AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Samson and Delilah
Director: Cecil B. DeMille (Dir)
Release Date:   1950
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 21 Dec 1949; Los Angeles opening: 13 Jan 1950
Production Date:   4 Oct--14 Dec 1948; added scenes and retakes: 18 Jan and 20-21 Jan 1949
Duration (in mins):   127-128 or 130
Duration (in feet):   11,457
Duration (in reels):   13
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Hedy Lamarr (Delilah)  
    Victor Mature (Samson)  
    George Sanders (The Saran of Gaza)  
    Angela Lansbury (Semadar)  
    Henry Wilcoxon (Ahtur)  
    Olive Deering (Miriam)  
    Fay Holden (Hazelelponit)  
    Julia Faye (Hisham)  
    Russell Tamblyn (Saul)  
    William Farnum (Tubal)  
    Lane Chandler (Teresh)  
    Moroni Olsen (Targil)  
    Francis J. McDonald (Storyteller)  
    William Davis (Garmiskar)  
    John Miljan (Lesh Lakish)  
    Arthur Q. Bryan (Fat Philistine merchant)  
    Laura Elliot (Spectator)  
    Victor Varconi (Lord of Ashdod)  
    John Parrish (Lord of Gath)  
    Frank Wilcox (Lord of Ekron)  
    Russell Hicks (Lord of Ashkelon)  
    Boyd Davis (First Priest)  
    Fritz Leiber (Lord Sharif)  
    Mike Mazurki (Leader of Philistine soldiers)  
    Davison Clark (Merchant prince)  
    George Reeves (Wounded messenger)  
    Pedro de Cordoba (Bar Simon)  
    Frank Reicher (Village barber)  
    Colin Tapley (Prince)  
    Cecil B. DeMille (Narrator of foreword)  
    Charles Evans (Manoah)  
    George Zoritch (Sword dancer)  
    Hamil Petroff (Sword dancer/Chief dancer)  
    Frank Mayo (Master architect)  
    James Craven (Prince)  
    Nils Asther (Prince)  
    James W. Horne (Prince)  
    Michael Hall (Prince)  
    Harry Cording (Prince)  
    Lloyd Whitlock (Chief scribe)  
    Crauford Kent (Court astrologer)  
    Harry Woods (Gammad)  
    Stephen Roberts (Bergam)  
    Ed Hinton (Makon)  
    Carl Saxe (Slave)  
    Delmar Costello (Slave)  
    Frank Hagney (Guard-Gristmill)  
    Leo McMahon (Horseman)  
    Thomas Browne Henry (Master of the exchequer)  
    Charles Meredith (High Priest)  
    Grace Ziebarth (Chief dancer)  
    Marjorie Pragon (Snake dancer)  
    Gene Gary (Prince in a box)  
    Pierre Watkin (Priest)  
    Fred Graham (Priest)  
    Wesley Hopper (Priest)  
    Budd Fine (Priest)  
    Joe Dominguez (Priest)  
    Larry Steers (Priest)  
    Howard Gardiner (Priest)  
    Harry Templeton (Priest/Soldier)  
    Eric Alden (Philistine soldier/Guest/Courtier/Spectator)  
    Robert St. Angelo (Philistine soldier)  
    Gary Lee Jackson (Boy)  
    Edward Coch (Boy)  
    Joel Nestler (Boy)  
    Curtis Loys Jackson Jr. (Boy)  
    Bob Anderson (Boy)  
    John "Skins" Miller (Man with burro)  
    Ruth D'Albrooke (Mother)  
    Leoncio Madero (Pottery worker)  
    Lester Sharpe (Saddle maker)  
    Edgar Dearing (Tax collector)  
    Hugh Prosser (Tax collector)  
    John Halloran (Tax collector)  
    Ray Teal (Tax collector)  
    John Merton (Assistant tax collector)  
    Ethan Laidlaw (Tax collector/soldier)  
    Sally Rawlinson (Guest)  
    Rus Conklin (Guest/Big soldier)  
    Rodric Redwing (Dancer/Spectator)  
    Joel Allen (Courier)  
    Charles Judels (Danite merchant)  
    William Hall (Philistine captain)  
    Tom Tyler (Philistine captain)  
    Al Ferguson (Villager)  
    Tony Hughes (Merchant)  
    Philo McCollough (Merchant)  
    George Eldredge (Lord)  
    Lester Dorr (Victim)  
    Wheaton Chambers (Victim)  
    Larry Thompson (Victim)  
    Jack Clifford (Victim)  
    Fred Kohler Jr. (Soldier)  
    Kay Bell (Soldier)  
    Vaughn Anthony (Soldier)  
    Albert A. Cavigga (Soldier)  
    Lyle Moraine (Soldier)  
    Art Dupuis (Soldier/Spieler)  
    George Magrill (Soldier/Courtier)  
    Fred Zendar (Soldier/Spectator)  
    Charles Wagenheim (Townsman)  
    Paul Scardon (Beggar)  
    John Northpole (Beggar)  
    Russ Clark (Mill slave)  
    Ray Bennett (Overseer)  
    Gordon Richards (Guide)  
    Ed Peil Sr. (Gnarled worker)  
    Phyllis Kennedy (Wide-eyed girl)  
    T. Arthur Hughes (Brawny porter)  
    Brahm Van den Berg (Temple dancer)  
    Charles E. Lunard (Temple dancer)  
    Rosemary Dvorak (Lady)  
    Miriam Jaye (Woman in box)  
    Joyce Miller (Woman in box/Guest)  
    Erica Strong (Wealthy girl-back of box)  
    William Hall (Captain)  
    Chuck Hamilton (Captain)  
    Ted Mapes (Captain)  
    Douglas Spencer (Courtier)  
    Allan Douglas (Courtier)  
    Sheldon Jett (Fat man)  
    Sam Ash (Vendor)  
    Bob Kortman (Vendor)  
    Dick Foote (Temple soldier)  
    Fred Kohler Jr. (Temple soldier)  
    Leota Lorraine (Merchant's wife)  
    Fairy Cunningham (Girl)  
    Crissy Ellen Pickup (Girl)  
    Isabel Cushin (Girl)  
    Al Ferguson (Spectator)  
    Bert Moorhouse (Spectator)  
    Keith Richards (Spectator)  
    Ynez Seabury (Spectator)  
    Carl Andre (Spectator)  
    Mort Thompson (Spectator)  
    Margaret Field (Spectator)  
    Paul Lees (Spectator)  
    Charles Dayton (Spectator)  
    Sarah Edwards (Spectator)  
    Ottola Nesmith (Spectator)  
    Jerry Austin (Jester)  
    Fernanda Eliscu (Herdswoman)  
    Perry Ivins (Herdsman)  
    Mike Kilian (Young herdsman)  
    Wanda Jay Bieber (Dancer)  
    Wilda Bieber (Dancer)  
    Charles J. Conrad    
    Lew Harvey    
    Allan Ray    
    Fred Datig Jr.    
    Robert Wood    
    Betty Boyd    
    Frances Morris    
    Besse Wade    
    Stanley Blystone    
    Crane Whitley    
    Raymond Bond    
    Claire DuBrey    
    Lyle Moraine    
    David Bond    
    Gertrude Messinger    
    Kenneth Gibson    
    Greta Granstedt    
    Weldon Heyburn    
    John Kellogg    
    Stanley Andrews    
    Byron Foulger    
    Jeff York    
    Betty Farrington    
    Dorothy Adams    
    Karen Morley    
    Brutus, a lion    

Summary: By 1,000 B.C., the people of Dan have been enslaved by the Philistines for forty years. Samson, the Danite son of Manoah, falls in love with Semadar, the Philistine daughter of Tubal. Although Samson's Danite neighbor Miriam has been promised to him, Samson is determined to marry Semadar. When the Lord of the Five cities, the Saran of Gaza, takes Semadar lion-hunting, Semadar's seductive sister Delilah leads Samson to the lion before the hunters arrive, and watches as Samson kills the animal bare-handed. Delilah, who is infatuated with Samson, is impressed by his show of strength and tells the royal Saran of his feat. Doubting Delilah's word, the Saran orders his massive wrestler Garmiskar to fight with Samson, and Samson easily defeats him. When the Saran offers Samson his ring as a prize, Samson asks that his prize be the Philistine bride of his choosing, and the Saran agrees, even though mixed marriages are frowned on. Delilah is furious when Samson chooses her sister, who was already promised to Ahtur, the Philistine military leader of Dan. At his week-long wedding feast, Samson challenges Ahtur's warriors, who were invited by Delilah, with a riddle, and offers luxurious tunics as a prize. Ahtur convinces Semadar to get the answer from Samson, but when Samson discovers that she has betrayed him, he leaves the feast and steals tunics from innocent travelers. By the time Samson returns, Semadar has married Ahtur instead. Samson angrily forces his way into the wedding chamber and Ahtur's warriors start a violent attack, during which Semadar and Tubal are killed. Although Ahtur's warriors are to blame for the carnage, Delilah vows revenge against Samson as she watches her home burn. Ahtur spends the following year trying to track down Samson, who is protected by his fellow Danites until the Philistines begin to starve them. Samson is then captured after a single Danite betrays him, and Delilah, who is now living in Gaza as the Saran's courtesan, revels in the news. However, when Samson's guards stop on their journey for water, Samson prays to God to imbue him with the strength to fight his oppressors. Samson's prayers are answered, and after breaking free from his bonds, he slays his captors with the jawbone of an ass. Appalled that 1,000 warriors were felled by one man, the Saran accepts Delilah's plan to seduce Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. The princes of Gaza offer Delilah a wealth of silver for Samson's capture, and Delilah secures the Saran's promise that he will not kill Samson, but will force him to work on the grist mill. Delilah travels to Samson's hideout in the hills of Saul, and sets up a luxurious tent to lure him. Samson, who has been pillaging from wealthy travelers, plans to rob the tent until he discovers Delilah there, and he soon falls prey to her seduction. Although Samson initially resists her inquiries as to the secret of his strength, he finally succumbs to her and reveals that his strength is derived from his wealth of hair. When Miriam arrives to tell Samson that his family and friends are being slaughtered by the Philistines because of him, Samson plans to go to their aid, but is drugged by a jealous Delilah and collapses. Delilah then shears off Samson's hair, and he is taken in chains to Gaza, where he realizes that he has betrayed his God. Ahtur blinds Samson with a heated sword and chains him to the grist mill. As time passes, Delilah is haunted by her betrayal of Samson, whom she loves despite herself, and prays for help. After Samson's hair grows back, he breaks free of his chains and forgives Delilah. Delilah urges him to escape with her, as he will soon be taken to the temple as a trophy to the Philistine god Dagon, and will be chained between two columns and used for sport. However, Samson is bent on avenging his God and warns Delilah to stay away from the temple, as the power of God is with him. All the noblemen and citizens of the city gather at the temple to watch as Samson is tortured and trapped in a net. The Saran accedes to Miriam's plea to release Samson only if Delilah agrees, but Delilah, still jealous of Miriam, refuses. However, Delilah is sickened by Samson's humiliation and torture at the hands of dwarves and Garmiskar, and leaves the Saran's side to help him. Delilah pretends to whip Samson, then at his request, chains him to the massive columns which support the temple. After pledging his eternal love to Delilah, Samson prays to God for strength, and pulls down the columns. As the temple and the statue of Dagon collapse, killing thousands, Samson prays to die with his enemy. Miriam, who witnesses the disaster, tells young Saul that Samson's strength will never die, as his story will be told for a thousand years. 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Director: Cecil B. DeMille (Dir)
  Arthur Rosson (Unit dir)
  Ralph Jester (Unit dir)
  Gordon Jennings (3rd and 4th unit dir)
  Frances Dawson (Dial supv)
  James Vincent (Dial supv)
  Edward Salven (Asst dir)
  Richard McWhorter (Asst dir)
  Chico Day (Asst dir)
  Danny McCauley (Asst dir)
  Jimmy Rosenberger (Asst dir)
Producer: Cecil B. DeMille (Prod)
Writer: Jesse L. Lasky Jr. (Scr)
  Fredric M. Frank (Scr)
  Harold Lamb (From orig trmt by)
Photography: George Barnes (Dir of photog)
  Dewey Wrigley (Holy Land photog)
  Jack Warren (Cam)
  Harry Marsh (Cam)
  Paul Hill (Cam tech)
  Paul Uhl (Cam tech)
  Guy Bennett (Cam op)
  Ed Wahrman (Cam op)
  G. E. Richardson (Stills)
  Ed Henderson (Stills)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  Walter Tyler (Art dir)
  John Meehan (Art dir)
Film Editor: Anne Bauchens (Ed)
  Gladys Carley (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dec)
  Ray Moyer (Set dec)
  Maurice Goodman (Set dec)
  Gordon Cole (Props)
  Gus Ruesch (Props)
  Joe Thompson (Props)
  Dwight Thompson (Props)
  Fred Holmes (Props)
  Barney Rogers (Props)
  Dick Webb (Prop shop)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
  Gile Steele (Cost)
  Dorothy Jeakins (Cost)
  Gwen Wakeling (Cost)
  Elois W. Jenssen (Cost)
  Frank Richardson (Ward)
  Pat Williams (Ward)
  Roger Weinberg (Ward)
  Frank Tait (Ward)
  Lloyd Ritchie (Ward)
  George Clark (Ward)
  Julie Cockerill (Ward)
  Hazel Haggerty (Ward)
Music: Victor Young (Mus dir)
Sound: Harry Lindgren (Sd rec)
  John Cope (Sd rec)
  Herman Lewis (Boom)
  M. A. Boyce (Rec)
  John Watson (Cable)
Special Effects: Gordon Jennings (Dir of photog eff)
  Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
  Wallace Kelley (Process photog)
  Paul Lerpae (Spec photog eff)
  Devereaux Jennings (Spec photog eff)
Dance: Theodore Kosloff (Choreographer)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
  Harold Lierly (Makeup artist)
  William Woods (Makeup artist)
  Nellie Manley (Hair)
  Elaine Ramsey (Hair)
  Doris Clifford (Hair)
  Lenore Weaver (Hedy Lamarr's hair)
Production Misc: Henry Noerdlinger (Research)
  Helen Gladys Percey (Research)
  Richard L. Johnston (Prod mgr)
  Frank Caffey (Prod mgr)
  Russ Brown (Prod mgr)
  Richard Blaydon (Asst prod mgr)
  Donald Robb (Asst prod mgr and 2d unit mgr)
  Roy Burns (Bus mgr)
  Andy Durkus (Asst bus mgr)
  Joe Egli (Casting)
  Harvey Clermont (Casting)
  Eddie Morse (Casting)
  Bill Greenwald (Casting)
  Tish Morgan (Casting)
  Phil Koury (Pub)
  Claire Behnke (Scr clerk)
  Bill Shanks (Scr clerk)
  Hubert H. Soldier Graham (Elec)
  Lorne P. Netten (Elec)
  Ed Crowder (Grip)
  Darrell Turnmire (Grip)
  Gus Peters (Grip)
  Earl Hardaway (Grip)
  Buck Walters (Grip)
  Bill Hurley (Horseman)
  Dwight Franklin (Illustrator)
  T. Howard Davis (Set constr)
  Lloyd Anderson (Set constr)
Stand In: Dick Talmadge (Stunts)
  Kay Bell (Double for Victor Mature)
  Frank Cordell (Double for Victor Mature)
  Sylvia Lamarr (Double for Hedy Lamarr)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor col consultant)
  Robert Brower (Assoc)
Country: United States

Source Text: Loosely based on the novel Judge and Fool by Vladimir Jabotinsky, as translated by Cyrus Brooks (New York, 1930).
Authors: Cyrus Brooks
  Vladimir Jabotinsky

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Pictures Corp. 25/10/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP179 Yes

PCA NO: 13447
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Betrayal
  Biblical characters
  Delilah (Biblical character)
  Samson (Biblical character)
Subjects (Minor): Drugging
  Family relationships
  Feats of strength
  Gods and goddesses
  Rites and ceremonies
  Wrestlers and wrestling

Note: Onscreen credits give the following notation: "Based upon the history of Samson and Delilah in the Holy Bible, Judges 13-16." Vladimir Jabotinsky's onscreen credit reads: "From original treatments by Harold Lamb--Vladimir Jabotinsky." It appears, however, that Jabotinsky's "treatment" was his novel, The Judge and the Fool , as translated by Cyrus Brooks. The following information was taken from the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library and various news items: Cecil B. DeMille first became interested in producing Samson and Delilah as early as 1935, when he commissioned writer Harold Lamb to write a screenplay based on the biblical story, from "The Book of Judges, 13-16," and bought the rights to Vladimir Jabotinsky's 1930 novel The Judge and the Fool , as translated from the German by Cyrus Brooks. Jeanie MacPherson and Sada Cowan were also hired to work on the script. At this time, DeMille also began a public campaign to find the ideal "Delilah," sending out a sketch of the sought-after look to cities around the country. In 1936, DeMille purchased the screen rights to the 1877 French opera Samson et Dalila , (music by Camille Saint-Saens, libretto by F. Lemaire). But the $5,000,000 production was shelved shortly thereafter.
       In 1946, DeMille renewed his plans for a film based on Jabotinsky's novel and the wealth of research he had accumulated on the topic. In his autobiography, DeMille remarked that Paramount executives were initially reluctant to embark on yet another expensive biblical production, as they felt that post-war audiences were not interested in Bible stories. In order to convince the executives of the story's marketability, DeMille engaged artist Dan Sayre Groesbeck to make a rendering of Samson and Delilah in which Samson's brute strength, and Delilah's seductive allure were emphasized. The executives were impressed by DeMille's commitment to making the tale a love story and agreed to back the project
       Pre-production for the final film officially began in the spring of 1948, when DeMille began researching the possibility of sending a second unit to the Middle East. In Jul 1948, after Palestine was ruled out as a location, DeMille sent a second unit, headed by directors Ralph Jester and Arthur Rosson, and including unit manager Donald A. Robb, cameramen Dewey Wrigley, Paul Hill, and grip Edgar Crowder, to North Africa to shoot background scenes and obtain authentic-looking props. Among the areas they filmed were Moulayidris and Volubilis, an ancient town in Morocco, and Bou-Saada near Algiers. According to a HR news item, the unit shot in "twenty localities, from Algiers to Casablanca." Due to the extreme heat, the crew required an advance survey as to the availability of ice, which was packed around the film containers to protect the film stock.
       A Sep 1948 HR news item reported that English actress Phyllis Calvert was originally cast as "Semadar" but withdrew due to illness and was replaced by Angela Lansbury. According to modern sources, Betty Hutton was considered for the role of "Delilah." In his autobiography, DeMille noted that he based the design of the Dagon temple on historical records written by Pliny the Elder, the first century A.D. Roman scholar. Although a HR news item reported that the studio anticipated spending an estimated $250,000 on the construction of the temple, NYT reported the actual cost as approximately $30,000. Modern sources note that the temple required five months to construct. According to a NYT article, DeMille encountered trouble with his eighty-foot-square by eighty-foot-high scale model of the Philistine temple when dynamite charges, which were detonated to produce the collapse of the temple, failed to produce the desired effect. As a result, the temple, with its forty-foot statue of the god Dagon, was rebuilt at an approximate cost of $15,000, and the scene was reshot. The NYT estimated the film's final cost at approximately $3,200,000. According to an Apr 1950 HR news item, DeMille donated his research documents to the Library of Congress.
       While the film had its New York premiere on 21 Dec 1949, it was not generally released until 1950. According to a Paramount News item, the studio launched a publicity campaign with a "Mr. Samson" and "Miss Delilah" contest held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, which included "winners of A.A.U. contests held over the nation." DeMille then granted the winners auditions. Steve Reeves, winner of the "Mr. Samson" contest, later became well-known for his portrayal of "Hercules." This film received Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color), and Costume Design (color). Samson and Delilah was also nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Special Effects, and Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a program based on this film on 19 Nov 1951, featuring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr, with highlights from the Saint-Saens opera. As noted in HR news items, the film was re-issued in Nov 1959, at which time he did well at the box office. In 1984, a made-for-television version of Samson and Delilah was broadcast, directed by Lee Philips, and starring Antony Hamilton and Belinda Bauer. The television movie also featured Max von Sydow, Maria Schell, José Ferrer, and Victor Mature as Samson's father. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   29 Oct 1949.   
Daily Variety   21 Oct 49   p. 3, 13
Film Daily   21 Oct 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 1948.   
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Aug 48   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 48   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Sep 48   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Dec 49   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 50   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 1959   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   22 Oct 49   p. 57.
New York Times   22 Sep 1935.   
New York Times   1 Dec 1935.   
New York Times   31 Oct 1948.   
New York Times   23 Nov 1948.   
New York Times   22 Dec 49   p. 29.
Variety   26 Oct 49   p. 18.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2016 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.