Saturday, June 2, 2012


 A Continental Company Ltd Production











Assistant Director - Paul Helmick   Director of Photography - Lee Garmes A.S.C & Russell Harlan A.S.C
   Music by Dimitri Tiomkin   Art Director - Alexandre Trauner  Associate Producer - Arthur Siteman
      Written by William Faulkner & Harry Kurnitz & Harold Jack Bloom   Edited by V.Sagovsky
                          Produced by Howard Hawks       Directed by Howard Hawks
(c)  1955  Warner Bros .. Warnercolor ...  105 Mins .. Region 1 DVD from Warner Camp Classics!

With a cast of thousands, ( 9,787 extras in one scene!), this was Joan's first big budget film, directed by Hollywood heavyweight director Howard Hawks.Joan had gone to Paris to do a screen test for a film called "My Kingdom For A Woman", where she met Hawks in the bar of the George V hotel.  Although she did not get the role, her meeting with Hawks must have made an impression on him as he summoned her to Rome to star as the scheming Princess Nellifer. Joan was appearing at the Q theatre in London with Donald Houston in "Claudia & David", where after her last performance, she literally left the theatre and rushed home to gather her belongings to fly to Rome. Hawks had originally cast an actress who was also a model called Ivy Nicholson, but she was becoming too demanding for Hawks, who had no alternative but to fire her! The film was shot in various locations in Egypt, in Luxor, Giza and the Valley of the Kings, with interiors at Rome's, Titanus studios. However Joan's scenes were shot in Rome, where she grew to love it's various restaurants, shops and the night life! It also had the attraction of a certain Sydney Chaplin, son of the legendary Charlie, whom she had begun an affair with.  Joan was still married to Maxwell Reed, but she was anxious to get a divorce, but she had to wait until the marriage had ran a course of three years, before she could apply. Chaplin had just finished an affair with another British star, Kay Kendall. Joan and Sydney spent three months on the film set by day, whilst sampling a bit too much of the Roman food and drink by night. As Joan's costumes were more than revealing, she started to gain weight, with all the pasta dinners they enjoyed. The most famous
incident relates to the refusal of the Ruby, that was used to cover her navel, to stay in place! As censorship deemed the sight of the female navel too much for audiences, it had to be covered up, but as Joan had gained weight it would not stay in and it continued to pop out causing Joan to collapse with laughter, much to the annoyance of Hawks. Finally they managed to use glue to keep it in, while Joan was ordered to cut back on eating and drinking and lose weight. Joan's stand-in on the film was the Egyptian star Dalida, who began her career on this film and since went on to become a big star of both films and  music. Although "Land of the Pharaohs" was one of Warner Bros most expensive films for it's time, it was not a box office hit. It was Hawk's first commercial failure and he found it hard to get over that fact by giving up Hollywood for four years to travel around Europe. His reasons for making the film was simply the fact he was approached to make a Cinemascope picture and he wanted a story which would project an astonishing feat of construction. His original plan was to film a story set in China, concerning the building of an airfield for the American army. In the story it was projected to take eight months, but the Chinese supplied twenty thousand men and women and the project was completed in three weeks. But that story was abandoned, due to the political situation at the time, which made co-operation with Red China, impossible. Hawks then decided on the building of the pyramids, as it had a similar story.
 A.H Weiler wrote this review..
" The grandeur, imperial power and glory of ancient Egypt, seems to have captivated director Howard Hawks."Land of the Pharaoh's", revealed yesterday in vivid hues and the logically vast dimensions of Cinemascope, has scenes as spectacularly panoramic as any since Cecil B De-Mille  began fashioning variations on the old testament. But while it is impressively sweeping in the eye filling pageantry, this saga of the building of a colossal pyramid 5,000 years ago is staged on the creaky foundations of a tale of palace intrigue, that must have been banal even in the first Dynasty! Mr Hawks in short, is more passionate about the archaeological aspects, rather than stirring inventive drama. There is little distinction in the performances of the principals.
Jack Hawkins is merely a grim autocrat driven by selfishness and anxiety, to force his minions to work on a stupendous project!

Joan Collins as the ill-fated princess is a torrid baggage, in filmy costumes, who obviously is equipped to turn potentates head. Her acting never does!
In journeying to Egypt, Hawks has managed to re-create in fascinating style, a part of the large picture of antiquity. His story is merely ancient!"
Howard Hawks did return to Hollywood and made the now classic western "Rio Bravo". Joan, however had sealed her fate as a Hollywood star, as Twentieth Century Fox mogul, Daryl Zanuck saw the rushes of "Pharaoh's" and was eager to buy her from The Rank Organisation, by offering her a contract with Fox. Although "Land of the Pharaoh's" was a flop in it's day, it has since become a cult favourite and it is an enjoyable slice of biblical hokum, with Joan looking stunning as the scheming Princess Nellifer and wonderful locations and a cast of thousands, what more do you want!

(c) 2010   Mark Mc Morrow...

1 comment:

  1. Yes, The Land of the Pharaohs is a cult classic. The film simply is very entertaining today.
    Joan looks sensational and she acts with a self confidence which is hard to believe. Let us remember that she was only 20/21 years old.
    Star quality....


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