Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Director: King Vidor
Starring: Yul Brynner, Gina Lillobrigida, George Sanders

As King David nears death, Israel awaits its new king, either the scholarly Solomon or the warrior Adonijah.

The main reason I wanted to see this is because it was supposed to star Tyrone Power, but his untimely death during filming led to Yul Brynner taking the lead role. Now, Brynner isn't exactly the person you'd think of to play Solomon. He's got a lot of screen presence, but he still feels like something of a poor fit. I could see him more as Adonijah, but that might seem too much like a retread of his portrayal of Ramses in The Ten Commandments. Speaking of Adonijah, George Sanders is good in the speaking parts, but his fight scenes are rather underwhelming. He's definitely not an action star, which is a bit of a detriment when the character is a warrior prince. As the female lead, Gia Lollobrigida is rather underwhelming as the Queen of Sheba. Marisa Pavan was okay as Abishag but nothing that compelling, though her expanded role from Biblical canon was interesting. Like pretty much all the Biblical epics, strict adherence to the source text is less of a priority than telling a cinematic story, though in this case the alterations and expansions don't necessarily make for a more entertaining experience. I will credit the big pagan orgy festival, particularly the music, for being rather effective, and the scale of some of the big battle sequences was fairly impressive, but I can't recommend this movie with much enthusiasm. If you're a junkie for these 50s/60s epics, give it a shot. Otherwise you may want to pass on this one.