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SAMSON AND DELILAH – Victor Young

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of the film began in 1934 when Paramount Studios announced that it would follow-up its lavish 1934 production of Cleopatra with the biblical romance tale of Samson and Delilah. Film rights to the libretto of the 1877 opera Samson and Delila by Camille Saint-Saëns was purchased. It would however take twelve years for renowned producer-director Cecil B. DeMille to finally get the project off the ground. He secured a budget of $3.0 million and hired Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Fredric M. Frank, and Harold Lamb to write the screenplay drawing upon biblical references as well as the 1926 novel Samson the Nazarite by Ze’ve Jabotinsky. DeMille would also direct and after some casting drama finally secured Victor Mature to star as Samson. Joining him would be a fine cast, including Hedy Lamarr as Delilah, George Sanders as The Saran of Gaza, Angela Lansbury as Semadar, and Henry Wilcoxon as Ahtur.

The biblical story follows the life of Samson, a member of the Jewish tribe of Dan who is placed under Nazirite vows by his mother. The vow provided Samson with superhuman strength, which he believed was empowered by his hair. At his pre-wedding feast to the Philistine Semadar, she betrays him, causing to him to lose a bet with his guests. In a fight afterwards he defeats his Philistine guests, but in the process both Semadar and her father Tubal are killed by the Philistines for daring to marry one of their own to a Danite. The Saran of Gaza finds a way to arrest Samson by using the beautiful Delilah, sister of Semadar to seduce him and discover the source of his superhuman strength. When he reveals his hair as the source of his strength, she cuts it while he is sleeping. Philistine guards easily arrest him, blind him, and sentence him to slave labor. Delilah eventually takes pity on him and he is brought to the temple of Dagon to entertain the Philistine royal court. By now his hair has grown back, and Delilah leads him by whipping up the stairs to the two main pillars, which support the temple. Samson exact revenge by toppling the pillars, which brings the temple crashing down killing himself, Delilah and the entire royal court of the Philistines. The film was a massive commercial success with audiences, earning a profit of $22.6 million. Critics praised the film as a magnificent, highly entertaining spectacle and it secured five Academy Award nominations including Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects, Best Film Score, winning two awards for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

Producer-director Cecil B. DeMille was very pleased with his collaboration with Victor Young on his previous film, “The Unconquered (1947) and hired Paramount’s resident composer to score the film. Young understood that he was being provided a large canvass for a well-known biblical epic, and that he would have to infuse his score with the requisite cultural sensibilities of the time, being sure to juxtapose the antagonism of the Philistine and Hebrew identities. A number of scenes incorporated dances, which would necessitate exotic, festive, and rich ethnic colors and rhythms. There would also be an epic battle scene for Samson where he defeats the Philistine army with the jaw bone of an ass. Most importantly, however were Samson’s two romances with the aloof and unfaithful Semadar and the seductive allure of the infamous, Delilah.

To support his soundscape Young composed five primary themes, including our hero Samson’s Fanfare, which resounds on warm French horns nobile. It speaks to his strength, power and righteousness as an imperfect instrument of Divine will, one who loses the mandate of heaven, yet recovers it through suffering and penitence. During battle his theme is empowerment by trumpets militare, which propel him to victory. The Philistine Fanfare offers exotic declarations by horns imperiose. It speaks to the military might, power, and dominion of the Philistines over the Hebrews. The Hebrew Theme offers a repeating rising and falling six-note phrase by strings orientali, which speaks to their subjugated yet proud culture. We discern a subtle if not intangible long-suffering sadness in the notes. The Love Theme speaks to all three loves of Samson; Semadar, Miriam, and Delilah. It offers a classic ABA construct with the declarative A Phrase borne by sumptuous strings romantico, while the yearning, and more emotional B Phrase is borne by fervent strings of desire. Lastly, we have the Faith Theme, which speaks to Samson’s relationship with God, whose strength flows through him as an instrument of His will. It emotes as an ethereal, shimmering construct borne by reverential tremolo strings religioso.

There have been archival LP releases by both the Decca and Archive labels, but there is no digital availability, and there is also no current modern CD release of the score. This is remarkable and unacceptable, and I hope a production label re-records it for new generations of collectors and lovers of the art form. For purposes of my review, I will review the score in film context using scene descriptors and time indices.

“Main Titles” offers a score highlight where Young sets the tone of the film with a dramatic opening. We open grandly with fanfare dramatico, replete with cymbal crashes as the Paramount Studios logo displays. We flow immediately into the roll of the opening credits supported by a imperialist rendering of the Philistine Theme by heraldic horns bravura and strings exotica. At 0:43 we flow into the sumptuous, full rendering of the Love Theme in all its glory. We conclude at 1:46 with a final declaration of the Philistine fanfare. At 1:54 we flow into the film proper in “The Dawn of Man”, which is carried by a mystical misterioso. Narration offers a dark commentary on the advancement of human civilization with the sinister Philistine Theme rising up to support. Forceful and ominous statements of the theme support the fall of humanity into idolatry as devil images appear on the screen. At 2:39 a grim marcia militare supports images of soldiers marching and using force of arms to grind down the human spirit. At 2:48 we are bathed in religioso auras as we see clouds alite in sunset fire as the narrator speaks of the Divine spark, and man’s quest for freedom. We flow into a marcia nobile as the narrator extols the virtue of the Divine spark, which has survived the ages and ennobled the evolution of humanity.

At 3:12 we segue into “City of Zorah” atop Samson’s fanfare, which ushers in and extended rendering of the Hebrew Theme at 3:17. As Samson’s name is mentioned, his three-note fanfare resounds as narration closes informing us of the Dan tribe’s subjugation for 40 years by the Philistines. A storyteller tells the story of the Hebrew captivity in Egypt and God’s liberation. At 5:08 we segue into “Philistine Soldiers” as Miriam and children fill their jugs at the well supported by a grim marcia militare by Philistine soldiers. We flow into an oppressive Philistine Theme as they grab the storyteller and throw him into the gutter for refusing to bow to his Philistine lords. At 5:42 an aggrieved Hebrew Theme rises as Miriam rebukes the men. At 5:53 horns irato resound as the boy Saul stands up to the soldiers who were moving to ravage Miriam, boasting of Samson’s might. The soldiers laugh, step on the storyteller forcing his face into the mud and depart carried by their theme, with interplay of an aggrieved Hebrew Theme. The thematic interplay and synchrony with the scene’s conflict were spot on. “Samson’s Inner Conflict” reveals his mother chastising him for his bad habits, for preparing to marry a Philistine woman, and for not following the words of the Lord. His father comes home and at 8:37 a plaintive and long-suffering Hebrew Theme enters as we see tension between Samson and Miriam. At 9:25 the Love Theme joins when she speaks of the woman from Timnath and we see love well up in his eyes, yet the sad Hebrew Theme resumes as Miriam speaks of her feeling towards him. Samson follows her as she departs carried by his muted fanfare, joined by a last aching reprise of the Hebrew Theme as she says she will always be there for him.

At 11:14 we segue into “Samson and Semadar” atop resounding horns imperioso as we see Ahtur, the Philistine military governor of Dan bestowing gifts to Tubal, intent on winning the hand of his daughter Semadar. Young weaves an alluring melody of desire as Tubal is taken aback by all the gifts. He takes a bolt of fabric and opens the door for better light and Samson’s fanfare resounds when he appears on the wall as Semadar practices her spear throwing. Tubal retreats, closes the door and tries to convince Ahtur to take his younger daughter Delilah. Back outside, Samson’s fanfare resumes and ushers in the Love Theme at 12:46 as he declares his presence. At 13:19 the theme becomes mischievous as Delilah flings a walnut at Samson. They ignore her and the Love Theme sustains their conversation, until Ahtur joins them. There is clear animus between the men who both contest for Semadar’s hand. At 15:37 we segue into “Arrival of the Saran” atop repeated declarations by heraldic fanfare reale, which support the arrival of the Saran of Gaza and his hunting party. Ahtur and Semadar depart and afterwards Delilah flirts with Samson extoling how great he would be if he killed the lion, seductively offering her chariot to get him to the hunting grounds first.

At 17:04 we segue into “Samson Slays the Lion” where we see him and Delilah racing to the hunting grounds in her father’s chariot propelled by horn empowered galloping music. The Philistine Anthem joins as we see the Saran’s hunting party approaching. Delilah drops all pretenses and is very forward in how much she desires Samson. They come upon a roaring lion and Samson dismounts and challenges it without a spear, fighting with but his brute strength. The fight is unscored and brutal, with Samson eventually prevailing by strangling the beast. Delilah runs to him and begins kissing him, declaring that she loves him. Philistine fanfare resounds at 20:42 joined by hunting horns to support the arrival of the Saran, Ahtur, Tubal and Semadar. They refuse to believe that Samson killed the lion and are perplexed when they find no javelin wound. We segue into “Samson vs Garmiskar” as the Saran orders the massive Garmiskar to break Samson’s bones to test his strength. Music enters at 23:50 with dire horns with an ascending motif as Samson lifts the 400-pound man over his head, followed by a crushing descent as he casts him to the ground to the amazement of all. Samson’s fanfare resounds in victory, joined by ominous Philistine horns as the Saran walks to Samson and awards him a ring of victory. Yet Samson asks to name his own prize, asking for a Philistine bride, which the Saran grants. Delilah feels betrayed and is crushed at 24:39 when Samson’s fanfare sounds, joined by the Love Theme, as he walks to Semadar and selects her. Angry Philistine horns resound as Ahtur protests to no avail as the Saran awards Samson her hand and 100 pieces of silver. A reserved Philistine Theme supports as the Saran counsels Ahtur that he hopes married city life will tame Samson. At 25:45 the Love Theme returns as Delilah convinces the Saran to have 30 of Ahtur’s warriors attend the wedding feast. We close on fanfare reale as the Saran and guests depart.

At 26:18 we segue into “Feather Dance” as we see the festive pre-wedding feast supported by a danza esotico in which two men mock battle with feather swords. At 27:01 the Love Theme entwines with the dance as a petulant Delilah complains to Tubal. Samson gets baited into a wager of buying clothes for all thirty-one men if they solve his riddle and at 29:39 Samson and Semadar depart to don their wedding clothes supported by a danza gentile. The dance is sustained as Delilah plots with Ahtur and his men to discover the answer from Semadar. Ahtur meets with Semadar and uses threats to solicit her aid in solving the riddle. At 32:30 we segue into “Semadar’s Betrayal” atop an alluring Love Theme as she weeps and worms the answer from Samson, the revelation supported by portentous Philistine horns as she seals her betrayal with a kiss. The Love Theme blossoms at 33:30 as the plotting Delilah looks on with grim satisfaction. The Danza Esotica carries Semadar to the Samson, as her father prepares to formally give her away. But the ceremony is stopped by Ahtur who successfully answers the riddle, with all thirty-one men demanding immediate payment. Semadar recoils from Samson’s withering gaze exposing her betrayal. Samson storms out after castigating Semadar, after which Delilah convinces her father to quickly marry Semadar to Ahtur given that Samson has spurned her.

At 36:23 we segue into “Samson Obtains His Payment” atop comic strings energico as Samson robs several aristocrats of their clothes. Drums irato join as more and more men complain to the Philistine guards of the robberies. At 37:08 we return atop a danza festivo to “Wedding Feast” as everyone celebrates the marriage of Ahtur and Sedamar. Samson enters and hurls the garments with contempt to pay off his wager. He becomes outraged when Tubal informs him that he allowed Ahtur to marry Semadar, offering him Delilah instead. He disdains her and she admits she conspired with Ahtur to stop his marriage. Samson pulls open the wedding room veil, an outrage to which Ahtur responds with his sword. At 39:47 we segue into “Samson’s Rage” as he proceeds to pummel Ahtur and his warriors, which Young supports with an orchestral maelstrom. The Philistines kill both Tubal and Semadar and at 40:59 an aggrieved Hebrew Theme joins as Samson curses them all for their treachery. Samson departs at 41:21 empowered by his fanfare leaving the guests either dead or wounded. Afterwards we see Tubal’s estate and field burned to the ground, fanned by Samson’s implacable wrath as Delilah swears revenge with a promise to destroy him.

After a year of futile searching for Samson, Saran orders Ahtur to change tactics, switching from swords to tax-collection to convince the people to give up Samson. At 43:56 we segue into “Saran’s Tax” atop a suffering Hebrew Theme as we see tax collectors taking a third of every herder’s sheep, promising to next take their goats unless they turn Samson in. At 44:20 an energetic, yet predatory Philistine Theme supports their theft of one third of every merchant’s inventory and a barber’s coin purse as they demand people turn Samson in. At 44:59 a suffering Hebrew Theme supports soldiers taking the Miriam’s father’s prayer lamp. At 46:33 we segue atop a grim marcia della morte into “Lakish’s Betrayal” as he informs Miriam and her father that he will turn Samson in for the good of the people. We see Samson bound and being whipped as he is taken to Gaza. In Gaza we see the Saran gifting Delilah precious gems, as he clearly infatuated by her. News arrives that Samson has been captured and will arrive soon. Delilah gloats and asks for severe punishment to which the Saran consents. At 49:53 a dour, plodding Philistine march supports the procession moving through the countryside, followed by Ahtur’s court fool mocking Samson. The theme resounds as Ahtur whips his horses, who bolt, dragging Samson to the ground.

At 51:50 we segue into “Samson Prays” a dramatic score action highlight as he realizes that they have stopped at the sacred Hebrew place of Lehi. The strings religioso of the Faith Theme ascend as Samson prays for divine sanction to smite his enemies. As thunder crashes and the sky darkens, Samson tears apart his binding chains. He is now empowered by a mighty rendering of his theme and he unleashes his wrath. Samson smites the Philistine troops using his great strength and the jaw bone of an ass for a weapon. At 53:53 we segue into Saran’s royal court with “Delilah’s Plan”. A wounded messenger and then Ahtur himself detail the defeat of all their troops by Samson using his God empowered strength and the Jawbone of an ass to slaughter them. Delilah joins and submits an offer to bring Samson to justice by discovering his weakness, something she asserts only a woman can do. Saran and his ministers consent and we end darkly with her promise to deliver Samson to Saran. At 1:02:14 we segue into “Delilah’s Trap” an exotic rendering of the Love Theme as a traveling motif as we see Delilah’s caravan navigating a narrow gorge, exposed and hoping to entice Samson to attack. Later at night Delilah’s tent is set near a pool, and Young supports the tranquil setting with a harp borne Love Theme rendered as a nocturne. Samson enters her tent and discovers Delilah alone. He commences to steal her goods, as she begins her seduction supported by a harp draped Love Theme, which weaves its magic. At 11:04 the Love Theme moves to pleading strings as he prepares to leave her. When she states that he is all that she wants, he at last succumbs to her seduction and at 1:11:40 the Love Theme blossoms as he takes her into his arms and kisses her while the scene fades to black.

The next day we segue at 1:11:50 into “Delilah’s Treachery” as playful woodwinds animato and strings felice support Samson swimming, much to the delight of Delilah. She lures him ashore and then makes subtle overtures to the source of his great strength, with just the right amount seduction and sexual allure to disarm him. At 1:14:37 Delilah sees reeds rustling and tells him the Philistines have come. Horns bravura sound his anthem as he flushes out a frightened Hisham who flees screaming carried by comic woodwinds. The Love Theme rises and blossom as he returns to her and they kiss. Later in her tent the theme softens and becomes gentile as she strums her lyre and again weaves a clever seduction, which succeeds in securing his proposal to marry. Yet his secret remains elusive and she runs away hoping to worm the secret out of him. She succeeds after he relents and says like the lion’s mane, his hair is the source of his strength. At 1:20:44 darkness spawns a corrupted rendering of the Love Theme with a subtle lurking treachery woven within its notes as she strokes his hair. Yet her resolve weakens by his unshakable love for her and the Love Theme warms as she asks him to flee to Egypt with her where they could live together in peace. At 1:22:31 we segue into “Miriam’s News” when the moment is broken by her and Saul’s arrival. Samson’s fanfare carries him to them and Miriam asks to speak in the tent alone. A sinister rendering of the Love Theme carries Delilah to the tent. A grim Philistine fanfare and aggrieved Hebrew Theme support Miriam’s revelation that Samson’s mother has been chained to a post and beaten, his father stoned, with killing and burning occurring in every village. He resolves to go despite Delilah’s best effort to dissuade him. Delilah turns her anger towards Miriam who she accuses of being in love. Interplay of a jealous Love Theme and aggrieved Hebrew Theme support their words.

In the tent Delilah pours two cups of wine, one of which she adds a sedative. Samson sends Saul and Miriam on their way, promising to overtake them as he answers Delilah’s call. At 1:26:41 we segue into “Delilah Drugs Samson” atop the Love Theme by strummed harp when she offers him a parting toast as he prepares to take vengeance on the Philistines. He drinks it promising to find her afterwards, where ever she goes. He then collapses and Delilah sends a message to Ahtur that says she has the secret, marks by a dire statement of the Philistine Theme. A grieving Hebrew Theme joins at 1:29:10 as she unsheathes his dagger and cuts off his mane.

At 1:29:22 we segue into “Samson Is Captured” as discordant muted trumpets declare the Philistine Fanfare joined by a single fleeting horn call of Sampson’s Theme as the dawn of a new day beckons. Samson awakes to a waiting Delilah his groggy theme joined by a duplicitous Love Theme. 1:30:02 horns of alarm resound as he Ahtur and his guards arrive and subdue Samson, who realizes that his mane has been shorn. Delilah gloats while she shows Samson his shorn hair, who reels from her treachery, asking Ahtur to slay him. Instead, he is chained and as Delilah leaves, he rebukes and curses her, eliciting her disdain. At 1:33:12 an aggrieved statement of the Hebrew Theme sounds as Samson’s head is tied firmly against the post. A red-hot sword is taken out of burning embers and a dire Philistine Theme swells with menace as Ahtur prepares to blind Samson. At 1:33:54 the serene strings religioso of the Faith Theme join as Samson offers contrition to God as a guard sear both of his eyes, blinding him. At 1:34:21 we segue into “Delilah’s Reward” atop fanfare imperiose as one by one all of Saran’s ministers dump a thousand silver coins at her feet. The Saran harbors lingering suspicions of Delilah’s feeling towards Samson and tests her by commanding her to witness his punishment.

At 1:37:07 we segue into “The Mill Stone” as we see Samson in Sisyphean agony, chained and forever walking in endless circle of woe pushing the millstone that grinds the grain. As Delilah descends the stairs, cyclic strings sofferenti and a tortured Samson Theme support his endless toil as Philistine citizens look down through the bars mocking him. Dire muted trumpets declare the Philistine Anthem as Delilah looks on. Tension rises on Samson’s Theme when Saran says he cannot see her, and she goes to Samson saying, I will make him see me. At 1:38:20, a grand, yet painful statement of the Love Theme brings her to Samson. The theme descends into suffering when she discovers he has been blinded, and recoils in pain, revealing her true feelings to Saran. She cannot bear it, and flees weeping for what she has wrought as the Saran reminds her it was her treachery and desire for revenge, which has brought this about. At 1:41:48 we segue into “The Passing Seasons” atop a woodwind pastorale adorned with harp gentile as we see a farmer sowing his fields and the passage of the seasons. The Samson Fanfare joins as we return to his torment by the mill wheel. An extended rendering of a distraught Love Theme supports Delilah lying in bed, as Saran’s voice speaks in her mind “You cannot undo what you have done”. Samson’s Fanfare joins as we see her plagued by a vision of him saying “I can never find more beauty than I see in you”. After the Saran’s words reprise; “You cannot undo what you have done”. She cries out “I can! I can”! She then prays to the Hebrew God to restore Samson’s eyesight in an act of contrition.

“Delilah Visits Samson” offers a stirring score highlight. Samson prays beseeching God for forgiveness, asking why he has forsaken him, as Delilah comes to him. When he asks for a sign, Delilah gently lays her hand on his shoulder. He recoils from her, rejects her contrition, and thanks God for delivering her to him. Music enters at 1:46:44 atop resounding horns irato as he hoists her over his head and prepares to smite her. She cries out, that his chains have been broken as tremolo strings religioso emote the Faith Theme, which unfolds in a stirring exposition as he thanks God. Delilah beseeches him to come with her to Egypt, yet he reoils supported by a suffering Hebrew Theme saying he was not healed to run from his enemies. An angry Philistine Theme rises as he stumbles about, and Delilah counsels him that he cannot fight what he cannot see. As she begs him to join her in Egypt the Love Theme resumes full of desperate longing. An angry and vengeful Samson’s Fanfare resounds at 1:48:39 when he asks God to strike her down if he forgives her. Yet she at last wins back his heart and the Love Theme again blossoms as he takes her into his arms. But the bliss dissipates as dire strings rise up when she informs him that he is to be taken to the temple today for public humiliation, bound between two columns and scourged. He sees his path to vengeance and informs Delilah that he will stay warning her to not enter the temple today as he rebinds his chains.

At 1:50:13 we segue into “Temple Celebration”, an exotic score highlight. Grand fanfare resounds and ushers in a vibrant danza festivo as the people assemble for the celebration. We see colorful dancers performing in the temple courtyard beneath the massive statue of the god Dagon as nobles and commoners assemble. At 1:51:27 a solemn Hebrew Theme joins to support the arrival of Miriam and Saul. At 1:52:41 a processionale grande supports the arrival of a resplendent Delilah who joins the Saran on the dais as the people cry out her name. As she sits, fanfare restores the danza festivo as the Saran reminds Delilah that this is the day for which she has long waited. At 1:52:57 we segue into “Samson Comforts Saul” atop heraldic horns, which resound as the high priest orders Samson brought in to feel the might of Dagon. The people yell out and mock him as Saul runs to Samson and is comforted, blessed with a vision that he will when grown to manhood rise to become Israel’s first king. At 1:55:32 we segue into “Miriam’s Plea” atop a declaration of the Philistine Fanfare by horns grave as the Saran grants Miriam’s request to make a plea. An aching statement of the Hebrew Theme supports her plea for mercy to Samson. The Saran defers to Delilah his conqueror saying he will accede to granting him freedom if she so wills it. We swell on the Love Theme, which entwines with a yearning Hebrew Theme as Miriam pleads for mercy. The Love Theme becomes ascendant and full of spite as Delilah informs Miriam that she would rather see Samson dead than in her arms. Dire Philistine horns portend Samson’s doom as guards take Miriam away.

At 1:57:16 we segue into “Samson Says Goodbye” empowered by drums energico, which unleash a danza macabre as ten dwarfs surround Samson and torment him, repeated cutting him with their weapons as the Saran and his nobles mock him. The dance continues and is fortified as the massive Garmiskar arrives with a whip. The Love Theme joins as Delilah tells the Saran that Samson will never kneel to Dagon. The dance rises to a fever pitch as the dwarves tie a loose around his legs, pull him down and cover him with a net. Delilah cannot bear Samson’s further humiliation and goes to him, with the Saran saying if you go to him, you cannot come back to me. She tells Samson she must convince the Saran and crowd that she hates him with the whip. He says when she strikes, he will grab the whip and she is to lead him to the two support columns. At 2:01:22 a massive gong strike supports the high priest’s declaration that Samson must bow at Dagon’s feet. At 2:02:07 fanfare imperiose resounds as Samson takes his place between to two temple columns, reprising as the high priest orders Samson scourged into submission. Samson’s fanfare joins as he tells Delilah to run into the courtyard. An ethereal Faith Theme rises up, followed by the Love Theme as he grasps her hand and declares “Wherever you are, my love is with you”. As she departs Philistine horns of doom resound as the Saran declares that Samson will never kneel before Dagon.

At 2:03:01 we segue into “Samson’s Revenge”, a powerful score highlight. Samson cries out to Delilah to ensure she has departed, supported by a last sad reprise of the Love Theme. She stands near, and refuses to answer, choosing to die with him. At 2:03:41 Samson prays for God’s strength and begins pressing against the two massive pillars. The Philistine Fanfare resounds as the high priest orders Samson scourged to his knees. As Delilah watches we hear a final sad reprise of the Love Theme. Samson’s Fanfare resounds when he presses hard against the temple columns, while the royal court mocks him. A hushed silence descends as the people cry out in fear that he has split the stone. After the first column collapses Samson cries out to God to let him die with his enemies. He topples the second pillar, which brings down the statue of Dagon on the Saran and his ministers, while the rest of the temple collapses upon the royal court, killing them all, along with Samson and Delilah. At 2:06:50 we segue into “Epilogue” as Saul asks Miriam why Samson, who was so strong, had to die. To which she answers “His strength will never die and that men will tell his story for a thousand years”. As they walk away, we close the film on a final solemn reprise of the Hebrew Theme, which ends in a horn declared flourish. We conclude with “End Titles”, which opens with an elegant expression of Love Theme by harp tenero, which ushers in a splendid sumptuous exposition of the Love Theme by strings romantico, which ends in a flourish!

Victor Young received a well-deserved 1950 Academy Award nomination for best Film Score, for his fine effort here, losing to Franz Waxman’s brilliant masterpiece “Sunset Boulevard”. There is no modern-day commercial release of this film score, which is most unfortunate, and I sincerely hope that in the near future a film score production company will make an effort to re-record it. Director Cecil B. DeMille’s grand story-telling of this well-known biblical story provided Young with an immense canvass upon which to compose. The conflict between the Philistine overlords and the subjugated Hebrews served as the back drop to our mighty hero Samson’s loss of the mandate of Heaven due to his pride and selfishness. Yet he is reborn and eventually regains Divine sanction through suffering, deprivation and penitence. For his soundscape imperialist Philistine fanfares abound and speak to their arrogance and cruelty, offering the perfect foil to Samson’s heroic fanfare. The tempestuous love-hate romance between Samson and Delilah drove and enriched the film’s story-yelling, serving as an integral narrative for the redemption of both characters. I believe the Love Theme, one of the most sumptuous in Young’s canon, is where the score achieves its zenith. The Faith Theme speaks to Samson’s relationship with God, whose strength flows through him as an instrument of His will. Young’s creative choice of an ethereal, shimmering construct borne by reverential tremolo strings religioso was well-conceived and executed, providing both a source of spiritual nourishment for Samson, as well as the impetus to regain the mandate of Heaven. A number of scenes incorporated dance routines, which necessitated Young to compose exotic, festive, and macabre constructs infused with rich ethnic colors and rhythms. The confluence of music and choreography of these dance segments masterfully supported culture and setting. Folks, I believe that in scene after scene Young’s music enhanced and elevated the film’s narrative, offering indispensable assistance to DeMille in realizing his vision. It suffices to say that this score stands as one of the finest in Young’s canon, and a masterpiece of the Golden Age. Please avail yourself to the film to enjoy Young’s handiwork until such time that a music company re-records the score.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a wonderful fifteen-minute suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuQu3xKg-78

The “Samson and Delilah” LP album is rare and only available through third party vendors.

Buy the Samson and Delilah soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Samson’s Call (2:53)
  • Miriam and the Dance to Dagon (2:28)
  • The Valley of Zorah and The Feather Dance (3:52)
  • Delilah’s Theme and Blind Samson (2:31)
  • The Philistine March (4:14)
  • Delilah’s Remorse (1:54)
  • The Feast Dance and Bacchanale (2:23)
  • Delilah’s Harp and End Titles (2:49)

Running Time: 23 minutes 04 seconds

Archive AMR-5515 (1949/2015)

Music composed and conducted by Victor Young. Orchestrations by Sidney Cutner, George Parrish, Leo Shuken and Nathan Van Cleave. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Score produced by Victor Young. Album produced by Smith & Company.

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