

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award winner for Best Art Direction/Set Direction - Color (Hans Dreier, Walter H. Tyler, Sam Comer & Ray Moyer)
  • Academy Award winner for Best Costume Design - Color (Edith Head, Dorothy Jeakins, Eloise Jensson, Gile Steele & Gwen Wakeling)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography - Color (George Barnes)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Effects - Special Effects (Cecil B. DeMille Productions)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Music - Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Victor Yong)
  • Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Cinematography - Color (George Barnes)

Closing remarks

Beautifully filmed in Technicolor, 'Samson & Delilah' is a biblical epic not to be missed. I wasn't familiar with the story of Samson & Delilah until I saw this movie, and it is by far one of the better biblical stories.

Beautiful screen siren Hedy Lamarr is brilliant as the vindictive Delilah. I shudder to think how bad this film would have been if Betty Hutton (although a great star) was cast as Delilah as originally intended.
George Sanders is also perfectly cast as the evil Saran of Gaza, giving one of his best performances. As much as I love Angela Lansbury, I don't think she was the right choice to play Semadar, particularly up against someone as beautiful as Hedy Lamarr.

Something which I found amusing was the line: "You know where he is, barbers know all the gossip". I guess, nothing much has changed there, as these days hair dressers are still the bearer of all gossip.

Keep your eyes open for a very young Russ Tamblyn as Saul.

My 3 reasons for watching this film:

  • The stunning Hedy Lamarr in one of her most beautiful and memorable roles
  • George Sanders in of his best sinister roles
  • The spectacular toppling of the temple of Dagon - the special effects n this sequence are quite good for 1949


  1. Samson and Delilah 1949 Hedy Lamarr Victor Matur

  2. Hedy was 35 or so when this film was made. It was her first color movie.