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SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949)

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Discussion before

Cecil B. DeMille turns the Bible’s greatest tale of seduction into a Technicolor feast in this romantic epic. Drawing on the biblical story and a little-known novel (Judge and Fool by Vladimir Jabotinsky), DeMille concocts a tale that veers from love to revenge and back to love again. Samson (Victor Mature) rejects the Philistine beauty Delilah (Hedy Lamarr) to marry her older sister Semadar (Angela Lansbury). Semadar’s death turns him into a one-man rebellion against Israel’s invaders that only Delilah can stop. DeMille poured on the spectacle so effectively that the film won Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It also became the biggest hit of its year and Paramount Pictures’ biggest hit to that time. The director’s critics often overlook how effectively he staged epic scenes, like Samson’s destruction of an army regimen with the jawbone of an ass or the destruction of the Philistine temple. It’s more than just sweeping panoramas, instead DeMille creates little stories by picking out individual details that develop through the action. It’s a technique dating back to his days in silent films and appears in the best work of D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein. DeMille is often considered a master of the form, which is why this film still works 70 years after its premiere. (d. Cecil B. DeMille, 131m, Nitrate, 35mm)

Nitrate projection made possible through support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Turner Classic Movies, and The Film Foundation in partnership with the American Cinematheque and the Academy Film Archive.

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