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Omar Khayyam
Alternate Title: The Life, Loves and Adventures of Omar Khayyam
Director: William Dieterle (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1957
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 23 Aug 1957
Production Date:   2 Apr--28 May 1956; retakes 7 Jun 1957
Duration (in mins):   100-101
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Cast:   Cornel Wilde (Omar Khayyam)  
    Michael Rennie (Hasani Sabah)  
    Debra Paget (Sharain)  
    John Derek (Prince Malik)  
    Raymond Massey (The Shah/Narrator)  
    Yma Sumac (Karina)  
    Margaret Hayes (Queen Zarada)  
    Joan Taylor (Yaffa)  
    Sebastian Cabot (The Nizam)  
    Perry Lopez (Prince Ahmud)  
    Morris Ankrum (Imam Mowaffak)  
    Abraham Sofaer (Tutush)  
    Edward Platt (Jayhan)  
    James Griffith (Buzorg)  
    Peter Adams (Master herald)  
    Henry Brandon (Commander)  
    Kem Dibbs (Tutush bodyguard)  
    Paul Picerni (Commander)  
    Valerie Allen (Harem wife)  
    Florine Caplan (Harem wife)  
    Emilie Stevens (Harem wife)  
    Marie Tsien (Chinese girl)  
    Douglas Spencer (Pigeon keeper)  
    Paul T. Salata (Guard)  
    Ronald Nyman (Guard)  
    John Zollan (Guard)  
    Joyce Vanderveen (Hindu girl)  
    Charles La Torre (Army physician)  
    John E. Mather (Prior "Sayida")  
    Joe Bassett (Prior "Rashidi")  
    Don Dunning (Prior "Dikar")  
    Franz F. Roehn (Kisrak)  
    Max Power (Prior "Dastur")  
    Frank Leyva (Defendant assassin)  
    Henry Wills (Defender assassin)  
    James Davies (Defender assassin)  
    Carl H. Saxe (Officer)  
    Dale Van Sickel (Officer)  
    Robert St. Angelo (Officer)  
    Salah Sayed Ahmed (Officer)  
    Romo Vincent (Physician)  
    Richard Elliott (Tavern keeper)  
    John Abbott (Yusuf)  
    Edmund Hashim (Turkoman)  
    Eric Alden (Commander)  
    Ric Roman (Slavemaster)  
    Paul Weber (Q'Adi, a priest)  
    E. J. Andre (Nobleman)  
    Bob Tafur (Nobleman)  
    John Merton (Nobleman)  
    Richard Alameda (Nobleman)  
    Alan Wells (Trooper scout)  
    Len Henry (Officer/Courier)  
    Edward Agresti (Assassin)  
    Bill Bagdad (Assassin)  
    James J. Hanna (Assassin)  
    Arthur L. Bucaro (Assassin)  
    Mary Ellen Popel (Court woman)  
    Sonia Werner (Harem girl)  
    Joyce Meadows (Harem girl)  
    Sandra Werner (Harem girl)  
    Lee Belser (Harem girl)  
    Audrey Lowell (Harem girl)  
    Arthur Tookoyan (Courier)  
    Allan Douglas (Townsman/Defendant assassin)  
    Frank Griffin (Assassin/Assassin teacher)  
    Richard Gilden (Novice assassin)  
    Don A. Diamond (Trooper captain)  
    Jean Elliott (Lelah)  
    Mahin Shahrivar (Slave girl)  
    Jagat Bhatia (General)  
    Paul T. Salata (Byzantine prisoner)  
    Frank Leyva Townsman    
    John Wilson Gregory (Hasani's guard)  
    Roger Creed (Executioner)  
    Abdel Salam Moussa (Shah's soldier)  
    Phyllis Johannes    
    George Bruggeman    

Summary: In the eleventh century, in the Persian city of Nishapur, poet and mathematician Omar Khayyam meets with his secret love Sharain, the daughter of his old professor, Imam Mowaffak. Later, Omar greets Hasani Sabah, the overlord to the Governor of Gilan, who has come to Nishapur seeking a court appointment. Though Omar has none of his friend's ambition, Hasani reminds him of his oath to their childhood friend, The Nizam, who, as Keeper of the Kingdom, desperately needs people in the court whom he can trust. Brought before the Shah, Omar recites a poem which shocks many in the court, but pleases the Shah with its honesty, and is quickly appointed Court Counselor. After presenting the Shah with two beautiful slave girls, as well as the severed heads of two enemies, Hasani is made Keeper of the Seal, a high position formerly held by Tutush, the Shah's brother. In order to strengthen his ties to the people of Nishapur, the Shah decides to take Sharain as his fourth wife, breaking Omar's heart. Hoping to ease his friend's loss, Nizam buys Omar a slave girl named Yaffa, whom he accepts only upon her pleas. That night, Tutush is murdered by the Assassins, a religious sect seeking to overthrow his brother, when he fails to pay the tribute demanded by them. Later, the Shah learns that the Byzantines and their mercenary army have invaded Persia near the Caspian Sea, and upon Omar's advice, the Shah agrees to use ships to organize an army to repel the invaders. As the Shah prepares to join his army, his two sons, Ahmud and Malik, fight over who will stand beside him in battle. When the victorious Malik is made heir to the throne, Queen Zarada, the mother of Ahmud, makes an alliance with Hasani to overthrow her husband. With the Shah away from his court, the Assassins become more active in Nishapur. Grateful that Omar refuses to sell her to the lustful Hasani, Yaffa tells her owner of an ex-Assassin named Yusuf who lives in a cave outside the city. Yusuf tells Omar that the Assassins' hideout is an impenetrable fortress atop the northern mountain of Alamut. On the pretext of working on his new calendar, Omar goes alone to Alamut, where he is greeted by the Assassins as a friend. Upon completing his work, Omar learns that Hasani is the Grand Master of the Assassins. Hasani tells his followers that while the Shah has defeated the Byzantines, half his army has been killed, and both the Shah and Malik have been wounded in battle. Though he is offered a position as counselor to Hasani, Omar denounces his traitorous friend, yet is still allowed to leave the fortress. Omar then rides to the mortally wounded Shah, who has already been told that Ahmud has raised a rebel army against him. Using Byzantine prisoners to dig into Alamut, Omar lights the pools of saffron oil underneath the Assassins' hideout, setting the fortress afire, while Malik, who has been appointed the new Shah upon the death of his father, attacks his brother's troops at daybreak. With the Assassins destroyed and Ahmud killed, Malik makes his first royal proclamation, releasing Sharain from her court vows and into the arms of Omar. 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp.  
Director: William Dieterle (Dir)
  Francisco Day (Asst dir)
  Peter Herald (Dial dir)
  Lloyd Allen (2d asst dir)
  Joe McEveety (2d asst dir)
Producer: Frank Freeman Jr. (Prod)
Writer: Barré Lyndon (Wrt)
Photography: Ernest Laszlo (Dir of photog)
  Buddy Wyler (Cam op)
  Dick Johnson (1st asst cam)
  Bill Thomas (Stills)
  Roy Roberts (Gaffer)
  Pep Lee (Best boy)
  Fred True (Company grip)
Art Direction: Hal Pereira (Art dir)
  Joseph MacMillan Johnson (Art dir)
Film Editor: Everett Douglas (Ed)
Set Decoration: Sam Comer (Set dec)
  Grace Gregory (Set dec)
  Arthur Camp (Props)
  Harold Worthington (Props)
  Dominic Mautino (Standby painter)
Costumes: Ralph Jester (Cost)
  Hazel Haggerty (Ladies' ward)
  Buddy Clark (Men's ward)
Music: Victor Young (Mus score)
Sound: Gene Merritt (Sd rec)
  Winston Leverett (Sd rec)
  Edwin Hodgett (Sd boom man)
  Spurgeon Marsh (Sd boom man)
  Henry Keener (Sd rec)
  George Swartout (Sd cableman)
  John Smirch (Mike grip)
Special Effects: John P. Fulton (Spec photog eff)
  Farciot Edouart (Process photog)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup supv)
  Lou Phillippi (Makeup)
  Frank Westmore (Makeup)
  Charles Gemora (Makeup)
  Alma Johnson (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Abdel Salam Moussa (Tech adv)
  Frank Caffey (Prod mgr)
  Curtis Mick (Asst prod mgr)
  Charles Woolstenhulm (Unit prod mgr)
  Bert McKay (Casting dir)
  Olive Long (Secy)
  Charles Morton (Scr supv)
  Harry Mines (Pub)
  Bill Hurley (Livestock supv)
Color Personnel: Richard Mueller (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "The Loves of Omar Khayyam," music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans; "Take My Heart," music and lyrics by Mack David and Victor Young; "Lament," music and lyrics by Moises Vivanco.
Composer: Mack David
  Ray Evans
  Jay Livingston
  Moises Vivanco
  Victor Young

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures Corp. 1/8/1957 dd/mm/yyyy LP8814

PCA NO: 18204
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor
  Widescreen/ratio: VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity

 
Genre: Adventure
  Adventure
Sub-Genre: Arabian
  with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Arabs
  Friendship
  Omar Khayyám
  Love
  Persia
  Poets
  Royalty
  Traitors
 
Subjects (Minor): Assassins
  Astronomy
  Brothers
  Calendars
  Carrier pigeons
  Clocks
  Courts and courtiers
  Drunkenness
  Explosions
  Falls from heights
  Fathers and daughters
  Fathers and sons
  Fights
  Fires
  Hideouts
  Murder
  Sects
  Slaves
  Unrequited love
  Weddings

Note: The working title of this film was The Loves of Omar Khayyam . The onscreen title cards read: " The Life, Loves and Adventures of Omar Khayyam ." The picture begins with the following foreword spoken by Raymond Massey: "A thousand years ago, the Persian Empire stretched from the Mediterranean Sea, all the way to India and down to Egypt. This great empire was ruled by a warrior Shah. He had the absolute power of life and death. Even the most exalted bent at his feet. Yet this mighty ruler would now be forgotten but for the work of a man who was among the humblest of his subjects: Omar Khayyám. He was a happy man, with friends among both the lowly and the great in the ancient city of Nishapur. The motto of those dangerous and exciting days was 'Think as your master thinks.' But Omar Khayyám thought for himself. He was a lover of life and wisdom, a poet when the mood was upon him and a mathematician when it was not. He was a student of the stars and those things written in the stars. Omar Khayyám had an understanding of human nature and a philosophy which has conquered the hearts of men and of women." Although the name of the real-life Omar Khayyám was spelled with an accent mark, the title of the film omits it.
       Born 18 May 1048 in Nishapur, Omar Khayyám was a Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer, renowned in his own time for his scientific achievements, but better known in modern days for his poetry. His name Khayyám ("Tentmaker") may have been derived from his father's trade. After being educated in the sciences and philosophy, Khayyám went to Samarkand, where he completed an important treatise on algebra and was invited by the Seljuq sultan Malik-Shah to revise the Persian calendar. He was also commissioned to build an observatory in the city of Esfahan in collaboration with other astronomers. After the death of his patron in 1092, Khayyám returned to Nishapur, where he taught and served the court from time to time. Khayyám's poetry had attracted comparatively little attention until Edward FitzGerald published the celebrated The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in 1859, a collection of Khayyám's verse which has now been translated into most major languages and is largely responsible for coloring European ideas about Persian poetry. Omar Khayyám died on 4 Dec 1131.
       According to the file on the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Omar Khayyam cost approximately $2,272,000 to produce, though Paramount publicity materials put the figure closer to $3,000,000. Actors considered for the role of "Omar" included John Forsythe, Robert Wagner, Rossano Brazzi and John Neville. Actresses contemplated for the role of "Sharain" included Joanne Dru, Yvonne De Carlo, Donna Reed and Joan Collins. HR news items report that portions of the film were shot on location in the Indio and Palm Springs regions of Southern California.
       According to Paramount studio records, a dispute over the authorship and screen credits for Omar Khayyam erupted between the studio and Pasha Khan. LAEx reported on 5 Mar 1954 that Hosseim Pashe, a bartender at the Vagabond Restaurant in Los Angeles, had sold an original story based on the life of Omar Khayyám to Paramount and had been engaged by the studio to write the screenplay. On 10 Mar 1954, HR , referring to the writer as Pasha Khan, stated that he had sold a two-hundred page manuscript on Omar Khayyám to the studio, and that Paramount was retaining him to do further research for the film. In an internal memo, dated 12 Apr 1956, the studio stated that Khan would not receive any writing credit for the film, as Paramount had purchased the title The Loves of Omar Khayyam from him, but had chosen not to use his story. Under this agreement, Khan was to be paid for twelve weeks of work.
       In Dec 1955, DV reported that Khan had filed a $27,000 lawsuit against Paramount, arguing that the studio had purchased his script for $1,000 in Feb 1954, then agreed to pay him for four weeks work to prepare the film and an additional ten weeks work serving as technical advisor. In rebuttal, Paramount stated that Khan had been paid in full according to the terms of his contract, but was not used as the film's technical advisor and thus should not be credited as such. In the suit, Khan sought $2,000 in lost wages, plus another $25,000 for "loss of prestige." The final disposition of this lawsuit has not been ascertained.
       Actor Michael Rennie was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for his appearance in Omar Khayyam . Frank Freeman, Jr. received his first credit as producer on the film, having previously worked as an associate producer. Freeman was the son of long-time Paramount executive Y. Frank Freeman, Sr. DV reported in Jun 1957 that Paramount was planning to open the film in Teheran, Iran, but it has not been confirmed that the world premiere was held in that city. Other films featuring the character of "Omar Khayyám" include the 1922 release Omar the Tentmaker , starring Guy Bates Post and Virginia Brown Faire under the direction of James Young, and A Lover's Oath , a 1925 Astor Pictures production, directed by Ferdinand P. Earle and starring Ramon Novarro and Kathleen Key (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   1 Apr 1956   p. 198.
Box Office   3 Aug 1957.   
Daily Variety   17 Dec 1955.   
Daily Variety   26 Jun 1957.   
Daily Variety   1 Aug 1957   p. 3.
Film Daily   5 Aug 1957   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Mar 1954.   
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Mar 1956   p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Apr 1956   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Aug 1957   p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner   5 Mar 1954.   
Los Angeles Times   22 Aug 1957.   
Motion Picture Daily   6 Aug 1957.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Aug 1957   p. 481.
New York Times   24 Aug 1957   p. 12.
Variety   7 Aug 1957   p. 6.

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