Cast & Crew
In ancient Rome, Horatio the historian recalls the day that Fabius Maximus was crowned dictator: Addressing the crowd, Fabius vows to slay the ruthless invader Hannibal of Carthage, whose legions have devastated the country's northern provinces. Fabius' intended bride Amytis is not present to hear his victory speech, however, having spent the morning happily racing her chariot through the countryside. Summoned for the rest of the day's festivities, Amytis goes to the temple with her slave Meta, but they are too late to attend the ceremony and decide to go shopping instead. While strolling through the marketplace, they come across a slave auction, and Meta is immediately smitten with Varius, a handsome slave captured from Hannibal's army. Amytis buys him for Meta, and Varius rejoices in his new servitude. Fabius arrives in the marketplace, with his domineering mother Fabia, who criticizes Amytis on the way home for every aspect of her behavior. Fabius presses Amytis to set a date for their wedding, pointing out that they have been engaged for seven years, but despite the dictator's obvious devotion, she feels no passion for him. Fabius declares that they will marry that evening, or Amytis must enter the temple of the Vestal Virgins. Their wedding banquet commences but is interrupted by the news that Fabius' army has been defeated by Hannibal, who is now only twenty miles from the gates of Rome. Amytis is intrigued by talk of the powerful, manly barbarian, and she and Meta sneak outside the walls of the city to get a look at him. They are soon captured and brought before Hannibal, who orders the women executed as spies. Amytis asks for time alone with Hannibal to make a last request, then beseeches him to spare Rome. Hannibal angrily refuses and sends for the guard, but is stopped short when Amytis points out errors in his map of Rome. Desperate to buy time, Amytis offers to take him to a temple overlooking the city, and Hannibal is surprised to discover that the bridges leading into Rome are still intact. As they survey the city in the moonlight, Hannibal and Amytis begin to fall in love, but their romantic moment is shattered by the arrival of Fabius' forces. After doing battle with the Romans, Hannibal escapes, taking Amytis with him. Back at his camp, Hannibal accuses Amytis of leading him into a trap and prepares to kill her. Amytis admits that she came to his camp to see him, and they kiss. The following morning, Hannibal emerges from his tent in a euphoric mood and, after telling his troops their invasion of Rome will be postponed until noon, returns to his tent to have an intimate breakfast with a beaming Amytis. He continues to delay the attack, and when dusk arrives, the besotted Hannibal still shows no interest in making war. Varius arrives, having escaped disguised as a Roman guard, and reports that there are only two legions left guarding the city. Meta rushes to Varius and begs him to say nothing about Amytis' betrothal to Fabius, and they begin to explore romantic feelings toward each other. Meanwhile, Hannibal shows Amytis his army of elephants, which she proclaims "drab," adding that she would brighten them up a bit if they were hers. Hannibal asks Amytis if she would accompany him back to Carthage if he were to spare Rome. Without disclosing anything about her personal life, Amytis replies that she must think it over. Just then, Fabius arrives with a delegation from Rome, and Amytis conceals her face as the two leaders meet in Hannibal's tent. Fabius beseeches Hannibal to call off his attack, and in parting gives the general a medallion, remarking that it contains a likeness of his betrothed. After Fabius leaves, Hannibal examines the medallion and is outraged to see a likeness of Amytis, whom he again accuses of spying. The two quarrel bitterly, and Hannibal vows to destroy Rome, then has Amytis put in chains. Late that night, Varius frees Meta and proposes to her, but she knocks him unconscious and escapes with Amytis on horseback. Hannibal's men set off in pursuit, but Amytis dives off a cliff into the sea and swims to safety. She rejoins Fabius in Rome, and he says they will marry the following day. Amytis sadly tells Fabius that she does not love him and would rather enter the temple of Vesta than marry him, and he accepts her decision. The following day, Hannibal's army approaches the gates of Rome and begins a savage attack. The Romans fight back with catapults and boiling oil, but Hannibal's power is too much for them. Fabius throws down the sword of truce, and Hannibal demands Amytis. Fabius refuses to hand her over, but Amytis, feigning reluctance at her noble "sacrifice," insists on going with Hannibal. Amytis is lowered over the wall on a rope, and Meta happily follows suit to join Varius. As the army begins its return to Carthage, Hannibal points out a column of brightly painted elephants, which he has "brightened up" for Amytis.
The Swimming Cherubs
A. Cameron Grant
A. Arnold Gillespie
Jo Ann Greer
Wesley C. Miller
Paul C. Vogel
Edwin B. Willis
Ralph E. Winters
Nor did Hannibal learn to swim from Esther Williams's Amytis, but as nearly all of Williams' films required scenes of her impressive, balletic swimming, they had to work it in somehow. Williams herself was no fan of the film or under any illusions as to the direction in which her career was headed in 1955. Films were changing, audience tastes (through social evolution and through the invasion of television) had changed as well. As she wrote in her autobiography, "Jupiter's Darling, I suspected, was not a problem in a vacuum. The Esther Williams swimming musicals had probably had their run. A great run, but all things have to come to an end. Broadway was already, or soon would be, turning out shows that would become the next generation of Hollywood musicals, My Fair Lady, The King and I, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Funny Girl - and there was no place in such properties for a mermaid." Dancing star Gower Champion knew things were changing, too. He and his partner/wife Marge were making their last film for MGM and the last film in which they would perform together. "Suddenly we were famous, but movie musicals were over. We finished off Betty Grable in her last film, then we finished of Esther Williams in her last film, and it was back to the closet for the old act again. We didn't care, because we never thought of ourselves as movie stars, anyway."
The taglines for the Technicolor and Cinemascope film were big, bold and brash, as always. "The Love Story of the Beauty and the Barbarian! Clash of Armies! Underwater spectacle! Never before such sights to see!" Behind the scenes was director George Sidney, choreographer Hermes Pan (best known for the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musicals), and costumers Helen Rose (a long-time veteran of MGM) and Walter Plunkett. Many of the Jupiter's Darling sets were recycled from MGM's 1953 film Julius Caesar. Shot on location at Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida, Wewahitchka, Florida, and Sky Valley Ranch in the Santa Susana Mountains of Southern California, the film was not without incident. Williams broke her eardrum for the fifth time on this film, necessitating latex ears and nose plugs. Jo Ann Greer dubbed Williams' voice for the musical numbers, but George Sanders did his own singing in a fine baritone voice. Sanders later released an album in 1958, The George Sanders Touch: Songs for the Lovely Lady and was set to star in South Pacific but his nerves got the better of him and he had to drop out of the project.
Williams' patience with the studio was tested for the last time on the publicity tour for the film. "When Jupiter's Darling opened, I was obliged by contract to trudge through another publicity tour, this time accompanied to several theaters by a baby elephant. Because there were elephants in the movie, the MGM publicity geniuses thought it would be a good gimmick to send me around with an elephant that did a few tricks and attracted attention. I was reminded of a bit of actors' wisdom: 'Never get on the same stage with animals or small children.' The Jupiter's Darling tour was to be my last obligation to MGM."
Jupiter's Darling was a financial and critical flop. Time magazine's assessment was especially harsh. "Esther Williams pictures are generally so much water over the dame. This one tries to be different. Esther even tries to act - a spectacle almost as alarming as that of the Burmese fish that climbs trees." The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther likewise panned it, "Esther Williams must be getting bored with water. She goes swimming only three times in MGM's Jupiter's Darling, which came yesterday to the Music Hall, and two of these times are forced upon her. She dunks only once for fun. And that, we might note, is the most attractive and buoyant thing in the film. It comes when Miss Williams, cast rashly as the fiancée of Emperor Fabius Maximus of Rome, peels off her stola and tunic after a long hot day in town and goes swimming in the pool of her villa, which is fancier than any pool in Hollywood...it is significant that there are elephants in this film -- lots of elephants -- supposedly the creatures that transported Hannibal's troops. This may account for the picture's rather elephantine style and mood...The spirit of jest is indicated but barely perceptible in this musical film. Miss Williams had better get back in that water and start blowing bubbles again."
She wouldn't. Jupiter's Darling helped to end Williams' career at MGM. She still had a contract with the studio but the quality of the films they were offering was so bad that she walked out, which she realized in retrospect, was exactly what the studio wanted. In doing so, she forfeited $3 million dollars of her payment deferred contract, but Esther Williams refused to damage her image in inferior films, feeling it was a matter of principle.
Producer: George Wells
Director: George Sidney
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley (writer); Robert E. Sherwood (play "The Road to Rome")
Cinematography: Charles Rosher, Paul Vogel
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary
Music: David Rose (uncredited)
Film Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Cast: Esther Williams (Amytis), Howard Keel (Hannibal), Marge Champion (Meta), Gower Champion (Varius), George Sanders (Fabius Maximus), Richard Haydn (Horatio), William Demarest (Mago), Norma Varden (Fabia), Douglass Dumbrille (Scipio), Henry Corden (Carthalo).
C-97m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Lorraine LoBianco
Crowther, Bosley "Screen: Hannibal Hooked; and Rome Is Saved by 'Jupiter's Darling'" New York Times 18 Feb 55
Gilvey, John Anthony Before the Parade Passes By: Gower Champion and the Glorious American Musical
Solomon, Jon The Ancient World in the Cinema
Williams, Esther and Diehl, Digby The Million Dollar Mermaid
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
The opening credits contain the following written prologue: "In 216 B.C., Hannibal the Barbarian marched on Rome. The history of this great march has always been confused. This picture will do nothing to clear it up." The Carthaginian general Hannibal began his march into Rome in 218 B.C., with the outbreak of the Second Punic War, using a caravan of elephants to ferry supplies over the Pyrenees and the Alps. Despite losing several key battles to Hannibal's army, the Romans, under the leadership of dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, kept the invaders at bay long enough to rebuild their military strength. In 201 B.C., Carthage capitulated to Rome.
According to the Hollywood Reporter review, M-G-M originally bought the rights to Robert E. Sherwood's play in 1926, intending to film it with Greta Garbo. Hollywood Reporter production charts include James Whitmore in the cast, but he was not in the film. According to March and April 1954 Hollywood Reporter news items, stunt swimmer Vicki Mann and body builder Art Maltsman were cast in the film, and Frank Schoen, Vic Merito and Richard Sabre were testing for roles, but the appearance of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location in Silver Springs, FL, and at Santa Catalina Island and Sky Valley Ranch, CA. According to a June 17, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, cinematographer Charles Rosher withdrew from the production and was replaced by Paul Vogel. Both men are credited onscreen. Jupiter's Darling marked the last feature film of long-time cinematographer Rosher (1885-1974), whose son, Charles Rosher, Jr. also became a cinematographer.
In a November 14, 1954 article written for New York Times, director George Sidney reflected on the technological advancements that had taken place in film since he directed swimmer Esther Williams in her first starring role, the 1944 M-G-M film Bathing Beauty (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Citing various improvements in the photography of underwater sequences, Sidney recalled that although the camera operator on the earlier film had to work with his head above the surface of the water, "for Jupiter's Darling the entire crew wore aqualungs and had as much freedom beneath the water as above." In her autobiography, Williams wrote that she ruptured her left eardrum during filming and was fitted with an ear and nose prosthesis "made out of French latex and glued on with eyelash adhesive that completely covered my aural and nasal openings." Jupiter's Darling was Williams' last swimming role, and her last film for M-G-M.
Released in United States Winter February 1955
Released in United States Winter February 1955