Monday, September 19, 2022


Messalina (Susan Hayward) inspects gladiators in DEMTRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954)

I was watching an old episode of WHAT'S MY LINE? and the mystery guest was Van Johnson. One of the panels hosts, Arlene Francis, asked Johnson if he starred in a Biblical movie and Johnson said no. A surprised Arlerne then said, "Everyone starred in Biblical movies..."

Though Biblical movies were all the rage back then, they were also, to a certain extent, looked down upon. The panel's reaction to the fact that a famous actor didn't appear in a Biblical movie was telling. Hitchcock apparently hated these movies too. Susan Hayward was one of those stars who actually loved making Biblical movies, or epics, or PEPLUM movies. Her performance as Messalina shows she 'got' the genre. That's Ernest Borgnine behind Susan and Barrys Jones to the left. Ed Fury was one of the gladiators but he's not in this shot.


Anonymous said...

These movie weren't looked down upon until much later. At the time they were incredibly popular and made vast amounts of money. I can see where they wouldn't be Hitchcock's "thing" but most of the other major directors tried their hands at an epic film at least once. Susan Hayward didn't love making these films. In fact she only agreed to make David and Bathsheba when threatened with suspension by the studio.

PEPLUM TV said...

The WML episode was from the early 1960s, not the 1950s. People by them might have had Biblical movies exhaustion.

Anonymous said...

The panel on WML was always a bit snobby. Check out the one with Jeff Chandler. Sign of the Pagan had just opened when he was on it.

I think audiences started to get fed up with the Epic genre after Cleopatra but it took The Bible...In the Beginning to really do it in.

PEPLUM TV said...

I saw the Jeff Chandler one. Ouch!

Anonymous said...

Changing the subject, Kino just announced that they are going to be releasing the Rory Calhoun movie Marco Polo sometime later this year.
It is going to be the longer Italian cut rather than the AIP version.
Good news and something to look forward to.