Omar Khayyam


1h 41m 1957

Brief Synopsis

Omar Khayyam was one of the greatest Persian poets. He was also a brilliant mathematician. Though his quatrains were written in the 11th century, they are still popular the world over. The details of his life are unknown, so this movie invents a biography for him and includes in it his real achievements - the invention of a new calendar and the penning of those epigrammatic poems. This film has him romancing a sultan's bride and foiling the assassin sect's plot to kill the sultan's son.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Life, Loves and Adventures of Omar Khayyam, The Loves of Omar Khayyam
Release Date
Aug 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Aug 1957
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Indio, California, United States; Palm Springs, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.96 : 1

Synopsis

In the eleventh century, in the Persian city of Nishapur, poet and mathematician Omar Khayyam meets with his secret love Sharain, the daughter of his old professor, Imam Mowaffak. Later, Omar greets Hasani Sabah, the overlord to the Governor of Gilan, who has come to Nishapur seeking a court appointment. Though Omar has none of his friend's ambition, Hasani reminds him of his oath to their childhood friend, The Nizam, who, as Keeper of the Kingdom, desperately needs people in the court whom he can trust. Brought before the Shah, Omar recites a poem which shocks many in the court, but pleases the Shah with its honesty, and is quickly appointed Court Counselor. After presenting the Shah with two beautiful slave girls, as well as the severed heads of two enemies, Hasani is made Keeper of the Seal, a high position formerly held by Tutush, the Shah's brother. In order to strengthen his ties to the people of Nishapur, the Shah decides to take Sharain as his fourth wife, breaking Omar's heart. Hoping to ease his friend's loss, Nizam buys Omar a slave girl named Yaffa, whom he accepts only upon her pleas. That night, Tutush is murdered by the Assassins, a religious sect seeking to overthrow his brother, when he fails to pay the tribute demanded by them. Later, the Shah learns that the Byzantines and their mercenary army have invaded Persia near the Caspian Sea, and upon Omar's advice, the Shah agrees to use ships to organize an army to repel the invaders. As the Shah prepares to join his army, his two sons, Ahmud and Malik, fight over who will stand beside him in battle. When the victorious Malik is made heir to the throne, Queen Zarada, the mother of Ahmud, makes an alliance with Hasani to overthrow her husband. With the Shah away from his court, the Assassins become more active in Nishapur. Grateful that Omar refuses to sell her to the lustful Hasani, Yaffa tells her owner of an ex-Assassin named Yusuf who lives in a cave outside the city. Yusuf tells Omar that the Assassins' hideout is an impenetrable fortress atop the northern mountain of Alamut. On the pretext of working on his new calendar, Omar goes alone to Alamut, where he is greeted by the Assassins as a friend. Upon completing his work, Omar learns that Hasani is the Grand Master of the Assassins. Hasani tells his followers that while the Shah has defeated the Byzantines, half his army has been killed, and both the Shah and Malik have been wounded in battle. Though he is offered a position as counselor to Hasani, Omar denounces his traitorous friend, yet is still allowed to leave the fortress. Omar then rides to the mortally wounded Shah, who has already been told that Ahmud has raised a rebel army against him. Using Byzantine prisoners to dig into Alamut, Omar lights the pools of saffron oil underneath the Assassins' hideout, setting the fortress afire, while Malik, who has been appointed the new Shah upon the death of his father, attacks his brother's troops at daybreak. With the Assassins destroyed and Ahmud killed, Malik makes his first royal proclamation, releasing Sharain from her court vows and into the arms of Omar.

Cast

Cornel Wilde

Omar Khayyam

Michael Rennie

Hasani Sabah

Debra Paget

Sharain

John Derek

Prince Malik

Raymond Massey

The Shah/Narrator

Yma Sumac

Karina

Margaret Hayes

Queen Zarada

Joan Taylor

Yaffa

Sebastian Cabot

The Nizam

Perry Lopez

Prince Ahmud

Morris Ankrum

Imam Mowaffak

Abraham Sofaer

Tutush

Edward Platt

Jayhan

James Griffith

Buzorg

Peter Adams

Master herald

Henry Brandon

Commander

Kem Dibbs

Tutush bodyguard

Paul Picerni

Commander

Valerie Allen

Harem wife

Florine Caplan

Harem wife

Emilie Stevens

Harem wife

Marie Tsien

Chinese girl

Douglas Spencer

Pigeon keeper

Paul T. Salata

Guard

Ronald Nyman

Guard

John Zollan

Guard

Joyce Vanderveen

Hindu girl

Charles La Torre

Army physician

John E. Mather

Prior "Sayida"

Joe Bassett

Prior "Rashidi"

Don Dunning

Prior "Dikar"

Franz F. Roehn

Kisrak

Max Power

Prior "Dastur"

Frank Leyva

Defendant assassin

Henry Wills

Defender assassin

James Davies

Defender assassin

Carl H. Saxe

Officer

Dale Van Sickel

Officer

Robert St. Angelo

Officer

Salah Sayed Ahmed

Officer

Romo Vincent

Physician

Richard Elliott

Tavern keeper

John Abbott

Yusuf

Edmund Hashim

Turkoman

Eric Alden

Commander

Ric Roman

Slavemaster

Paul Weber

Q'Adi, a priest

E. J. Andre

Nobleman

Bob Tafur

Nobleman

John Merton

Nobleman

Richard Alameda

Nobleman

Alan Wells

Trooper scout

Len Henry

Officer/Courier

Edward Agresti

Assassin

Bill Bagdad

Assassin

James J. Hanna

Assassin

Arthur L. Bucaro

Assassin

Mary Ellen Popel

Court woman

Sonia Werner

Harem girl

Joyce Meadows

Harem girl

Sandra Werner

Harem girl

Lee Belser

Harem girl

Audrey Lowell

Harem girl

Arthur Tookoyan

Courier

Allan Douglas

Townsman/Defendant assassin

Frank Griffin

Assassin/Assassin teacher

Richard Gilden

Novice assassin

Don A. Diamond

Trooper captain

Jean Elliott

Lelah

Mahin Shahrivar

Slave girl

Jagat Bhatia

General

Paul T. Salata

Byzantine prisoner

Frank Leyva Townsman

John Wilson Gregory

Hasani's guard

Roger Creed

Executioner

Abdel Salam Moussa

Shah's soldier

Phyllis Johannes

George Bruggeman

Crew

Lloyd Allen

2d Assistant Director

Frank Caffey

Production Manager

Arthur Camp

Props

Buddy Clark

Men's Wardrobe

Sam Comer

Set Decoration

Mack David

Composer

Francisco Day

Assistant Director

Everett Douglas

Editing

Farciot Edouart

Process Photography

Ray Evans

Composer

Frank Freeman Jr.

Producer

John P. Fulton

Special Photography Effects

Charles Gemora

Makeup

Grace Gregory

Set Decoration

Hazel Haggerty

Ladies' Wardrobe

Peter Herald

Dialogue Director

Edwin Hodgett

Sound boom man

Bill Hurley

Livestock Supervisor

Ralph Jester

Costumes

Alma Johnson

Hairdresser

Dick Johnson

1st Assistant Camera

Joseph Macmillan Johnson

Art Director

Henry Keener

Sound Recording

Ernest Laszlo

Director of Photography

Pep Lee

Best Boy

Winston Leverett

Sound Recording

Jay Livingston

Composer

Olive Long

Secretary

Barré Lyndon

Writer

Spurgeon Marsh

Sound boom man

Dominic Mautino

Standby painter

Joe Mceveety

2d Assistant Director

Bert Mckay

Casting Director

Gene Merritt

Sound Recording

Curtis Mick

Assistant prod Manager

Harry Mines

Pub

Charles Morton

Script Supervisor

Abdel Salam Moussa

Technical Advisor

Richard Mueller

Technicolor Color Consultant

Hal Pereira

Art Director

Lou Phillippi

Makeup

Roy Roberts

Gaffer

John Smirch

Mike grip

George Swartout

Sound cableman

Bill Thomas

Stills

Fred True

Company grip

Moises Vivanco

Composer

Frank Westmore

Makeup

Wally Westmore

Makeup Supervisor

Charles Woolstenhulm

Unit Production Manager

Harold Worthington

Props

Buddy Wyler

Camera Operator

Victor Young

Music Score

Victor Young

Composer

Film Details

Also Known As
The Life, Loves and Adventures of Omar Khayyam, The Loves of Omar Khayyam
Release Date
Aug 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Aug 1957
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Indio, California, United States; Palm Springs, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.96 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Loves of Omar Khayyam. The onscreen title cards read: "The Life, Loves and Adventures of Omar Khayyam." The picture begins with the following foreword spoken by Raymond Massey: "A thousand years ago, the Persian Empire stretched from the Mediterranean Sea, all the way to India and down to Egypt. This great empire was ruled by a warrior Shah. He had the absolute power of life and death. Even the most exalted bent at his feet. Yet this mighty ruler would now be forgotten but for the work of a man who was among the humblest of his subjects: Omar Khayyám. He was a happy man, with friends among both the lowly and the great in the ancient city of Nishapur. The motto of those dangerous and exciting days was 'Think as your master thinks.' But Omar Khayyám thought for himself. He was a lover of life and wisdom, a poet when the mood was upon him and a mathematician when it was not. He was a student of the stars and those things written in the stars. Omar Khayyám had an understanding of human nature and a philosophy which has conquered the hearts of men and of women." Although the name of the real-life Omar Khayyám was spelled with an accent mark, the title of the film omits it.
       Born May 18, 1048 in Nishapur, Omar Khayyám was a Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer, renowned in his own time for his scientific achievements, but better known in modern days for his poetry. His name Khayyám ("Tentmaker") May have been derived from his father's trade. After being educated in the sciences and philosophy, Khayyám went to Samarkand, where he completed an important treatise on algebra and was invited by the Seljuq sultan Malik-Shah to revise the Persian calendar. He was also commissioned to build an observatory in the city of Esfahan in collaboration with other astronomers. After the death of his patron in 1092, Khayyám returned to Nishapur, where he taught and served the court from time to time. Khayyám's poetry had attracted comparatively little attention until Edward FitzGerald published the celebrated The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in 1859, a collection of Khayyám's verse which has now been translated into most major languages and is largely responsible for coloring European ideas about Persian poetry. Omar Khayyám died on 4 December 1131.
       According to the file on the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Omar Khayyam cost approximately $2,272,000 to produce, though Paramount publicity materials put the figure closer to $3,000,000. Actors considered for the role of "Omar" included John Forsythe, Robert Wagner, Rossano Brazzi and John Neville. Actresses contemplated for the role of "Sharain" included Joanne Dru, Yvonne De Carlo, Donna Reed and Joan Collins. Hollywood Reporter news items report that portions of the film were shot on location in the Indio and Palm Springs regions of Southern California.
       According to Paramount studio records, a dispute over the authorship and screen credits for Omar Khayyam erupted between the studio and Pasha Khan. Los Angeles Examiner reported on March 5, 1954 that Hosseim Pashe, a bartender at the Vagabond Restaurant in Los Angeles, had sold an original story based on the life of Omar Khayyám to Paramount and had been engaged by the studio to write the screenplay. On March 10, 1954, Hollywood Reporter, referring to the writer as Pasha Khan, stated that he had sold a two-hundred page manuscript on Omar Khayyám to the studio, and that Paramount was retaining him to do further research for the film. In an internal memo, dated April 12, 1956, the studio stated that Khan would not receive any writing credit for the film, as Paramount had purchased the title The Loves of Omar Khayyam from him, but had chosen not to use his story. Under this agreement, Khan was to be paid for twelve weeks of work.
       In December 1955, Daily Variety reported that Khan had filed a $27,000 lawsuit against Paramount, arguing that the studio had purchased his script for $1,000 in February 1954, then agreed to pay him for four weeks work to prepare the film and an additional ten weeks work serving as technical advisor. In rebuttal, Paramount stated that Khan had been paid in full according to the terms of his contract, but was not used as the film's technical advisor and thus should not be credited as such. In the suit, Khan sought $2,000 in lost wages, plus another $25,000 for "loss of prestige." The final disposition of this lawsuit has not been ascertained.
       Actor Michael Rennie was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for his appearance in Omar Khayyam. Frank Freeman, Jr. received his first credit as producer on the film, having previously worked as an associate producer. Freeman was the son of long-time Paramount executive Y. Frank Freeman, Sr. Daily Variety reported in June 1957 that Paramount was planning to open the film in Teheran, Iran, but it has not been confirmed that the world premiere was held in that city. Other films featuring the character of "Omar Khayyám" include the 1922 release Omar the Tentmaker, starring Guy Bates Post and Virginia Brown Faire under the direction of James Young, and A Lover's Oath, a 1925 Astor Pictures production, directed by Ferdinand P. Earle and starring Ramon Novarro and Kathleen Key (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video September 9, 1992

Released in United States Summer August 1957

VistaVision

Released in United States Summer August 1957

Released in United States on Video September 9, 1992