Solomon and Sheba

Solomon and Sheba Information

Solomon and Sheba is a 1959 biblical-epic film made by Edward Small Productions and distributed by United Artists. The film stars Yul Brynner, Gina Lollobrigida, George Sanders and Marisa Pavan, with David Farrar, Harry Andrews, Jack Gwillim, Laurence Naismith, William Devlin, Jean Anderson and Finlay Currie. It was directed by King Vidor and produced by Ted Richmond and Tyrone Power (who originally starred as Solomon but died during filming) from a screenplay by Anthony Veiller, Paul Dudley and George Bruce, based on a story by Crane Wilbur. The music score was by Mario Nascimbene with some additional cues by Malcolm Arnold, and the cinematography by Freddie Young. The film was shot in Technirama.

A box-office success, Solomon and Sheba is the 13th highest-grossing biblical epic adjusted for inflation, and was the second highest-grossing biblical epic made in 1959, after William Wyler's Ben-Hur.

Plot synopsis

The film's theme differs substantially from Biblical sources, most notably in representing the Queen of Sheba as an ally of ancient Egypt in opposition to King Solomon of Israel, and in her having a love affair with Solomon.

Under the rule of King David, Israel is united and prosperous, although surrounded by enemies, including Egypt and its allies. The ageing King favours Solomon to succeed him, but his elder brother Adonijah (George Sanders), a warrior, declares himself King. When David learns of this, he publicly announces Solomon to be his successor. Adonijah and Joab, his general, withdraw in rage, but Solomon later offers his brother the command of the army, knowing that it may be used against him.

Israel continues to prosper under Solomon's rule. The Queen of Sheba (Gina Lollobrigida) conspires with the Egyptian Pharaoh to undermine Solomon's rule by seducing him and introducing Sheban pagan worship into Jerusalem. Solomon is indeed bewitched by her, and the two begin living together under the pretense of forming an alliance between their two kingdoms. The king's reputation is damaged, but at the same time Sheba begins to truly fall in love with him and regret her plotting. Things come to a head when Solomon recklessly allows a Sheban 'love festival' (in fact an orgy in celebration of a pagan goddess) to be held within Israel. In an act of divine retribution, lightning from heaven destroys the Sheban altar and damages the newly-built Temple in Jerusalem, and the land is beset with a famine. Solomon is publicly rebuked by the people; the High Priest and Nathan the Prophet disown him.

Meanwhile Adonijah, banished by his brother after an assassination attempt, goes and strikes a bargain with Pharaoh; given an army, he will conquer Israel for Egypt, in exchange for being placed on the throne as a kind of viceroy. The tiny army mustered by Solomon (who has been abandoned by his allied states) is quickly routed, and Adonijah presses on to Jerusalem and makes himself king. Meanwhile Sheba, now a believer in the power of the god of Israel, prays for Solomon to be redeemed and restored to power.

Pursued by the Egyptians, who were sent to finish him off, Solomon thereafter devises a plan. He lines up the remnants of his army on a hill, prompting the enemy to charge. The Israelites, who have arranged themselves to face east, then use their highly polished shields to reflect the light of the rising sun into the Egyptians' eyes. Blinded, the Egyptians are prevented from seeing the chasm in front of which the Israelites have positioned themselves, and the entire army rushes headlong over the edge and falls to its death.

Meanwhile Adonijah, met with a tepid reaction to his coup, tries to stir up Jerusalem's population by ordering the stoning of Sheba. Midway through this hideous display, Solomon makes a triumphant return to the city. Adonijah attacks his brother, refusing to be deprived again of his throne, but is himself struck down. At Solomon's prayer Sheba is miraculously healed of her wounds; as he resumes his power, she returns to her homeland, now pregnant by Solomon.


The film was shot in Madrid and Valdespartera, Zaragoza, Spain. It was the last film directed by Hollywood veteran King Vidor.

During filming in Madrid, the original star of the film, Tyrone Power, died of a heart attack after a gruelling duel scene with George Sanders. (The two had also filmed a sword fight in the 1942 film The Black Swan.) Yul Brynner took over the role, though Power can still be seen in long shots. The film is probably most noted for an orgy scene featuring Sheba (Lollobrigida) (see the lobby card) which was extremely licentious for Hollywood motion pictures of that era.


The film received indifferent to negative reviews and Yul Brynner's performance was criticized by no less than the film's director, King Vidor, who stated that Tyrone Power had been much more believable as a conflicted king than Brynner, who apparently played it with too much self-assurance. Years later, Solomon and Sheba was included as one of the choices in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

However, it was a box office success, earning an estimated $5.5 million in North American rentals. It was one of three religious epics in release at the same time: the other two were Ben-Hur and The Miracle.


  • Yul Brynner as Solomon
  • Gina Lollobrigida as Queen of Sheba
  • George Sanders as Adonijah
  • Marisa Pavan as Abishag
  • David Farrar as Pharaoh (Siamun)
  • John Crawford as Joab
  • Finlay Currie as David
  • Harry Andrews as Baltor
  • José Nieto as Ahab (as Jose Nieto)
  • Maruchi Fresno as Bathsheba
  • William Devlin as Nathan
  • Jack Gwillim as Josiah
  • Jean Anderson as Takyan
  • Laurence Naismith as Hezrai (as Lawrence Naismith)
  • Julio Peña as Zadok (as Julio Pena)

See also

  • Trial movies

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Solomon_and_Sheba" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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