Samson and Delilah

Gasser

Samson and Delilah (1950)

     Biblical tales typically fail to grab my interest, probably primarily because the time period does not interest me. And frankly, I should probably stop using George Sanders as a guidepost for which movies I pursue. Samson and Delilah was alright, and Hedy Lamarr thoroughly sexy, but it was kind of a middle-of-the-road movie for me.

     I really knew nothing of the story beyond Samson’s hair being the source of his overwhelming strength. Turns out Samson, a Danite (the people who worship the traditional Lord and are considered second-class citizens), is in love with a Philistine woman, briefly played by possibly the most lovely Angela Lansbury I’ve seen to date. Samson, played by Victor Mature, selects her as his bride after killing a lion with his bare hands and impressing the Philistine leader, The Saran, personified by George Sanders. The bride-to-be’s sister, Delilah, has already made her affections for Samson known and is bitter over her rejection, but it is the other Philistine men who cannot handle the Danite’s entrance into their society. When Lansbury’s character betrays her husband to the other Philistines on their wedding day, a battle ensues that involves her death by her own people. Samson flees and Delilah begins plotting her revenge.

     After the Danite people have been thoroughly “taxed” and tortured for not giving up the strongman and Samson continues to kill Philistines, he is finally located by Delilah when he stumbles upon her secluded caravan. Delilah has by now taken up with the Saran and has been promised incredible wealth if she can find the source of Samson’s strength and take it from him. Some thorough seduction ensues and once the two are genuinely in love, the Danite reveals that like the mane of a lion, his hair is the symbol of his strength. A bit of jealousy over another woman makes Delilah shake her affection for the man, and she drugs him and shears his hair. She requires he not be killed nor his blood drawn, but the Philistines blind his eyes with heat before tethering him to the millstone where he grinds the city’s grain.

     Delilah has a change of heart when she sees her love in this state. She conspires to set him free only after a certain amount of time passes and his hair has grown long again. He rediscovers his strength and manages to take out the entire Philistine population in one strong push.

     As you can tell from what might be my longest synopsis of a movie, Samson and Delilah is the sort of epic and extravagant tale for which Director Cecil B. DeMille was well known. Paramount Pictures had cut back on lavish dramas of this sort during WWII, but it was 1950 and time for DeMille to bring back his popular style of filmmaking. This was Lamarr’s first color picture and the last big success she would have. The Austrian actress is absolutely stunning in the colorful picture and a great pick for this role. I have not seen many of her films and had not given much thought to her acting ability before now, but she really does a great job as Delilah — a woman torn between love and jealousy. It’s not a picture I would see again, but it is an interesting tale.

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