Here’s a screengrab of text from the book, PAUL NEWMAN: A LIFE by Shawn Levy describing Newman’s hatred for the first movie he ever starred in, THE SILVER CHALICE (1954). I won’t reprint the text here. Read it. It’s quite funny and sad.
Did Paul hate the movie because critics thought he looked a lot like Marlon Brando? Yes, the movie itself is not successful in a standard narrative kind of way. But the movie is sometimes visually fascinating. It’s amazing that he spent that much movie for an ad and it created the opposite effect: people who caught the ad now wanted to see the movie.
His statement about ‘wearing a cocktail dress’ pretty much sums up the way many view PEPLUM movies. Modern day audiences have trouble seeing men in clothes from Antiquity.
Paul Newman and Pier Angeli
This ad, published in MOTION PICTURE DAILY, shows the two big upcoming movies from Paramount in the *fall* of 1959: LI’L ABNER and the re-release of SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949)
The re-release of SAMSON AND DELILAH was set after the success of HERCULES, which was made in 1958 but released in August of 1959 in America. Remarkably enough, Steve Reeves auditioned for the role of Samson but his physique was considered too much by DeMille who eventually cast Victor Mature. Just to show you how influential the success of HERCULES was, just look at the original poster of SAMSON AND DELILAH when it was released in 1949 and compare it to when it was re-released in the fall of 1959.
The new poster amplified the muscular action hero and replicated the look of Steve Reeves as Hercules even though Victor Mature wasn’t even close to having the body of Reeves. Even the text “THE MIGHTIEST MORTAL WHO EVER LIVED!” is a direct line taken from HERCULES’ trailer. And notice how SAMSON is huge and ‘…AND DELILAH’ is much smaller. DeMille and Paramount finally took notice of Reeves.
Second, Steve Reeves tried to audition for the role of Li’l Abner.
He didn’t get the role which wasn’t a big loss considering how bizarre the movie was. It might have been a big loss for Paramount though. Had Steve starred in LI’L ABNER and the film released right after HERCULES, who knows how successful it might have been. I’m certain someone back then at Paramount mused about this. Even so, the apparent influence of Reeves and the success of HERCULES was obvious in the trade publication ad above.
One of the fun things in scoping old magazines dedicated to the movie industry is finding ads which indirectly dealt with the PEPLUM genre. Here’s a good example: the durability of the prints for SPARTACUS (1960). It seems Hollywood used the epics of the time to boost new technological advances, including THE ROBE (1953) being the first movie shown in widescreen.
Great news on the Blu-ray front: THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1961) starring Steve Reeves, Giorgia Moll, Hedy Vessel and Arturo Dominici will finally get a proper HD transfer. This has been a long time coming. All DVD releases were terrible, which horrible pan & scan or faux widescreen aspect ratios, and murky image quality. This is one of my most sought after titles and it’ll be available in Germany. I’ve already ordered it. This Blu-ray also has the Italian, German and English audio. This is a great Christmas present. In fact, the movie has a very Christmassy feel to it so hopefully I’ll receive before the holidays. Thanks to Chris for this tip.
Link to Amazon.de : THIEF OF BAGHDAD
Check out the screengrabs.
10 or so years ago I began the long and tedious project of creating a database of the PEPLUM genre which was never completed. The project fell through after Youtube closed all of my channels: PEPLUMz, SapphoPEPLUM and WITH FIRE & SWORD. You can see the channels’ thumbnails on the left column.
Since everything was in turmoil back then I decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing since the channels were all closed. Since then I created new Youtube channels but the project was put on hold indefinitely. Now I’m thinking of resuming the project which might take up to a year to complete. It’s a slow process. Anyway here are some of the banners I made for the website.