Helen of Troy

In 1955, the American public's growing fascination with television was beginning to keep them away from movie theatres. In an attempt to lure them back, the studios turned to sweeping historical epics— stories, movie "experiences," that would put small screens to shame. Wise took on this project as a challenge, to see if he could get himself "into that mainstream of big-size picture-making."*

Jack Sernas (Paris) and Rossana Podesta (Helen)

Jack Sernas and Rossana Podesta

Typically, cutting had not been frequently used with CinemaScope, because the wide shots could contain so much information. Wise, ever the editor at heart, did not agree. "I saw no reason why I couldn't compose and shoot CinemaScope and edit it just the same way as I had done in the old frame. I decided I could use over-the-shoulder shots, big-head closeups and cut them in as long as I composed them carefully, because you have to balance the closeup with something interesting on the other side. I deliberately tried this in tests and found out there was no reason why I couldn't get the same kind of angles and coverage that I used to get....I think I was the first one to use editing in its purest sense with CinemaScope."*

Big Screen

Wise's dedication to realistic detail in every aspect led him to overdub the voices of the two leads (the Italian actress Rossana Podesta and the French actor Jack Sernas) so that their accents would not differ from the rest of the cast, who were mostly British.

Synopsis Paris, Prince of Troy, sails to Sparta on a mission of peace. His ship is forced to return to Troy in a storm after he has been swept overboard. Swept to Sparta's shore, he is found by Queen Helen, with whom he falls in love.


Going to the palace, he finds Greek kings Menelaus (Helen's husband), Agamemnon, Ulysses, Achilles, and others debating whether or not to go to war with Troy. Menelaus sees that Helen and Paris are in love and, pretending friendship, plots Paris' death. Warned by Helen, Paris flees and Helen is forced to accompany him to Troy. The Greeks unite, and the siege of Troy begins. Much blood is shed in the long ordeal, with the Trojans blaming their plight on Paris and Helen. The siege culminates in Greek victory through the ruse of the Trojan horse, and Helen is forced to return with Menelaus, serene in the knowledge that she will someday be reunited with Paris, now dead.

From The Motion Picture Exhibitor, December 28, 1955.

Wise Facts
  • The movie featured a young Brigitte Bardot in the role of Andraste.
  • Filmed at Rome's legendary Cinecittę studio.
  • Credits:118 min. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Screenplay by: John Twist and Hugh Gray, based on Homer's "Iliad";  Edited by: Thomas Reilly;  Director of Photography: Harry Stradling;  Music by: Max Steiner;  Art Direction by: Edward Carrere;  Sound by: Charles Lang;  Costumes by: Irene Sharaff;  Make-up by: Bill Phillips;  Hair by: Alfred Scott;  Bacchanal Choreography by: Madi Obolensky.
    Brigitte Bardot Cast  Rossana Podesta (Helen), Jack Sernas (Paris), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Priam),,Stanley Baker (Achilles), Niall MacGinnis (Menelaus), Nora Swinburne (Hecuba), Robert Douglas (Agamemnon), Torin Thatcher (Ulysses), Harry Andrews (Hector), Janette,Scott (Cassandra), Ronald Lewis (Aeneas), Brigitte Bardot (Andraste), Eduardo Ciannelli (Andros), Marc Lawrence (Diomedes), Maxwell Reed (Ajax), Robert Brown (Polydorus), Barbara Cavan (Cora), Terence Longdon (Patroclus), Patricia Marmont,(Andromache), Guido Notari (Nestor), Tonio Selwart (Adelphous), Georges Zoritch,(Dance Specialty), Esmond Knight (The High Priest).

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    1. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 125
    2. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 126

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