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Helen of Troy is a 1956 Warner Bros. epic film, based on Homer's Illiad and Odyssey. It was directed by Robert Wise, from a screenplay by Hugh Gray and John Twist, adapted by Hugh Gray and N. Richard Nash. The music score was by Max Steiner and the cinematography by Harry Stradling Sr. The film stars Rossana Podestà, Stanley Baker, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Jacques Sernas, with Niall MacGinnis, Maxwell Reed, Nora Swinburne, Robert Douglas, Torin Thatcher, Harry Andrews, Janette Scott, Ronald Lewis, Eduardo Ciannelli, Esmond Knight and a young Brigitte Bardot as Andraste, Helen's handmaiden.

Rossana Podesta as Helen of Troy (1956)

Plot

The film retells the story of the Trojan War, albeit with some major changes from the Iliad's storyline: Paris of Troy (Jacques Sernas) sails to Sparta to secure a peace treaty between the two powerful city-states. His ship is forced to return to Troy in a storm after he has been swept overboard on the shore of Sparta. Paris is found by Helen, Queen of Sparta (Rossana Podestà), with whom he falls in love. He goes to the palace where he finds Helen's husband, King Menelaus (Niall MacGinnis), Agamemnon (Robert Douglas), Odysseus (Torin Thatcher), Achilles (Stanley Baker) and many other Greek kings debating whether to go to war with Troy. Menelaus, who is denied by Helen, sees that his wife and Paris are in love and, pretending friendship, plots Paris' death.

Warned by Helen, Paris flees and, after they are both nearly caught by the Spartans, takes Helen with him to Troy. Under the pretense of helping Menelaus regain his honor, the Greeks unite, and the siege of Troy begins. Much blood is shed in the long ordeal, with the Trojans blaming their plight on Paris and Helen until it turns out that the Greeks are solely after Troy's riches, not Helen. The siege culminates in Greek victory through the ruse of the legendary Trojan Horse. While trying to flee, Helen and Paris are cornered by Menelaus. Paris faces the Spartan king in single combat, but just as he wins the upper hand he is stabbed from behind, denying him a fair trial by arms. Helen is forced to return with Menelaus, but she is serene in the knowledge that in death she will be reunited with Paris in Elysium.

This project makes several departures from the original story, including showing Paris as a hero and great leader, and most of the Greek lords as treacherous and opportunistic pirates who are using Helen's flight as an excuse to win the treasures of Troy. The 2003 miniseries sharing its name with this film would later partially re-employ this plot device.
Production

The film was made in Rome's Cinecittà Studios and in Punta Ala, Grosseto.

The scene of the Greek initial assault on the walls of Troy features a series of shots that are directly copied from a sequence in the Persian attack on Babylon in D. W. Griffiths' silent film classic Intolerance. Some shots from this sequence would in turn be reused in the introductionary scenes of the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts.
Cast

Rossana Podestà - Helen of Troy
Jacques Sernas - Paris
Sir Cedric Hardwicke - Priam
Stanley Baker - Achilles
Niall MacGinnis - Menelaus
Robert Douglas - Agamemnon
Nora Swinburne - Hecuba
Torin Thatcher - Odysseus
Harry Andrews - Hector
Ronald Lewis - Aeneas
Brigitte Bardot - Andraste
Marc Lawrence - Diomedes
Maxwell Reed - Ajax
Robert Brown - Polydorus
Barbara Cavan - Cora
Patricia Marmont - Andromache
Guido Notari - Nestor
Tonio Selwart - Alephous
George Zoritch - Singer
Esmond Knight - High Priest
Terence Labrosse - Patroclus
Harry Semels - Patis
Janette Scott - Cassandra
Eduardo Ciannelli - Andros

See also

List of historical drama films
Greek mythology in popular culture

References

MOVIELAND BRIEFS. (1954, Sep 07). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/166671038?accountid=13902
'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957

Box office information for film at Box Office Story

External links

Helen of Troy (1956) at DBCult Film Institute
Helen of Troy at the Internet Movie Database
Helen of Troy at AllMovie

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