SERPENT OF THE NILE (1953) by William Castle [english]

The SERPENT OF THE NILE Files

Films with Rhonda Fleming that have not yet been released in good quality on DVD or Blu-ray are presented in the “Files”

Historical facts:

Cleopatra, (Greek: “Famous in Her Father”) in full Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (“Cleopatra the Father-Loving Goddess”), (born 70/69 bce—died August 30 bce, Alexandria), Egyptian queen, famous in history and drama as the lover of Julius Caesar and later as the wife of Mark Antony. She became queen on the death of her fatherPtolemy XII, in 51 bce and ruled successively with her two brothers Ptolemy XIII (51–47) and Ptolemy XIV (47–44) and her son Ptolemy XV Caesar (44–30). After the Roman armies of Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) defeated their combined forces, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, and Egypt fell under Roman domination. Cleopatra actively influenced Roman politics at a crucial period, and she came to represent, as did no other woman of antiquity, the prototype of the romantic femme fatale … Many actresses, including Theda Bara (1917), Claudette Colbert (1934), and Elizabeth Taylor (1963), have played the queen, typically in expensive, exotic films that concentrate on the queen’s love life rather than her politics. Meanwhile, Cleopatra’s seductive beauty—a seductive beauty that is not supported by the queen’s contemporary portraiture—has been used to sell a wide range of products, from cosmetics to cigarettes. In the late 20th century Cleopatra’s racial heritage became a subject of intense academic debate, with some African American scholars embracing Cleopatra as a black African heroine. (Britannica.com)

SERPENT OF THE NILE is probably one of the most sensual Technicolor films of the entire 1950s. Its storyline: In 44 BC, after Julius Caesar’s assassination by plotters who accused him of being a dictator, a triumvirate of politicians and generals control Rome. The triumvirate is comprised of generals Mark Antony and Lepidus and politician Octavian who is Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son. They seek to revenge Caesar’s death by going after the main plotters, senators Brutus and Cassius. Mark Antony and Octavian’s armies destroy those of Brutus and Cassius in battle. Later, Mark Antony and his army embarks on the conquest of Egypt while Octavian remains in Rome. However, the cunning and attractive queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, greets Mark Antony as a friend and lavishes him with praises, feasts, gifts, riches and intimate favors. Impressed, Mark Antony falls in-love with her. Mark Antony spends months on end enjoying the VIP treatment in Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, despite warnings from one of his trusted commanders, Lucilius, that Cleopatra is just manipulating him. Cleopatra gets wind of Lucilius’ warnings and first tries to seduce him and later tries to have him killed. He ends up in house arrest in her palace but he’s determined to escape and warn Octavian in Rome. Cleopatra convinces Mark Antony to form an alliance with her and together to fight Octavian for the throne of Rome. Cleopatra suggests that either Mark Antony or her own young son should become ruler of Rome. Her son is also Julius Caesar’s son from Caesar’s past marriage to Cleopatra. Fed-up with Mark Antony’s refusal to ditch Cleopatra and return home to Rome, Octavian dissolves the triumvirate and dismisses Lepidus. Commander Lucilius escapes from Egypt and returns to Rome to warn Octavian and the Roman Senate about Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s military alliance. Octavian forms an army and invades Egypt. Cleopatra and Mark Antony prepare their united forces but they understand that losing the war against Octavian could spell their end. (imdb.com)

In the press:

Quotes:

Rhonda Fleming:

„I have to admit, I was disappointed when I first saw the finished film. And I wasn’t to happy with the way I played the role. There was not enough variety in Cleopatra’s emotions for me to add my performance … The distant painted scenes were definitely not good, very likely due to the low budget. Bill Castle, however, did an incredible job despite the limitations of the production. However, the Technicolor was beautiful and my costumes by Jean Louis were lovely“ (2014).

William Lundigan:

„I have one love scene that has more romance than I’ve had in my last two or three pictures. As for beefcake, I’m not knocking it“ (Aug. 1952).

Jordan Hoffman:

“But there are certainly delights to be found from her run. Serpent of the Nile, in which she plays Cleopatra opposite Raymond Burr as Mark Anthony, is almost a laboratory-made example of B-picture perfection” (Vanity Fair, Oct. 17, 2020).

The SERPENT OF THE NILE Gallery:

Click on thumbnails to see gallery

 
Publicity Photo, 1953
 
Italian poster, 1953
 
Italian poster, 1953
 
Display photo, 1953
Designed by Jean Louis.
Designed by Jean Louis.
Costumes of Rhonda Fleming
 
Matte paintings
Julie Newmar.
Julie Newmar.
Screenshot
 
Publicity Photo, 1953

 

 

SERPENT OF THE NILE

(German title: Die Schlange vom Nil)
USA 1953 (Sam Katzman Productions/Columbia Pictures), 81 min., 35 MM (1.37:1), Technicolor.
Producer: Sam Katzman; Director: William Castle; Screenplay: Robert E. Kent; Cinematography: Henry Freulich; Technicolor Color Consultant: Francis Cugat; Editor: Gene Havlick; Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; Art Direction: Paul Palmentola; Set Decoration: Sidney Clifford; Special Effects: Jack Erickson; Make-up: Anatole Robbins; Costume Design: Jean Louis.
Cast: Rhonda Fleming (Cleopatra), William Lundigan (Lucilius), Raymond Burr (Marcus Antonius), Jean Byron (Charmian), Michael Ansara (Captain Florus), Michael Fox (Octavius), Julie Newmar (The Gilded Girl), Fred F. Sears (Off-Screen Narrator), and others.
Premier: May 8, 1953; US box office rank (in the year of release): 192; US domestic actual box office grosses: $1 million.

 

Hits: 110

TROPIC ZONE (1953) by Lewis R. Foster [english]

The TROPIC ZONE Files

Films with Rhonda Fleming that have not yet been released in good quality on DVD or Blu-ray are presented in the “Files”

The novel:

In 1952, producers William H. Pine and William C. Thomas bought the rights to Tom Gill’s novel “Gentlemen of the Jungle” (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1939) specifically for Rhonda Fleming for TROPIC ZONE, the last of the four films under her first contract with them. “The tropics where blood runs hot” promises the new edition from Dell Publishing Company, and continues: with a price on his head and the hand of the world against him, a down-and-out young beachcomber is forced into a treacherous conspiracy against a lovely girl who operates a banana plantation in a Central American republic. There is quality in the man and he meets the chalenge squarely. Fighting tremendous and dangerous odds, he blazes his way along a twisty path of breath-taking adventure and flaming romance to win an exciting duel of wits.

In TROPIC ZONE Flanders White (Rhonda Fleming) operates a banana plantation in Puerto Barrancas, where Hans Lukats (John Wengraf), dishonest town boss and shipping head, crookedly controls the independent growers via his export power. Dan McCloud (Ronald Reagan) lands in the place on a plane pilofied by Tapachula Sam (Noah Beery), and accompanied by entertainer Elena (Estelita), who is in love with him. Lukats hires McCloud to serve as foreman for Flanders but his real job is to disrupt Flanders’ operations, now managed by Bert Nelson (Grant Withers). Instead, McCloud falls in love with Flanders. Action in the outdoor Technicolor adventure drama boils when McCloud goes about exposing Lukats, reaches an exciting climax (from the press book by Paramount Pictures).

In the press:

Quotes:

Producer William C. Thomas:

„As the fermenting bananas mellowed, TROPIC ZONE was the most talked-about picture on the Paramount lot. Gamblers took even-money bets on which would go first – the actors or bananas. The actors wouldn’t touch the bananas, and they wanted to go!“ („Hollywood’s Fabulous Dollar Bills; or, How to Make Money Making Movies,“ 1970).

Variety:

„A typical western plot is transported to a tropical banana-growing country for this round of love and adventure offered under the Pine-Thomas banner … Reagan and Miss Fleming, the latter very attractive in Technicolor and several brief outfits designed by Edith Head, make a pleasing hero-heroine team. Estelita as a fiery café entertainer with a big yen for Reagan gives Miss Fleming some competition“ (Dec. 17, 1952).

Ian and Elisabeth Cameron:

„The inevitable romance is complicated by the presence of a third party, a jolly little singer who does most of her numbers dressed up as a chicken. Such a lady is not to be taken seriously as a rival to Rhonda … Nevertheless Rhonda is keen to see her: ‘They say she has a special appeal to the men. I’d like to study her technique.’ When they meet, Estelita tells her with raised-eyebrow defiance, ‘You try to take my Danny away and I think I kill you!’ ‘Some other time, please,’ replies Rhonda undeterred. The next day she’s discovered practising a few wiggles with bare midriff (or slightly above mid – because of Hollywood’s remarkable attitude at the time to the human navel)” („Broads,“ London 1969).

The TROPIC ZONE Gallery:

Click on thumbnails to see gallery

Novel by Tom Gill, backcover
Novel by Tom Gill, backcover
"Gentleman from the Jungle"
 
With Ronald Reagan
 
Screenshots
 
Mexican lobby card, 1953
 
Mexican lobby card, 1953
 
Movie still
 
US poster
 
German poster
 
With Ronald Reagan

 

TROPIC ZONE

(German title: Tropische Abenteuer)
USA 1953 (Pine-Thomas Productions/Paramount Pictures), 94 min., 35 MM (1.37:1), Technicolor.
Producers: William H. Pine, William C. Thomas; Director: Lewis R. Foster; Screenplay: Lewis R. Foster (based on the novel by John Gill); Cinematography: Lionel Lindon; Technicolor Color Consultant: Monroe W. Burbank; Editor: Howard A. Smith; Music: Lucien Cailliet; Art Direction: A. Earl Hedrick, Hal Pereira; Set Decoration: Sam Comer, Ray Moyer; Make-up: Wally Westmore; Costume Design: Edith Head.
Cast: Ronald Reagan (Dan McCloud), Rhonda Fleming (Flanders White), Estelita Rodriguez (Elena Estebar), Noah Beery Jr. (Tapachula Sam), Grant Withers (Bert Nelson), John Wengraf (Lukats), Argentina Brunetti (Tia Feliciana), Maurice Jara (Macario), and others.
Premier: Jan. 1953; US box office rank (in the year of release): 158; US domestic actual box office grosses: $2.1 million.

 

Hits: 75

LITTLE EGYPT (1951) by Frederick De Cordova [english]

The LITTLE EGYPT Files

Films with Rhonda Fleming that have not yet been released in good quality on DVD or Blu-ray are presented in the “Files”

Historical facts:

„Little Egypt“ was the stage name for three popular belly dancers. They had so many imitators, the name became synonymous with belly dancers generall. Fahreda Mazar Spyropoulos, (c. 1871 – Apr. 5, 1937), also performing under the stage name Fatima, appeared at the “Street in Cairo” exhibition on the Midway at the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893.

In 1893, at the Egyptian Theater on the World’s Columbian Exposition Midway in Chicago, Raqs dancers performed for the first time in the United States. Sol Bloom presented a show titled “The Algerian Dancers of Morocco” at the attraction called “A Street in Cairo” produced by Gaston Akoun, which included Spyropoulos, though she was neither Egyptian nor Algerian, but Syrian. Spyropoulos, the wife of a Chicago restaurateur and businessman who was a native of Greece, was billed as Fatima, but because of her size, she had been called “Little Egypt” as a backstage nickname.

Spyropoulos stole the show, and popularized this form of dancing, which came to be referred to as the “Hoochee-Coochee”, or the “shimmy and shake”. At that time the word “bellydance” had not yet entered the American vocabulary, as Spyropoulos was the first in the U.S. to demonstrate the “danse du ventre” (literally “dance of the belly”) first seen by the French during Napoleon’s incursions into Egypt at the end of the 18th century. Today the word “hootchy-kootchy” generally means an erotic suggestive dance and is often erroneously conflated with the group of dances originating in the Middle East that we now call bellydance.

 

 

LITTLE EGYPT is a highly fictionalized 1951 film about the legendary World’s Fair dancer, produced by Universal International, and starring Rhonda Fleming in the title role. Its storyline: When a con man (Mark Stevens) and a New Jersey woman (Rhonda Fleming) try to scam a tobacco tycoon, the woman pretends to be an Egyptian princess and performs a suggestive dance to catch his eyes, only to be arrested and charged with indecent exposure.

World premier:

In the press:

Quotes:

Bob Thomas:

„The Johnston office has strict rules about such movements, whether they are historical or not. The bump, a forward motion of the hips, is verboten. Miss Fleming has to do it with a sideways movement. The grind, which is a clock like motion of the hips, is also banned. Miss Fleming can make only a semi circular movement. That is, from one to six o’clock, rather than the full 12 hours … The navel can’t be photographed in Hollywood movies“ (“Little Egypt’s Dance Too Hot For The Movies,” in: Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Dec. 1, 1950).

Eila Mell:

„[Shelley] Winters disliked the part so much that she purposely put on so much weight that she was replaced by Rhonda Fleming“ – (“Casting Might-Have-Beens,” Jefferson, North Carolina/London 2015).

Rhonda Fleming:

„I guess she was the forerunner of the present day burlesque queen. But she did it in an oriental and more refined way“ – (Dec. 1, 1950).

„Every hunch in my body told me to say no. I told myself I wasn’t a dancer, and Little Egypt earned her fame by dancing so how could I do the role justice? I said I was a redhead so I couldn’t possibly play a girl with jet black hair. I read the script and realized it was a diffucult acting assignment and doubted that I had the ability to handle the part“ – (Jan. 7, 1951).

„I have gotten more fan mail about it than I have from any other picture I have ever made. The letters have all been very nice, too – nothing offcolor at all. A lot of them are from soldiers who request photopgraphs“ – (Oct. 8, 1951).

„I ran it the other night because I hadn’t looked at it for years. And I thought, well, it was OK. I don’t know how well I did as a dancer though. I guess I did fairly well. But it was fun and sort of campy“ – (2008).

The LITTLE EGYPT Gallery:

Click on thumbnails to see gallery

With black wig
With black wig
Publicity Photo, 1951
Reading script
Reading script
On set, 1951
 
Newspaper advertising, 1951
 
Display photo, 1951
Unknown place, 1951
Unknown place, 1951
Running in Drive-In Theatre
 
Display photo, 1951
 
US poster, 1951
Dec. 1951
Dec. 1951
Photoplay Magazine

LITTLE EGYPT

USA 1951 (Universal International Pictures), 82 min., 35 MM (1.37:1), Technicolor.
Producer: Jack J. Gross; Director: Frederick De Cordova; Screenplay: Oscar Brodney, Doris Gilbert, Lou Breslow; Cinematography: Russell Metty; Technicolor Color Consultant: William Fritzsche; Editor: Edward Curtiss; Music: Joseph Gershenson; Art Direction: Robert Clatworthy, Bernard Herzbrun; set decoration: Russell A. Gausman, Joseph Kish; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Costume Design: Bill Thomas.
Cast: Mark Stevens (Wayne Cravat), Rhonda Fleming (Izora), Nancy Guild (Sylvia Graydon), Charles Drake (Oliver Doane), Tom D’Andrea (Max), Minor Watson (Cyrus Graydon), Steven Geray (Pasha), Verna Felton (Mrs. Samantha Doane) and others.
World premier: Aug. 7, 1951 (Chicago); US box office rank (in the year of release): 118; US domestic actual box office grosses: $3.1 million; US box office (net earnings): $1.1 million; salary for Rhonda Fleming: $35.000.

 

Hits: 144

Nachruf auf RHONDA FLEMING (1923-2020)

Am Mittwoch, den 14. Oktober 2020 ist Rhonda Fleming im Alter von 97 Jahren im Saint John’s Health Center Santa Monica friedlich entschlafen. Sie starb nach einem einwöchigen Krankenhausaufenthalt an Komplikationen nach einer Aspirationspneumonie. Auf ihren Wunsch wurde Rhonda Fleming im Oktober 2020 auf dem jüdischen Friedhof Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, Los Angeles County, im Familiengrab Ted Manns in den „Akaziengärten“ beigesetzt, wo nicht nur ihrer, sondern unter anderem auch Richard Brooks, Jeff Chandler, Jerry Goldsmith, Sam Katzman, Leonard Nimoy und Shelley Winters gedacht werden kann.

Im Dezember erscheint in der Ausgabe #40 des 35 Millimeter Retro-Film-Magazins mein Nachruf auf Rhonda Fleming. Um nicht zu lange warten zu müssen, hat culturmag.de nun eine etwa um die Hälfte eingekürzte Fassung des Nachrufs veröffentlicht. Mein ganz besonderer Dank hierfür gilt Alf Mayer:

Link zum Nachruf auf culturmag.de

 


Rhonda Fleming in: Zwei rechnen ab (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, John Sturges, 1957)

 

Hits: 643