Christic imagery has long been employed in art across media to enhance the resonance of the characters, images, etc. As one of the essential mythic stories of the Western world, by appealing to the audience's knowledge of the New Testament authors have made otherwise intolerable characters appear sympathetic. Cecil B. DeMille's Samson is no exception to this. Cecil B. DeMille was a seminal founder of Hollywood, an unsung auteur and a master of the American biblical epic; however, critics have routinely dismissed him as unfashionable, inauthentic and disingenuous. In the following essay, Anton Karl Kozlovic sets out to address this issue and examine DeMille's credentials as a legitimate popular artist inspired by the Bible. According to Kozlovic, DeMille's indelible Technicolor testament Samson and Delilah (1949) provides a good example of his creative prowess and Christian religious commitment, and serves as a shining example of why this important figure in the history of cinema deserves renewed critical attention in the interdisciplinary genre of religion-and-film.

Have Lamb Will Martyr: Samson as a Rustic Christ-Figure in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949)[printable version]

Anton Karl Kozlovic


<1> Cecil B. DeMille [1] (1881-1959) was a seminal founder of Hollywood who helped turn a Californian orange grove into a world class centre that became the synonym for film making (DeMille & Hayne, 1960; Edwards, 1988; Essoe & Lee, 1970; Higashi, 1994; Higham, 1973; Koury, 1959; Ringgold & Bodeen, 1969). Not only was the affectionately known C. B. an important film pioneer, producer and director, but he also became known as the master of the American Biblical Epic, and was variously tagged "King of the epic Biblical spectacular" (Finler, 1985, p. 32), the "high priest of the religious genre" (Holloway, 1977, p. 26), and the "arch apostle of spectacle" (Clapham, 1974, p. 21). As a Christian apologist and Hollywood's leading cinematic lay preacher, DeMille deserved these accolades because of his indelible classics The Ten Commandments (both versions), The King of Kings and Samson and Delilah. Indeed, historically speaking, his Technicolor rendition of the Samson saga (Judges 13-16) [2] was a "watershed film" (Schatz, 1997, p. 394) that had sired the 1950s trend of biblical epics. DeMille was a self-confessed pop culture professional (DeMille & Hayne, 1960, p. 195) who took great personal and professional pride in bringing Bible stories to the screen, especially as real "men and women" (DeMille & Hayne, 1960, p. 365). He was even crowned "Lay Churchman of the Year - 1958" from the Religious Heritage of America for his artistry, amongst many other religious awards and civil honours throughout his long career (see Essoe & Lee, 1970, pp. 245-247).

<2> And yet, DeMille was routinely ignored, dismissed or devalued by the critics as old fashioned, inauthentic and disingenuous. Samson and Delilah has been derided for being "Absurd biblical hokum" (Walker, 1994, p. 933), "a biblical Basic Instinct" (Kermode & Macnab, 1995, p. 62), and in essence, just a B-grade potboiler concerned only with titillation. Some film scholars even claimed that: "It is no longer fashionable to admire De Mille" (Giannetti & Eyman, 1996, p. 40), yet, he should be admired. If for no other reason than he was a innovative survivor who had successfully hurdled Hollywood's tumultuous genesis, the decline of silent films, the arrival of sound films, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the arrival of colour film technology, the Korean war, changing public tastes, volatile social fashions, shifting demographics, mutating leisure patterns, new technologies, ever-evolving film making techniques, the arrival of TV, unstable finances, unreliable actors, inflated egos, power struggles, family problems, powder keg religious sensibilities, church domination, censorship restrictions, moral turpitude scandals and the innumerable internal Hollywood crises in a cut-throat, high-stakes business where a failure could be your last in the industry. Indeed, nothing could stop the indefatigable DeMille other than death itself.

<3> Curiously, DeMille's career planning, personal grit and professional tenacity was considered even greater than Madonna's success in the music industry (Paglia, 1994, p. 373), both being superstars in their respective day and domain. Dismissing DeMille, ignoring his religious sensibilities, and consigning him to the dustbin of Hollywood history is a profound mistake that needs urgent correction before misinformation solidifies into pseudo-fact, and then becomes "truth." The time is now ripe to take the much-maligned DeMille to the forefront of film studies by seriously re-evaluating his true contributions to biblical art, instead of the usual superficial assessments and knee-jerk condemnations. Besides, innumerable Hollywood films reek with religious imagery, biblical symbolism, Christ-figures and other sacred plots that have been deliberately engineered into them (Kozlovic, 2000; 2001a; 2001b; 2002c) albeit, frequently unappreciated. DeMille is important, and pioneering yet again, in that he faced the same film making challenges, but with the additional burdens of struggling with the original holy text while hiding his covert religious subtexts within an overt religious narrative (i.e., New Testament religion within Old Testament religion).

Samson and Delilah (1949): A Scholar's Delight

<4> Over half a decade after its release, Samson and Delilah's reputation has "stabilized into one of camp respectability" (Murphy, 1999, pp. 109-110) with biblical scholar J. Cheryl Exum (1996) enthusiastically claiming that it:

offers a good example of cinematic impact on the culture at large. It is not a little-known film; I have seen it at least four times on television in the UK in the past three years. With the kind of promotion television offers, DeMille's Oscar-winning epic has certainly reached more audiences than when it was first released, and through repeated television showings it continues to be influential in forming people's opinions about the biblical story. For all its hokeyness Samson and Delilah is a brilliant film. (p. 13)

<5> Exum's biblicist peer David Jasper (1999) likewise claimed:

In the Hollywood tradition of Old Testament epics...the cinema has occasionally contributed in a significant way to the history of biblical interpretations, perhaps unwittingly and most notably in the figure of Cecil B. De Mille in films like Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Ten Commandments (1956)...[DeMille] re-reads the text of the Book of Judges midraschically as a love story which shifts the coherent and dehumanizing biblical perspective of Israel's salvation history and replaces it with a countercoherence of a Delilah following her heart and remaining true to Samson. (p. 51) [original emphasis]

<6> Jasper (1999) also considered that DeMille's cinematic repackaging of Scripture was a service to mainstream biblical scholarship because:

DeMille's film [Samson and Delilah] does what art and literature has always in fact done, read the Bible and unpicked its historical and theological consistencies which have defined how religious orthodoxy has read it, and offered a countercoherence in terms of other priorities (in this case filmic melodrama) which may expose the dangerous assumptions that often underlie our reading of Scripture and the Bible. (pp. 51-52)

<7> In essence, DeMille-the-film-artist [3] had been intuitively engaging in what today's theologians would call a "hermeneutic of creative imagination" in his directorial attempt to make sense of the Bible and then project it onto the screen. As feminist biblical scholar Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (2001) described this process:

A hermeneutic of imagination retells biblical stories, re-shapes religious vision, and celebrates those who have brought about change. To that end it does more than utilize historical, literary, and ideological-critical methods, which focus on the rhetoric of religious texts and their historical contexts. It also employs methods of storytelling, role-playing, bibliodrama, Midrash, pictorial arts, dance, meditation, prayer, and ritual for creating a "different" religious imagination. (p. 181)

<8> Only DeMille-the-Hollywood-storyteller had created his different religious imagination using commercial feature films as his creative palette. His lay scholarship was also appropriate in this age of the moving image, or "the Age of Hollywood" according to Camille Paglia (1990, p. 12), for DeMille was a masterful pioneer of celluloid religion that had set the standard for the biblical genre thereafter.

<9> Although there is considerable opportunity for film analysis rooted in journalistic, auteuristic, genre, social science, historical, ideological, cultural studies, queer theory, feminism, gender politics, psychoanalysis, postmodernism etc., Samson and Delilah is examined herein through the lens of humanist film criticism (Bywater & Sobchack, 1989). This critical methodology is primarily interested in film as a cinematic text, particularly its appeal to critics, reviewers and the general public, plus the interpretation of difficult motifs, symbols, subtexts and their evaluation according to traditional aesthetic principles. This investigative approach involves a close reading of the film, and a critical discourse that starts and ends with the film itself (not the world outside the frame).

<10> Interestingly, the belated appreciation of DeMille's cinematic imagination and artistry was predicted decades ago by Henry Wilcoxon (1970, p. 276) when he said: "True recognition for DeMille's greatness will come many years after his death [1959]." Examining the film today is of considerable value for DeMille studies and scholars, religious educators, theological debaters, pop culture devotees and anyone else interested in applied cinema with an interdisciplinary flavour. Not only did DeMille artistically create an imaginative melodramatic countercoherence, but he deliberately engineered his cine-Samson as a Christ-figure using New Testament (NT) allusions resonating shepherding, lamb and sheep imagery to filmicly uprate the holiness of this biblical bad-boy. In this subtextual way, DeMille could infuse more sanctity into his religious film by making it thick with sacred meaning beyond the unflattering truth of the scriptural Samson.

The Scriptural Samson: When Bad-Boys Rule

<11> The Samson saga as recorded in Judges 13-16 of the Old Testament (OT) is about Yahweh's ancient strongman, the last and most infamous of Israel's twelve judges (i.e., charismatic leaders). He is an important religious figure in Judaism and Christianity, as well as being a contemporary pop culture icon frequently associated with a brand of sturdy luggage or strong glue. Although Samson was an earthly mortal, he was a human instrument of the Divine who became especially powerful when the "Spirit of the Lord" was upon him (Judg. 14:5-6). As Phillip Lopate (1989, p. 17) described the phenomenon, Samson's "body itself doesn't quite belong to him--it's a sacred weapon for God to inhabit with His spirit when He so desires." Or as Thomas Pauly (1980, p. 477) more colloquially put it, Samson is "a sort of nuclear weapon only to be used when the situation fully warranted it." Despite his divine selection, incredible physical prowess and high terrestrial office, Samson was a major disappointment. He failed as a military commander, he failed as the nation's deliverer, he failed as a religious practitioner, he failed as a spiritual leader, and he repeatedly failed as an honourable role model for God's chosen people.

<12> For example, Samson did not keep his divinely specified Nazarite purity vows (Judg. 13:4-5; Num. 6:1-21), he religiously compromised his parents (Judg. 14:8-9) and disobeyed his endogamy traditions (Judg. 14:2-3). He bossed about his parents (Judg. 14:2,3), visited prostitutes (Judg. 16:1) and he murdered Philistines unreasonably (Judg. 14:19; 15:8) as opposed to reasonably (Judg. 15:14-16; 16:21-30). He stole from innocent people (Judg. 14:19), he gloated (Judg. 15:16) and was a vindictive arsonist who destroyed the property of innocent others (Judg. 15:5). He maliciously wrecked city property (Judg. 16:2-3), lied on multiple occasions (Judg. 16:7,11,13), was cruel to animals (lions - Judg. 14:5-6; foxes - Judg. 15:4) and he prayed primarily for reasons of personal vengeance (Judg. 16:28). So it is not too surprising to find the scriptural Samson being characterised by scholars as "a rather mean-spirited, biblical Paul Bunyan" (Higgs, 2000, p. 113), "a bully boy" (Vickery, 1981, p. 61) and "an Israelite gangster captain" (Simon, 1981, p. 157).

Samson: The Weak Strongman

<13> If the above-mentioned negative behaviours were not bad enough for an emissary of God, Samson was also a sexual suspect and a recidivist. He had pursued no less than three scandalous amatory adventures with religiously undesirable woman, namely, the unnamed woman from Timnath (Judg. 14:1-3), the unnamed harlot of Gaza (Judg. 16:1) and the infamous Delilah of Sorek (Jug. 16:4-31). No wonder the Samson saga has been tagged as "the story of sexy stories...always an entertaining and sacred scandal sheet" (Wurtzel, 1998, p. 38). In tragic due course, Samson was cuckolded as a man, he was thwarted as a suitor, lover, husband, father and grandfather, and he was repeatedly humiliated, outwitted and betrayed by friends and foe alike. Nor was his reputation for intelligence enhanced when he "voluntarily" revealed to Delilah the vital, hair-based secret of his phenomenal strength (Judg. 16:16-17), especially after having made the same inappropriate disclosure mistake with his Timnath wife-to-be by revealing the answer to his unbeatable honey-and-lion riddle (Judg. 14:17). Both of these confidentiality lapses involving personal intimates led to disastrous consequences involving betrayal, pain and death.

<14> If it was not for Samson's inclusion in the New Testament (NT) list of God's faithful (Heb. 11:32), in any other context, he would be considered a looser par excellence, and quickly dismissed as just a he-man with a she-problem. Indeed, the Samson saga is the equivalent of today's TV soap operas. Not only does the biblical account have "a remarkable contemporary feel. It might have been written by a magazine staff writer based on material provided by a gossip columnist" (Ryken, Wilhoit & Longman III, 1998, p. 756), and "which we might almost believe were collected from early copies of ancient Israelite boys' comics" (Dennis, 1991, p. 98). In fact, Samson has been characterised as "a huge muscle-bound adolescent" (Hull, 2001, p. 11) and "a great big simpleton" (Josipovici, 1988, p. 123) as his sacred story does have a strong boys-own-adventure feel about it. In fact, DeMille-the-pop-culture-professional quickly capitalised upon this adventure aspect, especially in his scenes where Samson (Victor Mature) pals around with young Saul (Russell Tamblyn), who himself is dressed as a mirror image of Samson, complete with a childish weapon and similar volatile temperament.

Samson-the-Foolish: Last of the Pre-Monarchal Line

<15> Not surprisingly, the scriptural Samson's bad behaviours, religious lapses and self-betraying acts resulted in many biblical commentators negatively tagging him as: "Samson, the dodo" (Bledstein, 1993, p. 49), "the most foolish champion Israel ever had" (Williams, 1993, p. 45) and "perhaps the greatest jackass in the Bible" (Bledstein, 1993, p. 48). Others claimed he was "incredibly stupid" (Leneman, 2000, p. 148), "dense" (Higgs, 2000, p. 120) and "a jerk" (Mary Cartledge-Hayes quoted in Bellis, 1994, p. 125). More charitably, he has been described as "all brawn, little brain aside from street smarts with riddles" (Bledstein, 1993, p. 50) and "not necessarily the brightest man" (Laffey, 1988, p. 104) in the world. These assessments are also theologically appropriate because Samson is the last and most infamous of all the twelve leaders in the Book of Judges. Why is this fact important? Because this ancient biblical book is in essence a condemnatory treatise demonstrating:

That it was a shameful period in Israel's history; that Israel was in religious and political decline; that Israel's judges had feet of clay; and that Yahweh, and Yahweh alone, was the hero of the period, who graciously and repeatedly saved Israel, despite their persistent unfaithfulness. (Dorsey, 1999, p. 120)

<16> Samson was the Book of Judge's star performer and he had considerable feet of clay in keeping with this historical low point. Overall, his adult life was just a slow, downward spiral of degradation that had an astonishingly promising start and a spectacularly devastating ending. His holy life cycle comprised of: (a) divine intent, (b) cosmic selection, (c) God-sanctioned impregnation of his barren mother (traditionally, a very good holy sign), (d) a goodly upbringing, (e) God's approval and repeated intervention, (f) apostasy, (g) oppression, (h) disintegration, (i) betrayal, (j) suffering, (k) imprisonment, (l) deliverance, (m) physical death, (n) spiritual release, (o) ethnic triumph (p) and ultimately the fulfilment of God's deadly divine will. In short, Samson's tragic life was a living metaphor; it is Israel's history writ small.

DeMille's Holy Plot Problem: How to Make the Biblical Bad-Boy Good?

<17> A core plot problem for DeMille-as-Christian-biblical-filmmaker was how to be accurate to the authentic scriptural Samson with all its unavoidable sex, negativity and nastiness, while at the same time maintain Samson's popular hero status amongst the general public and Sunday school classes -- whilst also containing enough sanctity to make his screen characterisation jibe theologically with Samson's Christian inclusion in the NT list of God's faithful (Heb. 11:32). Plus make enough money in profit-obsessed Hollywood to protect DeMille's directorial future, give viewers their money's worth and minimise the negative connotations of the frequently disparaged beard-and-bathrobe genre. As if this wasn't limiting enough, DeMille also had to take into account Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other sensibilities, whether religious, historical, archaeological, political, theological, artistic, technical or popular. Nor lose too much audience credibility in the process, and still avoid committing the unforgivable Hollywood sin of being dull and boring, especially when the inevitable text-to-screen compromises had to be made.

<18> DeMille's pragmatic difficulties were further compounded because of the inherently volatile passions surrounding religion per se. True believers are frequently offended because they do not like their most profound beliefs toyed with, misrepresented or abused, as dramatically evidenced by the persecution-like reaction to Monty Python's Life of Brian, the religious violence over The Last Temptation of Christ and the Papal condemnation of Hail Mary. This is one of the main reasons why the biblical epic genre is so dangerous and difficult to do, let alone repeatedly succeed in. It is a Herculean task by many standards. However, C. B. DeMille was no ordinary filmmaker, J. Cheryl Exum's (1996, p. 13) critical praise was not misplaced, and David Jasper's views were entirely warranted.

Samson as Christ-Figure: A DeMillean Signature Secret

<19> One of DeMille's auteur signature secrets was to enhance Samson's on-screen holiness by engineering a christic infranarrative/subtext into Samson and Delilah -- that is, by making the Old Testament (OT) Samson a Christ-figure using christomorphic resonances culled from NT imagery. Fusing this bad-boy Old Testament/Hebraic character with a good-boy New Testament/Christian subtext would elevate Samson's reputation above the scripturally accurate "jock football-hero" (Wilson, 1997, p. 66), the "national deliverer" who is a "lone ranger" and "brawler" (Ryken, Wilhoit & Longman III, 1998, p. 756) into the pop culture domain of sacred hero who is also worthy of Sunday school worship. This act of intertestamental artistry (i.e., "NT religion" within "OT religion;" a covert Jesus subtext within an overt Samson text) was also an astute personal compromise for the Christian DeMille, the "half-Jew" (Herman, 2000, p. 18). C. B. was the biological son a Jewish (Sephardic) mother and a Christian (Episcopalian) lay minister father who worked in an industry dominated by powerful Jewish film moguls (Gabler, 1988), but who lived in a predominantly Christian society and primarily catered to their religious needs. By adopting this holiness-by-association tactic and evoking popular memory, biblical imagery and other sacred resonances, DeMille ensured that his on-screen Samson also ranked as one of God's faithful according to Christianity (Heb. 11:32), but without unduly upsetting his Jewish viewers, bosses, backers and relatives.

Was the Samson-Jesus Link Legitimate?

<20> DeMille-the-Christian-artist was not being overly zealous, perverse or unauthentic here. He was legitimately tapping into a long-held Christian theological tradition of linking Samson and Jesus Christ. As eminent Samson scholar James Crenshaw (1978) noted:

Encouraged by allegorical interpretation of the Samson saga, Rupert of St. Heribert (12th c.) contended that Samson was a type of Christ in at least these ways: (1) he performed seven wondrous feats, as there are seven sacraments; (2) the blinding of Samson represents the agony of Christ; and (3) Samson's death by the pillars supporting the house prefigured Christ's death on the cross. Much earlier, Ambrose had interpreted Samson's locks as a prefiguring of Christ, and Augustine had preached sermons on Samson in which he described the incident at Gaza as a type of Christ's harrowing of hell. A publication in the seventeenth century lay down nine ways in which Samson resembled Christ:
1. the births of both were foretold by a heavenly messenger and were marvelous in character;
2. Samson freed oppressed Israelites from the Philistines, and Jesus liberated Jews from Satan's power;
3. Samson slew a lion, and Jesus conquered Satan, who walks about like a roaring lion;
4. the spirit departed from Samson and let him fall; God permitted Christ's spirit to depart so that he could die;
5. both Samson and Jesus fought their battles without the aid of companions;
6. for a bribe Delilah betrayed Samson with kisses; having accepted a bribe, Judas planted a kiss on Jesus's cheek;
7. Israelites bound Samson with cords that could not contain him, and Jews bound Jesus who could not be held by Roman soldiers or death itself;
8. at Gaza Samson escaped from an ambush and carried off the city gates; Jesus arose from the grave which was guarded by Roman soldiers;
9. God's spirit permitted Samson's death and the resultant slaughter of Philistines; Jesus was slain, but left Jews and Romans desolate. (pp. 139-140)

<21> This Samson-Jesus link was also structurally evident in the following parallelism. Namely, the OT Samson was an earthly agent chosen by God for a cosmic deliverer mission (i.e., to free the Israelites - Judg. 13:5). He was subsequently betrayed by his own people (i.e., the Judahites - Judg. 15:10-13), and personally betrayed by his intimates, namely, his Timnath Philistine wife-to-be (Judg. 14:17) and the politically indistinct but presumed Philistine lover, Delilah (Judg. 16:18-21). Samson subsequently fell into enemy hands (i.e., the occupying Philistines lead by their lords - Judg. 15:13-14; 16:20-21), then died a violent death while in captivity (i.e., crushed while a prisoner in Dagon's temple - Judg. 16:30). Samson therefore achieved a boon for his kinsmen (i.e., relief from Philistine domination - Judg. 13:5; 16:30) through his painful but willing self-sacrifice (Judg. 16:28-30).

<22> Samson's holy career trajectory closely parallelled that of the NT Jesus Christ. For example, this chosen of God was also an earthly agent on a cosmic deliverer mission (i.e., to save humanity - Luke 4:16-21), who was subsequently betrayed by his own people (i.e., the Jews), and in particular by a personal intimate, Judas (Luke 22:2-4). Like Samson, Jesus subsequently fell into enemy hands (i.e., the occupying Romans governed by Pontius Pilate - Matt. 27:2), and then he died violently while in captivity (i.e., crucifixion - Matt. 27:27-50). Jesus also achieved a boon for humankind (i.e., salvation and freedom from sin - Luke 4:21) through his painful but willing self-sacrifice (Luke 23:46). Therefore, all of these intertestamental correspondences led many Christian commentators to view Samson as a Christ-figure or proto-Christ (but not Jesus as a Samson-figure, given their obvious Christian bias).

Five Christomorphic Resonances

<23> The Samson-Jesus parallels were not necessarily obvious to the general viewing public, especially those not very knowledgeable about the Christian Bible or intertestamental reading habits. So, DeMille-the-Christian-filmmaker buttressed this structural parallelism by linking his OT Samson with Jesus-resonating imagery on-screen. In his usual epic engineering fashion, director DeMille built five christomorphic resonances into Samson and Delilah. These pertained to: (a) shepherd imagery and leadership relationships, (b) iconic lamb-holding poses and "Lord" labelling, (c) the allocation of shepherding occupations, (d) sacrificial lamb symbolism and (e) the depiction of sheepish Israelite behaviours. The following is a considered explication of each of these propositions.

1.0 Shepherd Imagery and Leadership Relationships: Physical, Cosmic and Metaphoric

<24> Traditionally speaking, Jesus Christ is symbolically referred to in his pastoral leadership role as the "good shepherd" (Matt. 25:32; John 10:11,14; 1 Pet. 5:4), "that great shepherd of the sheep" (Heb. 13:20), "the chief Shepherd" (1 Pet. 5:4), and thus his followers are metaphorically sheep whilst Jesus is the leader and head of this Christian flock (and beyond, cosmically speaking). Prior to his earthly departure, Jesus even instructed the Apostle Peter on three separate occasions to "Feed my lambs" (John 21:15,16,17). Therefore, shepherding, lamb and sheep imagery encompassed leadership responsibilities and congregational behaviours within the NT scheme of things. Similarly, the OT Samson was an Israelite (Danite) leader who judged (i.e., led) God's chosen people for twenty years (Judg. 15:20; 16:31), and therefore, metaphorically speaking, he was the great shepherd of his OT flock. Since DeMille's on-screen Samson was verbally tagged as: "The leader of Dan, chosen judge of your people" (i.e., a Danite leader) by his mother, and Samson referred to "his people" in Dagon's temple, director DeMille needed to establish the relative power relationships between Samson and the film's other male political adversaries, most notably, the Philistine leader of Gaza whom DeMille called the Saran of Gaza (George Sanders).

1.1 Establishing the Saran's Philistine Leader Status

<25> Politically speaking, Samson was the Israelite equivalent of the Philistine Saran of Gaza. DeMille cinematically depicted this leadership equivalence when the Saran said to Samson: "from one prince to another" when they exchanged gifts during the lion hunt (i.e., Samson gave an unmarked lion skin for a Philistine bride plus one hundred pieces of silver from the Saran). However, DeMille-the-perfectionist-filmmaker had to do more to get this important power point across, and so he went to great pains to further establish the political premise and its interrelationships. Interestingly, the Saran of Gaza had no personal name; DeMille only referred to him by his political title, however, this was an act of authenticity for it is a scripturally true trajectory since no Philistine lord is actually named in Judges 13-16.

<26> DeMille also reinforced the political dimensions of the Saran's status by changing his official titles and referents throughout the film, albeit, sometimes confusingly. For example, in the opening Zorah streetscape scene, the old Story Teller (Francis J. McDonald) told his attentive audience of children that: "Pharaoh ruled the Egyptians as the Saran rules the Philistines here" with young Saul rapidly interjecting: "And the Philistines rule us." DeMille had deftly established the Saran's title, leadership role and current dominant status in the political pecking order, plus Israel's current subjugation. Later, in Tubal's (William Farnum's) private walled garden, Samson had indirectly referred to the Saran as a "king" which was a more commonly understood rulership term than Pharaoh for the 1940-50s box office public to digest. At the subsequent lion hunt, both Delilah (Hedy Lamarr) and Ahtur (Henry Wilcoxon) referred to this king as "the Saran" (thereby invoking Philistine leadership otherness) while Semadar (Angela Lansbury) referred to him as "lord Saran" (implying royal Philistine otherness). This was followed by Delilah who directly addressed him as "majesty" (which itself had a royal resonance), and then later as "lord Saran" (twice). Samson also called him "the Saran," while the Saran himself jokingly referred to his "throne" (implying kingship) when Samson asked to name his own hunter's prize for killing the young lion.

<27> Nor does DeMille's status informing and reinforcing habits stop here. In her private chambers, Delilah referred to the Saran as the "lord of Gaza" (implying city-state leadership) and later "my lord" (twice). When a Philistine messenger-soldier entered her intimate boudoir, he dutifully addressed him as "majesty" and then more formally "the Saran of Gaza" (thereby reinforcing his royalty, political title and geographic location). After the Samson-capturing Philistine council meeting, Delilah referred to the Saran as "my lord" (implying monarch and master), and then later she fused two concepts together by saying: "My lord is the wisest of kings" with the Saran astutely replying: "As a king I have no choice...." Delilah later called him "king of my love" (reinforcing his royalty and her intimate attachment to him with the word "love" having both romantic and erotic connotations). When Samson is a blinded prisoner and Delilah got her immense silvery reward (aka Judg. 16:5,18), she again referred to the Saran as "king." When the Saran, along with Delilah visited the blind Samson in prison, an attendant called him "majesty," and when Delilah later secretly visited Samson to free him, Samson referred to the Saran as "king" yet again (both royalty terms reinforced each other).

<28> Interestingly, at Dagon's festival, lord of Ekron referred to Delilah as "queen" and so by implication her companion, the Saran, was a king. Later, Miriam (Olive Deering) referred to seeing the "king" when she and young Saul went to petition the Saran during the victory celebrations. In due course, she cried out "majesty" (twice) to get the Saran's attention and then described him as "a king, a conqueror" and "great king" (twice) to reinforce his royalty, his inherent ruler duty and his apparent success at it (alternatively, it was just flattery). Similarly, Delilah referred to the Saran as "our king" when Miriam eventually petitioned her for Samson's life. Overall, the Saran's kingship status was directly reinforced by Samson, Delilah, Miriam, the Saran himself and the lord of Ekron through implication. Clearly, the Saran was as an important political figure which DeMille also reinforced with other regal terms such as: "lord," "majesty," "prince," "Saran," and by implication a Philistine "Pharaoh" via the old "Story Teller."

<29> To further reinforce the Saran's leadership/rulership status, DeMille gave him the front row seat of honour in Dagon's temple, the best chariot at the lion hunt and the most prominent chair in his Gaza council chamber. Indeed, to separate himself from the rest of the council members (including Ahtur), the Saran referred to them collectively as the "princes of Gaza" (as did Ahtur after Samson's fatal hair cut); thus again implying status differentials amongst them with the Saran being in the numero uno position. As the Saran admitted to Delilah in the prison gristmill: "There can be only one master in a kingdom...." that is, the Saran of Gaza (and behind him, DeMille-the-auteur). Nor did DeMille-the-director-of-perfection stop here. He also established the correct political status and interrelationships between the Saran and the other "lords of the Philistines" (Judg. 16:5) that historically had formed this ancient pentapolis.

1.2 Establishing the Saran's Political Equivalence with the Other Philistine City-State Leaders

<30> DeMille hinted at the political equivalence of the other Philistine city-state leaders via naming and seating arrangements during Samson's humiliation in the temple of Dagon (aka Judg. 16:25). This was another indication of the extent of DeMille's craftsmanship and authenticity desires, albeit, economically executed, for he only displayed two other pentapolis leaders alongside the Saran, namely, the lord of Ekron (Frank Wilcox) and the lord of Ashkelon (Russell Hicks). Both were the Saran's political equivalent, both were leaders of their respective city-states, both were men of power. Indeed, the lord of Ashkelon personally referred to the Saran as "my lord of Gaza" (i.e., a political-geographic designation of equivalence, not a submissive appellation).

<31> The political equivalence of the Ekron and Ashkelon lords was also visually indicated by their same height seating levels, and their along side seating positions next to the Saran and "queen" Delilah while located in the position of honour at Dagon's temple. That is, DeMille is symbolically indicating that the visiting lords are both politically equal as leaders because they are seated (i.e., not standing as other Philistines were forced to do, such as Ahtur) and their seats we not lower than the Saran's seat (and where a higher seat would indicate superiority). However, both visiting lords also ranked either equal second, or second and third if closeness to the centrally located Saran is deemed more intimate and thus more status-filled. Therefore, making lord of Ashkelon second in importance because he sat directly next to the Saran, whereas lord of Ekron is third in importance because he is one person away from the Saran sitting next to "queen" Delilah. In short, DeMille had deftly encoded politics via physical positioning.

<32> DeMille also coded their political status via costuming and demeanour. Both of the visiting Philistine lords were dressed as opulently as the Saran, and their informal tone and non-verbal behaviours again reinforced their political equivalence (not subservience). In fact, the lord of Ashkelon personally complained to the Saran-as-lord-of-Gaza about his dancers because he had dancers in Ashkelon, but not Samson, which is why he was impatient to get on with the sporting (aka Judg. 16:25), and presumably why he came to Gaza from Ashkelon in the first place. All this DeMillean dialogue dilettantism left no doubt in the audience's mind that the Saran was indeed the highest political leader of the city of Gaza (and the film), if not exactly the supreme master of the Philistine pentapolis. To further cinematically cement the Saran's supremacy, during the Dagon festivities Ahtur referred to the Saran as "high majesty" (i.e., not just "majesty"). Thus he was implying superiority over the visiting Philistine city lords of equal majesty (and just like the Saran had previously referred to "high prince Ahtur" to accentuate his prime position amongst the other Gaza princes, albeit, sarcastically while at the post-jaw bone massacre conference). DeMille had thus gone to great pains to establish the political power, status and interrelationships on-screen. To augment this political foundation, DeMille also had to establish the status interrelationships between Ahtur and the Saran, which he did with equal thoughtfulness and skill.

1.3 Establishing Ahtur's Status

<33> DeMille's Ahtur is not scripturally named or identified within the Book of Judges, but his existence and occupation is implied (Judg. 16:20-21), and so DeMille creatively extrapolated this probability into a fully fleshed screen character. He variously tagged him as: "lord general" via Hisham (Julia Faye) while in Delilah's chamber, and as a "general" by the tormenting dwarf accompanying the (willingly) captured Samson at the Lehi pass (aka Judg. 15:14). DeMille's Tubal had earlier called Ahtur the "military governor of Dan" (thereby establishing his military power and administrative role) while Ahtur referred to himself as a "soldier" (i.e., not a political leader or rival of the Saran). The Philistine messenger-soldier in Delilah's private chamber respectfully referred to him as: "lord Ahtur, military governor of Dan, prince of Philistia" (thereby reinforcing his power, social and political status). Later, the Saran sarcastically referred to these same titles when a flummoxed Ahtur had to explain how he lost the bound prisoner Samson (and thus implying his political/military impotence). At one point, the Saran very sarcastically called him "high prince Ahtur" to further rub in his failure to hold Samson.

<34> Therefore, by implication, the Saran of Gaza was greater than a regular Philistine high prince, although confusingly, "prince" was the Saran's own self-designation at the lion hunt. However, one assumes that in that instance the Saran was referring to himself and Samson as outstanding members of a group, generous and charming men, but not technically royal rankings (see Hanks et al., 1982, p. 1162). The Saran's pre-eminence was also indicated by his hunting pastime, non-soldier work and leadership duties (while sitting upon various power thrones) that involved Ahtur directly reporting to him with appropriate deferential behaviours (e.g. saluting, pleading, dutifully obeying the Saran's commands). Ahtur even stood behind the Saran at the Dagon festivities instead of being seated next to him, Delilah and the lords of Ekron and Ashkelon so as to further depower him in the viewer's mind. DeMille left no doubt that Ahtur was the Saran's underling. Not only did DeMille make the Saran the master of Gaza, but he also made him the most important of all the Philistine city leaders.

1.4 Establishing the Saran's Political Overlordship

<35> DeMille, but not the Bible made the Saran of Gaza the major Philistine protagonist and the political overlord of all their city-states. However, it was a wise filmic choice simply because of Samson's major adventures in Gaza. For example, Samson had visited its harlot (Judg. 16:1), ripped off and then stole its gates (Judg. 16:3), laboured in their prison gristmill (Judg. 16:21), and it was the location of Dagon's temple (Judg. 16:23), and thus Samson's death site (Judg. 16:30-31). Indeed, the location of this major pagan temple implied that Gaza and its lord-leader was the most important of all the Philistine cities and their lord-leaders to warrant this religious honour, especially for so effectively dealing with their deadly Danite pest. With a typical DeMillean authenticity touch, Ahtur had presented Tubal with a beautiful roll of light blue, translucent gauze "from the looms of Gaza" as a gift for his future father-in-law. This screen prop was very significant because, historically speaking, gauze is believed to have originated in Gaza (Hanks et al., 1982, p. 603). DeMille was never one to let an historical association like that pass by easily.

<36> Interestingly, no specific number of Philistine lords is actually given in the Book of Judges, but traditionally speaking, it is assumed to be five because the "five chief cities of the Philistines were Ashdod, Askalon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza" (Calvocoressi, 1990, p. 194). These cities were "ruled by a prince or 'lord'...the five rulers of the Philistine city-states" (Martin, 1975, p. 177), and these "five Philistine cities formed a united political unit" (Lockyer, 1986, p. 836). This accounts for DeMille commingling the lord-leaders on important occasions, and giving the Saran prime importance over this united political unit of Philistines. It also accounts for DeMille's reference to "five cities" repeated throughout the screen dialogue. For example, DeMille had Ahtur in Tubal's garden refer to the Saran as "lord of the five cities," and he had the Saran label himself "lord of the five cities" during his crisis council meeting. In Delilah's oasis love-nest, Samson called the Saran "the ruler of the five cities" (thus cunningly implying that "lord" equals "ruler" equals "leader"), and then after Samson's fatal hair cut, Ahtur again referred to the Saran as the "lord of the five cities." Delilah would also angrily call the Saran "lord of the five cities" in the Gaza prison for apparently defaulting on their deal not to harm Samson. Few in the audience could miss this authentic archaeological fact or the Saran's pre-eminence in the political scheme of things having been told this by Ahtur, the Saran, Samson and Delilah (i.e., the major players in DeMille's drama). All that was left to do was establish Samson's status as the Israelite nemesis of the Philistine Saran in preparation for their forthcoming showdown, which DeMille did on multiple occasions for both dramaturgical and christomorphic reasons.

1.5 Establishing Samson's Israelite (Danite) Leader Status

<37> While in her rustic kitchen in Zorah, Samson's mother angrily referred to her wayward son as: "A leader?! You?!" and then later she annoyingly said: "You! The leader of Dan, chosen judge of your people" to firmly emphasise his sociopolitical status (and hopeful to get him to marry Miriam, a lovely local Danite maiden). DeMille chose this dialogue path, not just because of his pop culture credentials, but because scripturally speaking, Samson "himself never claimed to be a judge" (Miller & Miller, 1960, p. 641), and so DeMille had honoured this biblical fact by getting other film characters to give him his leadership hue. Samson's political status was also confirmed when DeMille's Ahtur called him "the judge of Dan" while in Tubal's garden. This verbal tag jibbed with the imprisoned Samson's description of God as the "judge of the Earth" (i.e., both were leaders of their two respective domains).

<38> Later, Ahtur complained to the Saran about not being able to find the renegade Samson, and so the Saran sarcastically referred to Samson as "an invisible leader" (which itself implied a Samson christic association because the God of the Israelites was also invisible). DeMille reinforced this political idea again when Samson is first (willingly) captured, and the tormenting dwarf mockingly referred to him as "an unconquerable leader of Danites," and with typical DeMillean irony, just prior to the soldiers' murderous devastation by the jawbone-welding Samson (aka Judg. 15:14-17). Indeed, it was DeMille's auteuristic habit of repeatedly peppering his narrative with verbal referents to get his point across. For example, while a blind, chained prisoner in Dagon's temple talking with young Saul, Samson referred to Saul's shepherd occupation and then his own self-defined "lost sheep" status (which itself resonated with Jesus's parable of the lost sheep - Luke 15:4-7). Samson then remorsefully referred to himself as "a leader who failed his people," and then with ironic clear sight for a blind man, he described himself as one who had "led them a crooked path." However, Samson did not refer to himself as a king (and which might also explain why DeMille's Saran referred to himself and Samson as princes during the lion hunt). Indeed, during Samson's lamenting temple confession, he suggested to young Saul that he guide "his people" and be "their first king." This regal suggestion fired Saul's youthful imagination: "Me?!...a king?!" (while exciting the children in the audience and demonstrating DeMille's marketing prowess).

<39> Such anti-king dialogue from, or about, Samson is understandable because historically speaking, the Samson saga was set in the period prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy. When it was eventually established, Saul became Yahweh's earthly designate and thus the first real king of Israel (which is what DeMille was alluding to). Scripturally speaking, Samson was only a judge of Israel, that is, a charismatic leader of his people who functioned as a deliverer and ruled them for twenty years (Judg. 15:20; 16:31) and thus the metaphoric shepherd of God's pre-monarchal people. DeMille had once again packaged the biblical truth in popular, unexpected and non-traditional ways (i.e., DeMillean auteuristic countercoherence), but which is frequently unappreciated today by critics and the general public alike. Intertwined with all this deftly crafted political posturing, DeMille had woven christic lambing-holding and "Lord" labelling into Samson's on-screen character for added holy effect.

2.0 Lamb-Holding and "Lord" Labelling: Holy Props and Divine Associations

<40> DeMille reinforced Samson's Christic association by cunningly tapping into a profoundly Christian iconic image, lamb-holding. Next to the crucified Christ, the loving, gentle Jesus as divine shepherd is an image that fills a million postcards throughout Christendom. There is no quicker way to evoke positive christic resonances than to have a character tenderly carry around a young lamb that is white to symbolise purity. So, it is not too surprising to find that during their mother-son conversation in the rustic kitchen, DeMille-the-Christian had Samson pick up a young white lamb from the top of his mother's holding pen. He gently placed the lamb in his arms and fed it water from his fingertips as he conversed with his mother. There is no scriptural indication of these screen events in Judges 13-16. DeMille had adopted this rustic christic image for Samson-the-rustic to uprate his holiness quickly, directly and potently, and thus firmly stamp Samson as a Christ-figure with this animal calling card.

<41> Later, Samson gently bent over and returned the lamb to the bottom of the holding pen accompanied by a mock concern: "Run along or your mother will be tanning your hide too" followed by a loud bleat of protest from the unsettled lamb. Not only was this scene a comical DeMillean touch indicative of his pop culture professionalism, but it also subtly broached the lamb's future death which in turn resonated with Jesus's future death as the-lamb-of-God whose hide would also be staked out to dry (i.e., crucifixion; death by dehydration and asphyxiation). Logically speaking, the lamb's loud alarmed bleat indicated its lost position of comfort in Samson's arms, and possibly the loss of its intimate water feed. However, it also metaphorically resonated with Jesus's anxious concern with his own deathly fate-to-come, after all, Jesus sweated great drops the size of blood over the issue while on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:44). To further cement this christic association, the word "Lord" was specifically used.

2.1 The Significance of DeMille's Word "Lord"

<42> When Samson's mother had scolded him she urged Samson to "learn the ways of the Lord." Her DeMillean use of the word "Lord" in this chastising context was intriguing because throughout most of Samson and Delilah, the Divine is frequently referred to by both Israelite and Philistine characters as either: "God," "great God," "invisible God," "merciful God," "God of Samson," "the Almighty," "invisible Lord" an "invisible power," "a higher voice" and even "judge of the Earth." However, this "Lord" reference in the context of lamb-holding was apparently no accident for it subtly resonated with Jesus Christ as the "Lord of Lords" (Rev. 19:16), and the word "Lord" (but not lower case "lord") is frequently used today by Christians to refer to Jesus Christ (Sydnor, 1990, p. 84). If DeMille had truly wanted to capture an Old Testament flavour instead of a New Testament taste in his ostensively OT epic, then instead of using the word "Lord," DeMille would have used the OT God's divine referents, such as "Jehovah," "Yahweh," or even the Tetragrammaton "YHWH." DeMille-the-authenticity-stickler had been brought up on the Bible by his Christian lay minister father (Higham, 1973, p. 5) and so he would have known better, especially with all his religious consultants on call, but he used "Lord" to firm up the Samson-Christ linkage.

<43> Indeed, when DeMille's Samson is later captured and the Philistine soldiers stop for a break at the Lehi pass (aka Judg. 15:14), Samson prayed (not scripturally stated) using the phrase: "Oh Lord my God," thereby directly forging a Lord-God link. DeMille made a similar connection at the beginning of the film when the old Story Teller used the word "Lord" to refer to God/Yahweh prior to his own Philistine abuse when he said to the children: "And the Lord said unto Moses...." (i.e., Lord equals God/Yahweh who is the boss of Moses and the source of the ten commandments). This was presumably done to placate those Christians who make a real distinction between God (i.e., the creator of the universe) and Lord Jesus (i.e., the Son of God, but not God per se). DeMille let both groups hear what they wanted to by engineering ambiguity in this dialogic fashion. Indeed, Delilah's anguished complaint to the Saran at the prison gristmill could have been describing DeMille-the-auteur, namely: " played with words."

<44> Presumably, to avoid potential Jewish disquiet about this Christian linkage, DeMille-the-half-Jew also provided a Jewish "Lord" (but not Jesus Christ) association. When the wandering barber (Frank Reicher) had his money confiscated by a wily Philistine tax collector, he bitterly complained and used the phrase: "the light of the Lord" (but not "the light of God" or "the light of Yahweh" etc.). DeMille's very next scene is a lighted menorah in a pious Jewish worship context, thereby equating "Lord" and "light" with the Judaic God who was represented by this iconic symbol of the Jewish faith. Indeed, Miriam's grandfather then argued that: "the strength of the Lord is in him" to reinforce the Samson-Lord-Judaic-God link. Therefore, Christians could legitimately make the Lord-lamb-Jesus-Christ-Christian-God association, Jews could legitimately make the Lord-light-menorah-Jewish-God association, and DeMille had an in-built defence should he be religiously attacked by either Christian, Jewish or authenticity critics. There are many natural enemies for any religious filmmaker to judiciously contend with, especially if one desires a prosperous future in the genre and beyond. Given all these Lord, leader and lamb issues, it was only intuitively natural that DeMille made Samson and the Danites shepherds.

3.0 The Allocation of Shepherding Occupations: A Uniquely DeMillean Vocation

<45> There is no biblical indication that Samson was a shepherd or even any sheep imagery within Judges 13-16. In fact, when the scriptural Samson was angry he used cow imagery ("heifer" - Judg. 14:18), which DeMille did accurately reproduce on-screen during Samson's wedding feast. Scripturally speaking, Samson also harassed foxes (Judg. 15:4), used the jawbone of an ass as a weapon (Judg. 15:15-17), killed a young lion (Judg. 14:5-6), encountered a swarm of bees and took their honey (Judg. 14:8-9), and when Samson wanted to please his Timnath bride-to-be, he brought her a gift, a young goat ("kid" - Judg. 15:1). In fact, the Samson saga repeatedly referred to young goats ("kid" - Judg. 13:15,19; 14:6) but not sheep! Yet, director DeMille repeatedly imposed a shepherd occupation upon Samson. DeMille-the-authenticity-stickler was no doubt aware of the glaring sheep omissions in Judges 13-16, but he persisted with this occupational category as another christomorphic enhancer for the seriously compromised, but scripturally accurate Samson.

<46> In fact, DeMille went to great filmic pains to give Samson a shepherd occupation. He did so by adopting the common biblical literary practice of repetition to ram home his point. For example, DeMille had Samson's mother complain: "Oh Samson, why can't you be like our neighbour's sons, content to watch their father's flocks." So, by implication, why is Samson not personally delighted with the same honourable shepherding job and in making his dad proud? When Samson verbally sparred with Ahtur before Semadar in Tubal's garden, the following dialogue ensued regarding Samson's desire to go on the Saran's lion hunt:

Ahtur: ...may he [the Saran] succeed without the assistance of a judge of shepherds [Samson].
Samson: A shepherd [Samson] needs to know more about lions than the king [the Saran]...his life depends upon it.
Ahtur: A shepherd [Samson] obeys the law...

<47> Therefore, DeMille's Samson had not only been directly associated with a shepherding occupation and verbally tagged as a "judge of shepherds" (which also reaffirmed his leader status), but Samson had unhesitatingly accepted this shepherd tag while under attack from a combined romantic, ethnic, religious, political and military rival. DeMille continued this same thematic thread during Samson and Semadar's wedding feast. For example, an aggrieved Ahtur mischievously demanded: "Sing us one of your shepherd songs Samson," however, Samson gave them a riddle instead claiming: "My singing sounds more like the bleating of my sheep." When the Philistine guests were arguing over the wager for solving Samson's neck-riddle, one of them complained: "we'll get old shepherd cloaks" which again reinforced Samson's sheep herder job.

<48> When Samson had initially escaped his first (willing) Philistine capture, the Saran of Gaza complained to his Philistine princes that "a Danite herdsman" had routed his soldiers. When Delilah initially asked for 1,100 pieces of silver for Samson's secret, one of the Philistine princes indignantly complained: "A Pharaoh's ransom for a shepherd?" and thus again ramming home Samson's sheep herder occupation (plus making him the Israelite Pharaonic equivalent of the Saran, the Philistine Pharaoh). None of this dialogue was scripturally supported, but DeMille keep pushing shepherd associations because Jesus was the metaphoric shepherd, "the chief Shepherd" (1 Pet. 5:4). DeMille associated Samson with this Jesus-as-shepherd resonance by literally making Samson a shepherd on-screen. The christic subtext had erupted into DeMille's text.

3.1 The Israelites (Danites) as a Race of Shepherds

<49> Therefore, it is not too surprising to discover that DeMille had many scenes of sheep, flocks and shepherds throughout Samson and Delilah to reinforce the rustic feeling, and contextually justify his christomorphic resonance strategy. For example, a flock was seen in the distant background being herded through the countryside during DeMille's introductory voice-over narration (thus visually implying a land of sheep and shepherds). A few sheep accompanied by children were seen wandering at a distance in the lane outside the kitchen of Samson's mother (thus implying a village full of sheep and justifying her own in-house sheep pen). Just before the Philistine tax collectors were claiming their "one-out-of-three" sheep in tax, a flock was shown in the background. In the following foreground shot, DeMille had one of the Philistine tax collectors grab a sheep from the arms of a protesting woman (and an equally complaining male companion) to reinforce the notion of Philistine theft, injustice, oppression and by implication, the value of sheep.

<50> DeMille dialogically reinforced this rural (if not scripturally stated) fact-of-life when an exasperated Ahtur complained to the Saran: "Samson!, Samson!, Samson! Every Danite sheep herder knows where to find him!" thus verbally implying that the Danites were a people/nation/race/tribe of shepherds. Even Samson referred to a story from "my people" (i.e., Danites/Israelites) about heavy ram's wool as the mark of its power when explaining the secret of his phenomenal strength to Delilah at her oasis love-nest (aka Judg. 16:4). However, these intense and repeated sheep associations are understandable given the rural context of the Samson saga, and thus a reasonable DeMillean extrapolation given the biblical silence on this specific occupational point. Admittedly, DeMille could have made more use of the fact that Samson's country also contained cornfields, vineyards and olive trees (Judg. 15:5). To further enhance the christomorphic resonance of Samson on-screen, DeMille-the-master-of-the-biblical-subtext also taped into a very powerful symbolic Jesus-lamb association to create Samson-the-sacrifice.

4.0 Sacrificial Lamb Symbolism: Samson as Divine Offering

<51> One of the traditional symbols of Jesus Christ is "the lamb" (Rev. 5:6,12; 7:17) whom Christians believed was sacrificed for the benefit of all humanity. So, DeMille also tried to make Samson a symbolic sacrificial lamb to enhance his holiness through this christic association tactic. For example, when Samson escaped his first (willing) capture by the Philistines, the Saran of Gaza responded by punishing the Danites with heavy taxes, which he ruthlessly carried out. During one scene, a domineering Philistine tax collector grabbed a large lamb from a group of Danite shepherds as their (unwilling) tax tribute. He then held the lamb's legs together and quickly hung it upside down sacrifice-like, claiming that their heavy taxing would continue: "Until you give us Samson tied up like this." The sacrificial lamb posture which the tax collector linked directly to Samson resonated with Jesus-the-lamb-of-God as mankind's spiritual sacrifice who was also bound and hung (i.e., crucifixion) by unreasonable foreign oppressors (i.e., the Romans).

<52> In an even more subtle, if ill-fitting biblical reference in the very same scene, the oppressive tax collector threatened to confiscate the group's goat next time round. This scene could be interpreted as a deformed re-enactment of separating the unrighteous (i.e., goats/Philistines) from the righteous (i.e., sheep/Danites) within the NT scheme of things (Matt. 25:32-33), or "between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats" (Ezek. 34:17) within the OT scheme of things. Possibly, it was just DeMille's attempt at being scripturally authentic by acknowledging that Judges 13-16 repeatedly referred to "kids" (i.e., young goats) throughout the Samson saga (Judg. 13:15,19; 14:6; 15:1) and he needed to pay special homage to it. Indeed, DeMille also reinforced the Samson-equals-symbolic-lamb linkage after Delilah betrayed him. When Samson's holy hair was finally cut and the Philistine soldiers invaded the bedroom to bind him, one gloating soldier yelled out: "the lion of Dan is shorn like a sheep," and then Samson was treated like a dumb domestic animal thereafter.

<53> Like Jesus, Samson the DeMillean tagged "lost sheep" was rendered as a sacrificial lamb of God, who ironically succeeded in small part as a deliverer (i.e., what an OT judge is supposed to be) when he died killing many of his Philistine enemies. For in Dagon's temple "upon the roof [there were] about three thousand men and women" (Judg. 16:27) and after Samson's titanic efforts "the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he [Samson] slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life" (Judg. 16:30). DeMille filmed this biblical devastation event in the best spectacular tradition of Hollywood, and made it the special effects highlight of the film. In essence, the scriptural Samson was an ancient Kamikaze pilot whose Pyrrhic victory fulfilled God's will to "begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines" (Judg. 13:5). He was not totally successful, but it was a step in the right direction as indicated by the phrase "begin to deliver."

<54> Samson's sacrifice and deathly deeds were a reaffirmation of Yahweh's presence with Israel. It was a testimony to divine power, cunning and patience, and dramatic proof that God can use "bad" people for "good" ends, just like DeMille-the-Christian-filmmaker who tried to make a "bad" Samson "good" subtextually. Indeed, the biblical author of Judges "gave Samson more space than any other judge to send the implied message "if God could use this person, he can use anyone"" (Ryken, Wilhoit & Longman III, 1998, p. 757). Similarly, if DeMille could make a screen star out of a previously fat Victor Mature (Higham, 1973, pp. 286-287), he could also do it with any other bulky hulk, while the cinematic Samson has itself been a Hollywood favourite since cinema's inception (see filmography; Campbell & Pitts, 1981). Indeed, this biblical character has been given more screen time than any other character from the Book of Judges, including numerous reincarnations in Italian muscle men films (Smith, 1991).

5.0 The Depiction of Sheepish Israelite Behaviours: Woolly Metaphoric Symbolism?

<55> DeMille was so deeply committed to using sheep associations throughout Samson and Delilah that he went one stage further by using sheep metaphors to characterise the whole of the Israelite nation, and with some justification. Samson's Israelite flock were the equivalent of the holy congregation of "lambs" (John 21:15,16,17) that Jesus instructed the Apostle Peter to feed for him. In Tubal's garden, when DeMille had Ahtur call Samson a "judge of shepherds," that is, the leader of leaders of sheep, it had resonated with the idea of Samson being the OT equivalent of Jesus "the chief Shepherd" (1 Pet. 5:4). In fact, scriptural speaking, the Israelite flock did act sheepishly given their subjugated status, which DeMille thematically reinforced on-screen.

5.1 Sheepish National Pacifism as Slave Mentality

<56> Politically speaking, the Israelite's sheepish pacifism was textually true. They had grown accustomed to their Philistine oppressors after having been subjugated when "the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years" (Judg. 13:1). Maybe they were still in flock shock or had suffered from learned helplessness and thus grown accustomed to their slave mentality, nevertheless, they certainly did not want Samson to rock the proverbial political boat (Judg. 15:11). Consequently, Samson's own people bound him with new cords and handed him over to the Philistines (Judg. 15:12-13). His personal vendettas had too many painful political consequences for both of them (Judg. 15:11), and neither Israelite or Philistine nation could tolerate Samson in his disruptive role as the "Che Guevara of the Sinai Peninsula" (Wurtzel, 1998, p. 47).

<57> DeMille emphasised this scriptural point on-screen when Lesh Lakish (John Miljan) complained about burnt grain and hungry children, and then he emotionally asked Miriam: "Must we all suffer what one man has done?" (which was logically reasonable). This was coupled with a suggestion that Samson's anti-Philistine actions were not done for his Israelite people, but rather, as revenge for his dead Philistine wife-to-be (scripturally valid - Judg. 15:3). Indeed, Samson's troublesome behaviour was repeatedly flagged by DeMille throughout Samson and Delilah as an authentic dramatic counterpoint to Israelite submissiveness. For example, in her rustic kitchen, Samson's mother complained to him saying: "you were brawling through the streets of Timnath with the Philistines," and then again on the lion hunt when the Saran called him a "brawling troublemaker," which Samson cheekily accepted as a badge of honour. After Samson's deadly routing of the Philistine soldiers at Lehi, one of the Philistine council members emotionally referred to him as: "this barbarian, this killer" while Delilah referred to him as a "common robber" during their initial oasis meeting.

<58> Prior to Samson's first formal handing-over to the Philistines, DeMille had Lesh Lakish argue with Miriam (who symbolised female weakness) about giving up Samson, which Miriam's grandfather (who symbolised aging fragility and weariness) considered was a betrayal: "Why will men always betray the strongest among them?" As if a compensatory gesture, Lesh Lakish antiseptically replied: "His name will be written in the book of Judges." This was another DeMillean filmic reminder of his authentic scriptural origins while simultaneously protecting Samson's sanctity by suggested that it was Samson who was betrayed by his own people (and not Samson betraying his own people by his irresponsibility). Indeed, both Miriam (as an intimate Samson friend) and her reverential grandfather are very troubled by Lesh Lakish's decision, but they both sheepishly allowed the betrayal decision to stand despite their fleeting emotional protestations. Apparently, their love of Samson and justice was not stronger than their counter-arguments, the truth of Lesh Lakish's views, or the very officiousness of his authoritative stance as a tribal leader, presumably Judahite (aka Judg. 15:10-13). Samson was dutifully bound by cords and handed over to the Philistines. DeMille's metaphor of Samson (i.e., the Christ-figure) as the dangled sheep (i.e., the sacrificial lamb) held up by a greedy Philistine tax collector (i.e., the foreign oppressor) had now become a brutal fact-of-life on-screen.

5.2 Samson's Sheep-like Submission: Mirroring His People?

<59> Despite his brawler ways, the scriptural Samson also displayed cautionary sheep-like submission to his people's desires for him to become a Philistine prisoner (Judg. 15:12), presumably for self-survival reasons. DeMille did not screen these Judahite-Philistine negotiation or "betrayal" episodes, nor hint at Samson's self-interest motivations. Presumably, not to tarnish Samson's carefully nurtured Christian hero status, or damage it further by evoking metaphoric suggestions of angry "sheep" turning upon their unwholesome "shepherd," plus avoid audience incredulity problems by showing three thousand men surrounding Samson prior to his surrender (Judg. 15:11). Although DeMille was master of the crowd scene, even this latter biblical hyperbole would have been difficult and expensive to film, as well as steal dramatic thunder away from the Lehi massacre and temple toppling scenes to come.

<60> DeMille had inferred Samson's acceptance of his "betrayal" by his very passive behaviour towards the Philistine soldiers who had physically bound, humiliated and dragged him towards Gaza. To ram home the idea of Samson's Jesus-like meekness, DeMille had Samson earnestly ask his Philistine captors via Ahtur to confirm that he was dutifully conforming to their agreement as negotiated by his kinsmen. This DeMillean episode is not scripturally stated, and so it appears that DeMille-the-Christian-apologist was trying to repair the damage to Samson's now tarnished on-screen image. He was implying that honour was the root motivation for Samson's willing submission to Philistine capture, humility and harassment, instead of Samson being a troublemaker who was out-manned and out-manoeuvred by his own kinsmen.

5.3 Submission as Thematic Bondage and Christic Mirroring

<61> DeMille had reinforced the scriptural theme of national and physical bondage of the Israelites by adding his own psychological dimension to it. He did this through the engineered meekness of Samson's behaviour during his initial (willing) Philistine capture. He did it again when Samson is (unwillingly) captured for a second time by the Philistines, blinded and forced to grind in the prison gristmill (aka Judg. 16:21) and he stoically enduring it all before his final prayer-preceding death in Dagon's toppled temple (aka Judg. 16:25-30). Samson's Kamikaze act subsequently earned him biblical glory and his name was forever recorded in the Book of Judges, just as DeMille's Lesh Lakish promised.

<62> Samson's final betrayal experience in Samson and Delilah also mirrored Jesus's betrayal experience as recorded in the Gospels. For example, Christ was handed-over by his own people, the Jews (paralleling the OT Israelites). This was done via two people, namely, Judas, an intimate Jewish friend (the distant equivalent of DeMille's intimate Miriam) and Caiaphas, the official leader of the Jewish community (paralleling DeMille's officious Lesh Lakish). Jesus was given to unsympathetic Roman soldiers (paralleling the giving of Samson to unsympathetic Philistine soldiers) for similar humiliation and abusive treatment (paralleling Samson's capture, humiliation and abuse). Jesus also stoically endured it all right up to his own prayer-preceding death on the cross as he voluntarily laid down his life for humanity (paralleling cine-Samson's stoic, prayer-preceding sacrifice for his nation according to DeMille). Jesus likewise received enduring biblical glory as his name was forever recorded in the Bible (just like Samson, and which DeMille did again with his sacred cinema offering). Both biblical figures are considered Christian heroes and pop culture icons right up until today.


<63> Far from being a biblical illiterate, a religious hypocrite or a cinematic fraud, DeMille had acted as a brilliant lay biblical scholar and Christian apologist with a strong pop culture flavour. This anti-avant-garde strategy was precisely how DeMille-the-businessman could keep the bulk of the general public happy and still make enough money in cutthroat Hollywood to continue making his films decade after decade. Indeed, what other American filmmaker has had more successful biblical epics than Cecil B. DeMille, or would even dare try to do today? DeMille was just as fierce a survivor and business pragmatist as he was a gifted cinematic artist. Indeed, DeMille-the-popular-Hollywood-religious-story-teller had encapsulated the very essence of the Nazarene's own teaching strategy in his film making praxis. Namely, he went to the people, spoke to them in their language, about their desires to teach them about his ideas. If this pedagogic tactic was good enough for the king of kings it ought to be good enough for the king of Hollywood.

<64> DeMille's different religious imagination (Fiorenza, 2001, p. 181) and artistically creative countercoherence (Jasper, 1999, p. 51) was achieved primarily through the complex engineering of christic infranarratives. Not only was this filmic device an important DeMillean signature trade secret, and indicative of a master filmmaker worthy of the auteur tag, but his unique trademark helps explain the secret of DeMille's success that propelled him far beyond his professional peers. None of Hollywood's other non-believing directors or even religious filmmakers could hope to match DeMille's uniqueness or commercial success. They were simply missing DeMille's breadth, depth and range of religious understanding and biblical knowledge, and so they could not translate what they did not have, or cared about, onto their own screens.

<65> No wonder DeMille was master of the American biblical epic. He exuded religion through his very pores, which could not help but spill over into his films whenever the paying public would allow him to do so. Nor was the viewing public ever fearful of being bored by a DeMille epic, whether dealing with religion or not. As Martin Scorsese (1978, p. 63) claimed about Samson and Delilah: "De Mille presented a fantasy, dreamlike quality on film that was so real, if you saw his movies as a child, they stuck with you for life." DeMille was truly that good. In fact, DeMille's repertoire of christomorphic resonances did not stop with sheep imagery, but that is another exciting story to be told. Further research into Samson and Delilah, biblical epics, Christ-figures, DeMille studies and the interdisciplinary genre of religion-and-film (aka celluloid religion, cinematic theology, theo-film, faith-and-film) is warmly recommended.


[1] Many commentators have spelled Cecil's surname as "De Mille" or "de Mille" or "deMille" however, the correct professional spelling is "DeMille" (DeMille & Hayne, 1960, p. 6), and so it will be spelled herein throughout unless scholarly quoting practices dictates otherwise. [^]

[2] The Authorized King James Version of the Bible will be used throughout. This edition was frequently used by DeMille, especially in his early days because of audience familiarity with it (Higashi, 1994, p. 180). Bracketed scriptural references will be employed throughout the work to reinforce the film-Bible parallels, as appropriate. [^]

[3] There is not one DeMille but many DeMilles. His career was so long, complex and multi-faceted that to describe, let alone justify each aspect would be prohibitive. Therefore, neat and concise hyphenated compound terms will be used throughout to help disentangle his various roles and avoid needless repetition and reader boredom. This same principle will be applied to other descriptive terms as appropriate. [^]


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Basic Instinct (1992, dir. Paul Verhoeven)
Hail Mary (1985, dir. Jean-Luc Godard)
The King of Kings (1927, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, dir. Martin Scorsese)
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, dir. Terry Jones)
Samson (1914, prod. J. Farrell MacDonald)
Samson (1915, dir. Ben Lewis)
Samson and Delilah (1903, dir. Ferdinand Zecca)
Samson and Delilah (1908, dir. unknown, Pathe)
Samson and Delilah (1922, dir. Edwin J. Collins)
Samson und Delila (aka Samson and Delilah) (1922, dir. Alexander Korda)
Samson and Delilah (1927, dir. H. B. Parkinson)
Samson and Delilah (1949, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)
Samson and Delilah (1984, dir. Lee Philips)
Samson and Delilah (1996, dir. Nicolas Roeg)
The Ten Commandments (1923, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)
The Ten Commandments (1956, dir. Cecil B. DeMille)