Samson and Delilah received its televised world premiere on December 21, 1949, at two of New York City's Broadway theatres, the Paramount and the Rivoli, in order to \"accommodate the 7,000,000 movie-goers in the greater New York area.\" People who attended the event included Mary Pickford, Buddy Rogers, and Barney Balaban. The film eventually went into general release on January 13, 1950.
Samson and Delilah received rave reviews upon its release in 1949. Showmen's Trade Review wrote that the film \"bids fair to stand as this veteran showman's most impressive and magnificent spectacle since that history-making 1923 religious epic [The Ten Commandments].\" The Harrison's Reports reviewer commented: \"Mr. DeMille has succeeded, not only in keeping the story authentic, but also in presenting it in a highly entertaining way. Its combination of spectacularity and human interest will grip the attention of all movie-goers.\" The Modern Screen reviewer remarked, \"It's tremendous, impressive, and beautiful to look at.\" Boxoffice considered it the \"most prodigious spectacle ever conceived,\" while The Film Daily stated that it \"[s]tands monumental alongside any contender.\" The Exhibitor, a trade magazine, declared: \"This will be classed with the big films of all time.\"
It seems absurd for an old movie to finally make its DVD debut in 2013 with a little fanfare, a touted restoration, and no concurrent Blu-ray option. But Samson and Delilah hails from Paramount Home Entertainment, a studio that recently broke from its monthly catalog Blu-ray strategy and signed the rights to most of its film holdings over to Warner Home Video. That move made the big bigger; Warner already had by far the biggest library of any major studio (and one they mind-bogglingly deny this site access to in favor of scarcely-trafficked blogs). Meanwhile, reflecting their thinned out theatrical schedule, Paramount's own home video output has slowed to a crawl.As one of the best-known works of showman director-producer Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments), the 1949 Biblical epic Samson and Delilah is no obscure film, although sixteen years of curious unavailability on the world's leading home video format has no doubt reduced its reputation. Now it arrives on DVD at a time when catalog sales continue to plummet, surrendering retail space and giving rise to manufacturing on demand while collectors have turned their attentions and wallets to Blu-ray Disc. Attributed to four screenwriters and three chapters from the Book of Judges, Samson and Delilah tells the story of an unusually strong man and the woman whose largely unrequited love of him led to betrayal. A thousand years before the birth of Christ, Samson (Victor Mature) of the Dan tribe lives by his own rules. Instead of returning the love of sweet local woman Miriam (Olive Deering), Samson rides over to Timnah ask for the hand of a blonde Philistine named Semadar (Angela Lansbury). Military governor Ahtur (Henry Wilcoxon) has eyes for the same flaxen-haired maiden, so a rebuffed Samson takes a chariot with Semadar's brunette younger sister Delilah (Hedy Lamarr).In the wild, Samson demonstrates his remarkable strength by wrestling a lion to death using nothing but his bare hands. Delilah is impressed, but the show of force, followed by a comparable defeat of a tall, hairy warrior, prompts the Saran of Gaza (George Sanders) to grant a request of Samson, which he uses to land the hand of Semadar. At the wedding ceremony, Samson bets thirty Philistines a garment for or from each that they cannot solve his riddle. The scorned Delilah gets involved and the wager winds up resulting in death and heightened hostilities.Samson, who is proclaimed \"the lion of Dan\", cannot be tamed, no matter how great the opposition. He shows up the Philistine army with merely the jawbone of an ass, adding to his legend before he goes missing. As the Philistines try to devise a plan to capture this Dannite threat, Delilah volunteers to use her charms to seduce Samson and discover the secret of his power. Like most of DeMille's efforts (save for, arguably, The Ten Commandments), Samson and Delilah is not considered a great film. It is, however, considered a significant one, as a major attraction of its time and a demonstration of mid-20th Century cinematic ambition. It's interesting how DeMille's notion of an epic is a far cry from ours. Today, the word \"epic\" triggers expectations of hordes of costumed extras, expansive locales, technical marvels, and a long runtime. Samson gives us little of all that, the director relying more on his titular leads striking theatrical, lobby card-ready, romantic poses at the center of the narrow Academy Ratio frame.Yes, Samson was a Technicolor production at a time when that was still somewhat of a novelty largely reserved for musicals and westerns. Arriving ten years after Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz took bold strides, though, this film doesn't do all that much to advance the medium. Much of Samson relies on static conversations conducted on small, artificial sets. DeMille manages to give the illusion of an epic on relatively modest means. There is that scene of man and lion evidently fighting, which relies heavily on choppy editing and a sufficiently shrouded stunt double. To convey Samson's strength, a variety of techniques are employed with mixed results, from tasteful wire work to obviously fake pillars and some unconvincing rear projection and matte work. It's important to keep the modest technical achievements in perspective, but the aforementioned 1939 MGM landmarks are just two of a number of films from this era whose effects hold up better.Even upon release, this film drew more technical than dramatic notice. Its five Academy Award nominations all recognized technical aspects. The two Oscars that it won -- Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design, both separating color films from black & white ones -- came in the categories most willing to overlook storytelling deficiencies. Samson isn't poor in that department, anyway, just not as riveting as it could be coming from scriptures in what many people consider to be the most important book in the world. This tale boils down to a star-crossed romance set against a conflict not made terribly palpable.There are a number of creative choices you can question along the way. For instance, Samson is supposed to have this supernatural strength, yet Victor Mature has a typical broadness to him; perhaps that is more believable than the athlete's physique a modern production would require of an actor, but it certainly doesn't convey Samson's power. Similarly raising eyebrows is the casting of Angela Lansbury and Hedy Lamarr as sisters. Twelve years Lamarr's junior, Lansbury plays the elder sister, which you kind of accept because Lansbury has always had a matronly air (by 1962, she was playing the mother of a man three years younger than her). Still, it is odd that the beautiful Lamarr is an afterthought and concession in the presence of Lansbury, who fetches such exciting, exotic gifts as gauze.Doubts of \"epic\" classification are removed in the big finale, as a disabled Samson is brought to public forum and ridiculed by little people. The sequence plays like a circus act, especially given the playful musical accompaniment supplied by Victor Young's Oscar-nominated score. If this near-climax feels undignified for the subject matter, it at least might have helped prepare DeMille for The Greatest Show on Earth, the 1952 drama that would win the Oscar for Best Picture, an honor it is today considered unworthy of. Broadening his scope to cover more of the Old Testament, DeMille would create a more satisfying religious epic in The Ten Commandments, the biggest hit of its time (greatly surpassing Samson, which was the runaway hit of '49) and still one of the most enduring thanks to annual television airings.That film's long association with Easter seems responsible for Samson and Delilah's overdue DVD debut occurring this month. The disc preserves the film's four-minute opening overture and two minutes of exit music, which brings it to a not so epic 134-minute runtime.
As a cofounder of Hollywood and a progenitor of Paramount studio, Cecil B. DeMille1 (1881-1959) became a legendary mega-star of the US cinema during its Golden Age as well as the archetypal image of a film director. Not only did this unsung American auteur help turn an obscure Californian orange grove into a movie centre that became the synonym for filmmaking worldwide, but he also successfully survived the genesis of a billion dollar industry, the challenge of sound films, the arrival of Technicolor, changing public tastes, the Great Depression, two World Wars, shifting demographics, volatile fads, Communist hysteria, the arrival of television, cut-throat competitors and numerous Hollywood crises that threatened its commercial viability if not its very existence (Birchard 2004; Cherchi Usai & Codelli 1991; DeMille & Hayne 1960; Edwards 1988; Essoe & Lee 1970; Higashi 1985, 1994; Higham 1973; Koury 1959; Louvish 2008; Noerdlinger 1956; Orrison 1999; Ringgold & Bodeen 1969).
This is an original, linen-backed, one-sheet movie poster from 1959 for a theatrical re-release of Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah. The 1949 film stars Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury and Henry Wilcoxon. Cecil B. DeMille directed the Biblical epic. 153554b96e