Samson and Delilah (1949)

 

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Starring:  Victor Mature (Samson), Hedy Lamarr (Delilah), George Sanders (The Saran of Gaza), Angela Lansbury (Semadar), Henry Wilcoxon (Prince Ahtur), Olive Deering (Miriam), Fay Holden (Hazel), Russel Tamblyn (Saul), George Reeves (Wounded Messenger), Tom Tyler (Gristmill captain), Fritz Leiber (Lord Sharif), Mike Mazurki (Leader of Philistine Sold).

Oscars: Art Direction-Set Decoration and Costumes

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Zorah, Dan, 1,000 B.C.  Samson was a man of both greatness and weakness.  For 40 years the Philistines held his people in bondage and yet he wants to marry a Philistine woman.  His father and mother oppose the idea and suggest that he should marry Miriam who loves him very much. 

Samson goes to visit the Philistine woman Semadar.  Delilah, Semadar's younger sister, throws plums at the couple.  Ahtur, the Governor of Gaza, interrupts the couple and asks that Semadar go hunting a lion with him.  Semadar goes with Ahtur.  Delilah rides in her chariot holding onto Samson to hunt and kill the lion before the hunters get to the lion.  They find the lion and Samson kills it with his bear hands.  The Saran of Gaza and the other hunters arrive.  Delilah tells them that Samson has killed the lion with his bare hands, but they are very skeptical.  To prove that Samson is as strong as Delilah says he is, they have him fight a huge wrestler.  Samson defeats him handily.  The Saran gives Samson a ring as the prize for killing the lion, but Samson says he would rather have a Philistine bride, namely Semadar.  Ahtur is extremely angered, but the Saran says he promised Samson.    

Delilah is very angry at Samson and she tells the Philistines that with 30 of their warriors at the coming wedding they could capture Samson.  At the wedding Samson challenges the Philistines with a riddle.  The prize for guessing the riddle will be 30 garments, one for each of the soldiers.  If they can't guess the riddle they will each give Samson a garment.  Delilah tells Ahtur that he can get the answer from Semadar who can in turn get it from Samson.  Ahtur tells Semadar that his men think that she has sided against them.  He also tells her to get the answer or death may come.  Semadar gets the answer from Samson by telling him that he does not really trust her.  Later Ahtur gives the answer to the riddle.  The Philistines now demand their 30 garments.  Samson says they will get their garments.  He goes out and grabs 30 garments from the local merchants.  Samson returns and throws the garments to the soldiers.  But now he learns that Semadar has been wed to Ahtur.  Samson is very angry, but the father asks Samson to take Delilah instead.  Samson refuses which makes Delilah angry and she tells Samson that this whole affair was due to her plotting.  A fight ensues between Samson and the Philistines.  In the fight a thrown spear kills Semadar.  Samson vanquishes the soldiers.  He then sets fire to the Philistine wheat fields. 

Delilah wants vengeance.  The Philistines also want vengeance and so they increase the taxes on Samson's people, telling them that they will stop the taxation when they bring Samson to them.  Feeling bad that he had brought on this heavy taxation on his people, Samson agrees to be bound and turned over to the Philistines.  As the Philistines force Samson to walk tied to a chariot, they constantly taunt him.  Growing tired of the harassment, Samson appeals to his God who answers with a lightning storm.  Samson breaks the ropes constraining him and kills many of the soldiers with the jawbone of an ass.  A wounded soldier reports to the Saracen that a 100 soldiers have been killed and perhaps the number is as high as 1,000. 

At a council meeting, the members agree that no man can stand against Samson.  Listening, Delilah remarks that "Maybe he'll fall before a woman.  I can deliver Samson to you."  She strikes a deal with the wealthy men.  Each of them will pay her 11 hundred pieces of silver when she delivers Samson to them.  The only condition she imposes is that they promise not to draw any of his blood. 

Delilah camps near where she knows Samson will notice.  Samson comes to her tent and starts to gather the valuables there.  He is not aware that Delilah is in the tent.  She confronts Samson and he realizes her true identity.  He calls her "the great courtesan of Gaza" for he realizes that the Philistines have set "a silk trap baited with a woman."  At least Delilah is honest and forthright with Samson.  She says right out that "I came to betray you."  She asks him the source of his great strength.  Three times he gives her a false answer.  She discovers each lie, by screaming: "The Philistines are upon you" and watching Samson jump up and break his chains.  But the flesh is weak and Samson finally succumbs to her charms.  He starts to tell her the source of his strength, but she stops him telling him not to tell her, but instead go away with her to Egypt.  At this moment Miriam and Saul arrive to give Samson the news that his mother has been chained and whipped and his father stoned.  Samson immediately prepares to leave with Miriam and Saul.  This infuriates the very jealous Delilah and she asks Samson to delay his return home and he agrees.  Miriam and Saul return home.  Delilah now asks Samson to tell her the source of his strength and he tells her it is his long hair.       

Delilah puts a sleeping potion in his drink and watches as Samson collapses.  She then cuts off his hair.  The Philistines arrive and take him prisoner.  When Deliah is gone, they blind Samson by placing a hot poker near his eyes.  The Philistines then do with Samson what Delilah wanted and chain him to the grist mill forcing him to push the wheel around and around while the Philistine people taunt him.  

When Delilah sees the captive, she is shocked and very upset to learn that Samson is now blind.  The seasons pass and Delilah is constantly haunted by what she did to Samson.  She goes to speak with Samson.  She wants to help him escape and says "Let me be your eyes."  The couple embrace.  But when Samson hears from Delilah that the Philistine plan is to bind him between the two main support pillars of the temple, he recognizes how he can bring vengeance on the Philistines and make amends for his offense against God. 

Samson and Delilah go to the temple arena.  Delilah pretends for the crowd that she wants to be the one to lash Samson with a whip.  But she has Samson grab the whip and then she leads him to the two support pillars.  The Philistines think that this is all part of the act.  They soon find out how wrong they were when Samson pushes one column down and then the other.  Most of the Philistines are crushed to death by the huge stones that fall one after another in a domino effect.  Samson, of course, is also killed, while Delilah escapes death, as was the wish of Samson.

 

Yeah, it's an o.k. movie.  Victor Mature did better than I expected.  Hedy Lamarr was very pretty as Delilah, although she had a bit too much innocence in her face.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D..

 


Historical Background:

 

Samson

Born Hebrew SHIMSHON, of peasant parents of the tribe of Dan at Zorah, near Jerusalem.

Samson becomes a Nazirite; i.e., one set aside for God by a vow to abstain from strong drink, from shaving or cutting the hair, and from contact with a dead body.

Samson was incredibly strong. He slew a lion, moved the gates of Gaza, and decimated the Philistines in a private war. His legendary deeds hint at the weight of Philistine pressure on Israel during much of the early, tribal period of Israel in Canaan (1200-1000).

But Samson had a weakness: women. Samson had a virtual sex addiction. He first broke his religious promises by feasting with a woman from the neighboring town of Timnah, who was a Philistine. He finally falls victim to his foes through the love of Delilah, a woman of the valley of Sorek, who seduces him into revealing the secret of his strength: his long Nazirite hair. As he slept, Delilah had his hair cut and betrayed him.

He is captured, blinded, and enslaved by the Philistines. Repenting, he is granted back his strength. He demolishes the great Philistine temple of the god Dagon, at Gaza, destroying his captors and himself (Judg.16:4-30). His death is presented not as suicidal but as a return to his Nazirite vows.

The moral of Samson's decline was don't violate the Nazirite vow, following the overall principle that when the Israelites were unfaithful to Yahweh, they were oppressed and, when they appealed to him, they were liberated.

 

 

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