Egyptian, The (1954): Michael Curtis Oscar Nominated Historical Epic Starring Victor Mature and Jean Simmons

Based on the novel by Mika Waltari, adapted tp the screen by Philip Dunne and Casey Robinson, and directed by the versatile Micheal Curtis, “The Egyptian” is lavish, but dull, big-budget historical melodrana, set before the birth of Christ.

Though depicting events that took place in the distant past, the book reflects the contemporary feelings of disillusionment and bitterness after WWII; some literary critics pointed parallels between the menacing King Suppiluliuma and Hitler.

This may explain why the book evoked such a wide and strong response in readers in the aftermath of WWII–it was translated into 40 languages, heading the bestseller lists in the US in 1949. It remained the most sold foreign novel in the US before its position was taken over by Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, which was also made into a bad movie.

A young Egyptian healer Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom), accompanied by his servan Kaptah (Peter Ustinov) attracts the attention of barmaid Merit (Jean Simmons) who wishes to marry him.

Sinuhe offers medical treatment to the epileptic Pharoah, Akhnaton (Michael Wilding).  Pharroah holds that only one god exists, which provokes all of his polytheistic priests, who secretly plot to assassinate him.

Meanwhile, Sinuhe has a brief affair with a Babylonian whore, Nefer (Bella Darvi), but the goes back to Merit. When Merit is killed, for being monotheistic, Sinuhe holds Akhnaton responsible for her death, Sinuhe and his friend Horemheb (Victor Mature) poison Pharoah.

Producer Daryl Zanuck cast his mistress Darvi in the lead, which proves disastrous.

This $4.2 million film had additional problems. Marlon Brando was originally slated to star, but had to be replaced by Purdom, a contract player.

Running time: 140 Minutes.

Directed By: Michael Curtiz

Released August 24, 1954.


Oscar Nominations: 1

Cinematography (color): Leon Shamroy

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Oscar was given to Milton Krasner for “Three Coins in the Fountain.”