Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The DALIDA Peplum mystery

Hopefully this won't come out as confusing but wen talking about 'international' star Dalida, things usually get a bit messy.

Dalida was born in Egypt, from Italian parents, and moved to Paris to become the legendary international singer. So she's an Italian Egyptian-born French singer who sang in multiple different languages (French, Arab, Italian, Spanish, English, German, Japanese, etc...) but mainly in French. OK got that out of the way.

Dalida got her start in her as an actress in Egyptian films back in the early 1950s where she was still living. In the Youtube video below, at the 6:07 mark she recalls her first major movie experience where she met Omar Sharif, who also became a superstar in his own right. In the interview she says that she met Omar for the first time on the set of JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN. Omar was the stand-in for the main male character and Dalida was the stand-in for the main female character. The interviewer asks Dalida who was the actress she was standing in for and she says it was supposed to be Rita Hayworth but eventually the role was played by Joan Collins.

Test photo of Rita Hayworth for the failed JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN project.

Now this is part of the mystery or the confusing part. Rita Hayworth was supposed to play in an adaptation of the JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN story which was eventually cancelled. It's not unusual for Hollywood productions to send out a crew on a faraway location to shot exteriors with stand-ins to save some money. They did this with SINBAD & THE EYE OF THE TIGER: all exterior location shots were filmed with stand-ins. So far so good. Dalida's story is probable but when she says that the role was eventually played by Joan Collins well this changes everything and instead of the never filmed JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN project Dalida is talking about the completed LAND OF THE PHARAOHS project directed by Howard Hawks, which was partially filmed on location in Egypt. JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN was a Columbia Pictures film and LAND OF THE PHARAOHS is a Warner Bros pictures film so I doubt the two were related in anyway so I don't believe the failed JOSEPH project eventually morphed into the PHARAOHS one. Dalida might have confused a few things during the interview but this admission, that she was Joan Collins' stand-in, is interesting in may other ways.

IMDb has Dalida credited as Joan Collins' stand-in for LAND OF THE PHARAOHS...is this true?

LAND OF THE PHARAOHS was filmed on location in Egypt for the BIG exterior shots while ALL interior scenes were filmed at Cinecitta studios which is in Italy, not Egypt. Almost all of Joan Collins scenes were shot in studio. Joan only has one exterior scene in the final film and it looks like it was also filmed in Italy (I've seen this location in other PEPLUM films which weren't filmed in Egypt). Dalida was living in Egypt and claims she was Joan's stand-in. Hmm...? 

This is the only scene with Joan that wasn't filmed in a studio in LAND OF THE PHARAOHS. It looks like it was filmed in Italy not Egypt.

It is possible that they filmed scenes of the two main characters for some wide exterior shots with Omar Sharif and Dalida that were eventually left on the cutting room floor. But Dalida's assertion that she was Joan Collins stand-in can't be true as Joan didn't shoot any scenes in Egypt and Dalida had never been outside of Egypt before moving to Paris in December 1954.

The funny part of all of this is that half of Dalida's story is fact and holds up to scrutiny but the other half doesn't hold up much. The only way to know for sure if Dalida was involved in either of these films would be to ask Joan Collins and Omar Sharif for their recollection of the events. And how did it go from JOSEPH & HIS BRETHREN to LAND OF THE PHARAOHS? As it is now much of it doesn't make sense. The fact that Dalida and Omar Sharif started their careers together is true. But which PEPLUM film were they really involved if any at all? 

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