Constructing the Motherliness of Manoah’s Wife in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949)

Anton Karl Kozlovic

Abstract


Cecil B. DeMille is an unsung auteur and master of the American Biblical Epic who produced and directed Samson and Delilah (1949). Historically speaking, this Technicolor testament was a watershed film that sired the rash of 1950s biblical epics, but few are cognisant of the artistic efforts that DeMille had expended to achieve scriptural, religious and emotional authenticity, even for his relatively minor film characters. A good example of this DeMillean artistry was the engineered motherliness of Manoah’s wife (Samson’s mother) whom DeMille called “Hazel…” on-screen and “Hazeleponit” off-screen. The critical literature was reviewed and DeMille’s cinematic construction of this honoured Israelite woman was explicated. It was concluded that DeMille was a far more subtle biblical filmmaker and knowledgeable gender engineer than has hitherto been acknowledged, and that he had deliberately chosen to accentuate the motherliness of this pious woman for contrasting dramatic effect. Further research into DeMille Studies, pop culture constructions of biblical women, and the interdisciplinary field of religion-and-film was recommended.

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