music friday
skin: a history of nudity in the movies (danny wolf, 2020)

geezer cinema: samson and delilah (cecil b. demille, 1949)

This is the twelfth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 12 is called And the Winner is Edith Head Week:

When people think costume design in film, there's one name that seems to be synonymous with the craft, that being the incomparable Edith Head. With close to 400 credits as costume designer under her belt (pun intended), Edith has shaped the look of some of film's most classic characters, and we're gonna take a look at the times that the Academy gave her the prize.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film for which Edith Head wins an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

I don't usually notice costumes ... well, you can't watch a movie without noticing the costumes, so better to say I don't know what makes for a Best Costume Design. I can tell you that the Oscar for Best Costume Design went to five people, only one of whom was named Edith Head (Dorothy Jeakins, Elois Jenssen, Gile Steele, Gwen Wakeling). I can also tell you that Samson and Delilah won the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color. Probably most important, though, was that it was a huge box-office success.

Samson and Delilah never surprises. Once you know that Cecil B. DeMille has directed another Bible extravaganza, and that Victor Mature is Samson and Hedy Lamarr is Delilah, you pretty much know what is coming, and you are correct, it is coming. Mature shows off his beefcake, Lamarr does nothing to suggest she didn't deserve to be called "The World's Most Beautiful Woman". Her beauty is distracting ... Mature's beefcake is standard issue, he's not the World's Most of anything, but Lamarr is exquisite, and given what we know about her now (she helped invent technology that led to Bluetooth, among other things), you can pass the time imagining her watching the DeMille silliness and thinking "I wonder when Bluetooth will be in wide usage". She's actually pretty good in Samson and Delilah. Granted, her competition is Victor Mature, but there have been plenty of worse performances by stunning beauties. Neither of the stars detracts from our enjoyment ... in fact, they are key reasons why the movie is entertaining.

Plenty of others turn up: George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, a young Russ Tamblyn. And the narrative is reasonably close to the Bible's ... Samson kicks a thousand men's butts using the jawbone of an ass, Delilah seduces Samson to learn the secret of his strength, she cuts off his hair, he is blinded and forced into slavery (is it a spoiler if the plot comes from more than 2500 years ago?). And then, it's a bit like watching a movie that features an earthquake. You know it's coming, you wait for it, even when you are watching something good, part of you holds back until you get to see that earthquake. In Samson and Delilah, we wait for most of two hours just to get to the big finale where Samson destroys the temple. DeMille doesn't spare the expense ... that finale is pretty damned impressive.

So yeah, it's junk, but it's good junk. It's worth at least one watch, if not repeated viewings.


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