THE EGYPTIAN (1954) – A Swords & Sandals Cultural Encounter at the de Young Museum

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs
20th Century Fox CinemaScope epic to screen at the Koret Auditorium
San Francisco Sentinel critic will introduce The Egyptian

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

THE EGYPTIAN, a grand epic directed by Michael Curtiz, is alive and well come Friday night, August 21st in the Koret Auditorium at the de Young Museum. Produced in 1954 by movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck – whose prior Box Office hits included The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Viva Zapata, David and Bathsheba, All About Eve, and (what would eventually be declared as a great film noir classic) Night and the CityTHE EGYPTIAN is a sparkling example of Hollywood trotting forth its wealth and, for its stellar cast, a liberal application of its most seductive narcotic, “The Star Treatment”.

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EDMUND PURDOM (“Sinuhe”) – THE EGYPTIAN, 1954

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Edmund Purdom (Sinuhe), Victor Mature (Horemheb), Henry Danielle (Mikere)
“So! The dirty deed must be done the way it always has been –
by a physician, known to be Pharaoh’s friend.”

Moreover, producer Zanuck needed to properly exploit the studio’s hold on the very latest in cinematic gimmickry – the extra-wide, practically impossible razzle-dazzle of CinemaScope. So far, two of his curved screen productions had generated sufficient interest and monetary success. The curvaceous Marilyn Monroe thrived in How To Marry A Millionaire, and with The Robe – a mystical story of the Christ and muscle-packed gladiatorial bonanza (now available in Blu-Ray) – the Ad Department at 20th Century Fox pronounced CinemaScope as “the modern miracle you see without glasses!”

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DARRYL F. ZANUCK, Producer and VICTOR MATURE (“Horemheb”)
“I start shooting a week from Monday. Zanuck is impatient.
He wants me, he needs me.” … All About Eve (1950)

The latest vehicle would be an adaptation of Mika Waltari’s ’s best-selling novel, The Egyptian. For the design team at 20th Century Fox, the script pushed the subject matter away from the crucifixion at Golgotha to some 1300 years earlier during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty and the reign of Tutankhamun’s father, Pharaoh Ahkenaton.

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AHKENATON, now at the de Young & MICHAEL WILDING (“Ahkenaton”)

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GENE TIERNEY (“Baketamon”) and MICHAEL CURTIZ, Director

The production brought the studio executives, cast and crew to the arid challenges of Death Valley and to Red Rock Canyon State Park (just off Highway 14), where Cecil B. DeMille would re-work his Ten Commandments and appropriate a huge cache of props from The Egyptian. A well-deserved Academy Award nomination was garnered for its cinematographer, Leon Shamroy, a previous winner in 1945 with Leave Her To Heaven (also featuring Gene Tierney) and in 1963 for another Egyptian spectacle, Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor.

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LEON SHAMROY, Cinematographer and JEAN SIMMONS (“Merit”)

The Egyptian has withstood the test of time. Its place in the pantheon of Swords and Sandles epics is about to be unwrapped and resuscitated. I am pleased to introduce The Egyptian to the August 21st audience of Friday Nights at the de Young.

Coming attractions: Bella Darvi as “Nefer” – the Whore of Babylon.
For more information:
Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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