Cast & Crew
In 1900, American Ann Mercedes arrives in Cairo at the site of an archaeological dig and calls on Mark Brandon, who is in charge of the excavation. Ann explains that her late father, a famous archeologist, was searching for a tomb believed to contain proof that the Old Testament account of Joseph in Egypt was literally true. She produces a solid gold statuette from the 18th Dynasty, and Mark notes that it bears the inscription of the pharaoh Ra-Hotep, whose tomb has not officially been discovered. Ann replies that her father found it in London, along with other antiquities that had been smuggled out of Egypt, and declares her intention to finish her father's work. Drawn by her beauty and spirit, Mark agrees to help her, but is disappointed to learn that Ann has a husband who will be arriving in Egypt soon. Posing as a wealthy collector, Ann visits the antiquities shop of Valentine Arko, and persuades him to help her acquire stolen objects from Ra-Hotep's tomb. After she leaves his shop, however, Arko is confronted by Hamed Bachkour, who warns him to reveal nothing about the smuggling operation. Ann visits another shop and is shocked to learn that someone else had just inquired about Ra-Hotep's treasures. She and Mark go to her hotel, where they find Ann's husband Philip waiting for them. Philip, a smooth European whom Mark instantly distrusts, reveals that he was the one asking about items from Ra-Hotep's tomb in town. Mark, Ann and Philip encounter Father Anthimos, who suggests that they accompany him to St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai. In the monastery's burial tomb, Mark and Ann discover clay tablets indicating that Ra-Hotep's tomb is in the Valley of the Kings. Mark, Ann and Philip set out to find the tomb, but their search is in vain. One day, in Luxor, a strange man approaches Ann and takes her to see Arko, who offers to sell her information that will lead her to the tomb. Arko says that many years ago, a man named Campos, who has since been murdered, became wealthy overnight and was rumored to be smuggling antiquities out of Ra-Hotep's tomb. The merchant reveals that a man named Ahmed Salah worked as Campos' guide, and advises Ann to seek him in the nearby village of El Tabor. Arko also warns Ann that Bachkour, who could be the man behind the smuggling operation, might be staying at their hotel. That night, as Arko prepares to leave Luxor, Bachkour stabs him to death. Philip then appears from the shadows, and Bachkour thanks him for the information about Arko's whereabouts, adding that as his partner, Philip will receive ten percent of the price of the antiquities they smuggle to Europe. Philip pulls out a gun and threatens to tell the police about Arko's murder unless he receives half the contents of Ra-Hotep's tomb. The following day, Mark, Ann and Philip lead a search party, which includes Bachkour, on an arduous trek through the desert to El Tabor. After a ferocious sandstorm separates them from the others in the caravan, Mark and Ann are taken in by the nomadic Taureg tribe and meet Salah, who was left badly disfigured when Campos attempted to murder him. Salah bitterly challenges the Americans' claim that they seek Ra-Hotep's tomb for religious reasons, and according to tribal law, Mark is forced to fight a duel with Salah to prove he is telling the truth. Mark prevails and spares Salah's life. That night, Mark and Ann surrender to their growing attraction and kiss. In the morning, Salah leads Mark and Ann to the ancient temple where he had taken Campos. Mark surmises that the actual tomb of Ra-Hotep is elsewhere, but that the temple served as a hiding place for the grave robbers who raided the tomb thousands of years ago. Mark scales the walls of the temple and discovers Bachkour's body on a ledge. He then locates a secret passageway, where Philip is waiting with a gun. The two men fight, as Ann looks on in dismay, and Philip plunges to his death. Disheartened, Ann wants to abandon the expedition, but Mark reproaches her for her lack of faith and insists that they return to the Valley of the Kings. Mark and Ann organize a dig and eventually locate Ra-Hotep's tomb. Together they explore the burial chamber, and in a hidden room find evidence that the pharaoh embraced monotheism. They also find a statue of Joseph, confirming Ann's father's theory. Thrilled with their discovery, Mark and Ann look forward to their future together.
Frank De Kova
Saleh El Karrani
Abdel Hamid El Omda
Lofty El Hakim
Abrahim El Guiudi
Zaki El Meluigi
Dr. Tewfick Helmy
Abdul Salam Haffas Abrahm
Mohamed El Sabak
Sayed El Masri
Abdel Mouem Seoudy
Mahmoud El Sabaa
Raymond C. Garner
A. Arnold Gillespie
Jean Louis Heremans
Harold F. Kress
Jack D. Moore
Jack Martin Smith
Edwin B. Willis
Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings was the first major Hollywood production to be filmed in Egypt, and also the first to have its world premiere there. The film shot all over the country, including at an ancient monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. According to a Good Housekeeping article from the time, the cast and crew traveled 300 difficult miles from Cairo, including a final portion by camel, and lived for a week with the 19 monks who resided there. "They slept on wooden cots in the cells provided for pilgrims and joined the holy men in their meager daily rations. The brothers, members of the Greek Orthodox Church, showed little interest in the filmmaking but were willing hosts and did not object to playing themselves."
Certainly the exotic settings and ambience proved the main draw for critics and filmgoers. The most positive elements of major reviews revolved around the locations and the brilliant camerawork of cinematographer Robert Surtees. Variety declared, "Viewers are treated to day and night scenes of great beauty as the cameras pick up the Sphinx and Pyramids, historic Mount Sinai, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, the vast desert, Cairo streets and buildings, Mena House, a famous hotel near the Pyramids, and other landmarks." The New York Times pronounced, "The modern romantic adventure displayed here is hardly as impressive as the monuments of the ancient civilization against which it is played."
It was no coincidence that Surtees had also shot King Solomon's Mines. He had won an Oscar® for that work, as well as for The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and would again for Ben-Hur (1959). He was nominated 11 further times.
Valley of the Kings was one of only five pictures directed by Robert Pirosh, who remains best known as a fine writer of films including A Day at the Races (1937), Up in Arms (1944) and Battleground (1949), for which he won an Oscar® for Best Writing (Story and Screenplay), as the Best Original Screenplay category was then called. He was nominated for another screenwriting Oscar® for Go for Broke! (1951), his first directorial effort and a thought-provoking combat film about Japanese-Americans fighting in WWII. Later on, Pirosh developed the 1960s hit TV series Combat.
Pirosh later said that he stopped directing movies after 1957 because he couldn't bear the creative power struggles behind the scenes. On Valley of the Kings, he clashed with MGM production chief Dore Schary and Schary's underling Charles Schnee. The executives demanded script changes; Pirosh made one or two and ignored the rest. Then, once shooting began in Egypt and rushes were screened back in Hollywood, Pirosh started receiving phone calls demanding to know where the other changes were. "It was real, real tough," Pirosh later recalled. "One day Charlie Schnee showed up in Egypt. He said, 'I have instructions from Dore that you either make the changes that I want made or he's sending over another director.' So I made the changes. They were not too hard to make, but they changed the character relationships in a way that I didn't like, and there was a certain amount of friction with the actors.
"I was not good at handling the Robert Taylors in the business," Pirosh continued. "If the actor is more powerful with the studio than the director, it's serious trouble for the director. Then the director has to make tremendous compromises and go through all sorts of agony and develops ulcers. I knew that sooner or later I was going to drop out of directing."
There was behind-the-scenes drama involving the actors as well. Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker had previously teamed for Above and Beyond (1952) and had had an affair on that film; at that time, Parker was still married and Taylor had recently divorced Barbara Stanwyck (though, according to historian Jane Ellen Wayne, he was still seeing her romantically). By the time Taylor and Parker reunited in Egypt on Valley of the Kings, Taylor was involved with young actress Ursula Thiess, and Parker was newly divorced. The two resumed their dalliance. Thiess heard about it, grew jealous, and started seeing other men back in Hollywood, making sure the news hit the gossip columns. When Taylor returned home, Thiess refused to see him, which had the intended effect of making him even more jealous. Finally one night he showed up at her house during a dinner party, waited for her guests to leave, and proposed. Thiess accepted, and on May 24, 1954, a few months before Valley of the Kings opened in theaters, they were married. Eleanor Parker was stunned by the news and broke down in tears upon hearing it, but somehow she composed herself by the time she started working with Taylor days later on their third and final screen pairing, Many Rivers to Cross (1955). Barbara Stanwyck was also saddened, saying, "It's true I'm still carrying a torch for him. There will be no other man in my life."
Valley of the Kings carries no producer credit, though according to trade reports of the time, Sam Zimbalist was the likely producer.
Director: Robert Pirosh
Screenplay: Robert Pirosh, Karl Tunberg; C.W. Ceram (book "Gotter, Graber und Gelehrte")
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Film Editing: Harold F. Kress
Cast: Robert Taylor (Mark Brandon), Eleanor Parker (Ann Barclay Mercedes), Carlos Thompson (Philip Mercedes), Kurt Kasznar (Hamed Backhour), Victor Jory (Taureg Chief), Leon Askin (Valentine Arko, Antique Dealer), Aldo Silvani (Father Anthimos), Samia Gamal (dancer).
C-86m. Closed Captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
Ronald L. Davis, From Words Into Images: Screenwriters on the Studio System
Axel Madsen, Stanwyck
Doug McClelland, Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces
Lawrence Quirk, The Films of Robert Taylor
Jane Ellen Wayne, The Leading Men of MGM
Good Housekeeping, May 1954 issue
Valley of the Kings
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
Born in Vienna, Austria as Leo Aschkenasy on September 18, 1907, Askin developed a taste for theater through his mother's love of cabaret, and as a youngster, often accompanied his mother to weekend productions.
He made a go of acting as a profession in 1925, when he took drama classes from Hans Thimig, a noted Austrian stage actor at the time. The following year, he made his Vienna stage debut in Rolf Lauckner's "Schrei aus der Strasse."
For the next six year (1927-33), he was a popular stage actor in both Vienna and Berlin before he was prevented to work on the stage by Hitler's SA for being a Jew. He left for Paris in 1935 to escape anti-semetic persecution, but returned to Vienna in 1935, to find work (albeit a much lower profile to escape scrutiny), but after a few years, the writing was on the wall, and he escaped to New York City in 1939, just at the outbreak of World War II. His luck in the Big Apple wasn't really happening, and in 1941, he relocated to Washington D.C. and briefly held the position of managing director of the Civic Theatre, a popular city venue of the day. Unfortunately, after the tragic events of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the United States became involved in the war that had already engulfed Europe for two years, and seeing a possibility to expediate his application for American citizenship, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
After the war, Leon indeed became a U.S. citizen and changed his name from Leon Aschkenasy to Leon Askin. He returned to New York and found work as a drama teacher, and more importantly, landed his first gig on Broadway, as director and actor in Goethe's Faust in 1947, which starred Askin in the title character opposite the legendary Albert Bassermann who played Mephisto. The production was a huge success. Askin followed this up with another director/actor stint with Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and co-starred with Jose Ferrer in Ben Hecht's 20th Century. They were all Broadway hits, and Askin had finally achieved the success he had worked so hard to seek and merit.
It wasn't long before Hollywood came calling, and soon Askin, with his rich German accent and massive physical presence, made a very effective villian in a number of Hollywood films: the Hope-Crosby comedy Road to Bali (1952); Richard Burton's first hit film The Robe; and the Danny Kaye vehicle Knock on Wood (1954).
Askin's roles throughout the 50's were pretty much in this "menacing figure" vein, so little did anyone suspect that around the corner, Billy Wilder would be offering him his most memorable screen role - that of the Russian commissar Peripetschikof who gleefully embraces Amercian Capitalism in the scintillating politcal satire, One, Two, Three (1961). Who can forget this wonderfully exchange between Peripetschikof and Coca Cola executive C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney):
Peripetschikof: I have a great idea to make money. I have a storage full of saurkraut and I'll sell it as Christmas tree tinsil!
MacNamara: You're a cinch!
His performance for Wilder was wonderfully comedic and wholly memorable, and after One, Two, Three the film roles for Askin got noticable better, especially in Lulu and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (both 1962); but he began to find prominent guest shots on hit television shows too: My Favorite Martian and The Outer Limits to name a few; yet his big break came in 1965, when for six seasons he played General Albert Burkhalter, the Nazi general who was forever taking Col. Kilink's ineptitude to task in Hogan's Heroes (1965-71).
Roles dried up for Askin after the run of Hogan's Heroes, save for the occassional guest spot on television: Diff'rent Strokes, Three's Company, Happy Days; and parts in forgettable comedies: Going Ape! (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). After years of seclusion, Askin relocated to his birthplace of Vienna in 1994, and he began taking parts in numerous stage productions almost to his death. In 2002, he received the highest national award for an Austrian citizen when he was bestowed with the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class, for Science and Art. He is survived by his third wife of three years, Anita Wicher.
by Michael T. Toole
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
The opening credits contain the following written prologue: "The earth holds few treasures which have stimulated man's imagination-and his greed-as much as the tombs of the rulers of ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs. This is the story of the search for the most fabulous tomb of all." The credits also indicate that the film was "suggested by historical data in Gods, Graves and Scholars by C. W. Ceram." According to November 1953 Hollywood Reporter and New York Times news items, M-G-M purchased the rights to the scholarly archaeology text for "protection purposes," as it contained a chapter titled "Robbers in the Valley of the Kings" that might be construed as having influenced the film's script. Although a September 29, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Sam Zimbalist would produce the film, Valley of the Kings was released without a producer credit. Modern sources assert that the film's producer wished to remain anonymous.
According to studio publicity materials in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, Vittorio Gassman was originally cast as "Mark Brandon." Portions of the film were shot on location at various locations in Egypt, including Cairo, Mount Sinai, Luxor, Faiyûm, Suez and the Libyan desert. Location shooting took place from 2 December-December 31, 1953, and production resumed at the M-G-M studio on January 11, 1954. According to information in the M-G-M Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, some second unit filming took place in El Segundo, CA.
According to June 1954 news items in Hollywood Reporter and Variety, the film's release date was moved up from August to July to take advantage of the publicity generated by the discovery of an ancient boat-believed to have been used in pharaonic funeral rites-near the Great Pyramid in Cheops, Egypt. Variety reported that the picture's 21 July opening in Cairo and Alexandria would mark the first time an American film had a world premiere in Egypt.
Released in United States Summer July 1954
Released in United States Summer July 1954