The land of the pharaohs

The Land of the Pharaohs ( Land of the Pharaohs ) is a movie American directed by Howard Hawks and released in 1955 .


In Egypt , the iii th millennium BC (circa -2600), the time of the IV th dynasty , the pharaoh Khufu , which is fortified after several battles won, considering this to ensure his offspring and to build his tomb. He asks slave-architect Vashtar to build the most majestic and secure burial ever made. At the same time, for economic reasons, Pharaoh meets the beautiful Cypriot princess Nellifer who can not pay her royalties. In return, she becomes his wife. But she has dark designs for her rich pharaoh …

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Land of the Pharaohs
  • French title: La Terre des Pharaons
  • Director: Howard Hawks
  • Second production team: Noël Howard and Jean-Paul Sassy (uncredited)
  • Scenario: Harold Jack Bloom, William Faulkner , Harry Kurnitz
  • Sets: Alexandre Trauner
  • Costumes: Mayo , Lucilla Mussini
  • Photography: Lee Garmes , Russell Harlan
  • Sound: Oliver S. Garretson
  • Editing: Vladimir Sagovsky and Rudi Fehr
  • Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
  • Conductor: Jester Hairston
  • Producer: Howard Hawks
  • Associate producers: Arthur Siteman, Chuck Hanse
  • Production Companies: Warner Bros. Pictures ( United States ), Continental Company ( United States )
  • Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures (international)
  • Budget: $ 2,900,000 (estimate)
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Language: English
  • Format: 35 mm – color by Warnercolor – 2.35: 1 CinemaScope :
    • Monophonic version
    • 4-track stereophonic version ( RCA Sound Recording )
  • Genre: peplum , drama
  • Duration: 106 minutes
  • Release dates:  ,  
  • (en) Classifications CNC : all audiences, Arthouse (visa o 16999 issued)


  • Jack Hawkins ( VF : Raymond Loyer ) : Pharaoh Cheops
  • Joan Collins ( VF : Françoise Gaudray) : Princess Nellifer
  • James Robertson Justice ( VF : Marcel Raine ) : Architect Vashtar
  • Dewey Martin ( VF : Michel Gudin ) : Senta, the son of Vashtar
  • Alex Minotis ( VF : René Blancard ) : Hamar, the high priest
  • Luisella Boni ( VF : Renée Simonot ) : Kyra
  • Sydney Chaplin ( VF : Georges Aminel ) : Treneh, captain of the guard
  • James Hayter ( VF : Raymond Rognoni ) : Mikka, the servant of Vashtar
  • Kerima : Queen Nailla
  • Carlo d’Angelo ( VF : Jean Clarieux ) : Mabouna, the bodyguard of Nellifer
  • Bud Thompson ( VF : Henri Djanik ) : A dancer at the party



In an interview with Cahiers du cinéma 1 , Howard Hawks explained that he directed this film “for a simple reason: CinemaScope ” . He finds that this process is suitable for such a film, because one can “show a lot of things. ”

Initially, Hawks wanted to make a film on a US air base that was actually built in China, during the Second World War . Eight months of work would have been necessary, but the aerodrome had been completed in three weeks, with “twenty thousand men, women and children, […] carrying small baskets on their heads, with whom they carried the stones” and built this airfield 1 . China did not agree to this shoot, so he decided to make a film about the construction of the Egyptian pyramids , saying it was a similar story. He adds that”These companies, airfields buildings or pyramids, are designed to show the power of man, it is possible to do with the stone, sand and hands 1 . ”


For the pageant, the film crew was helped by the Department of Egyptian Antiquities as well as by a “Frenchman” (of whom Hawks does not give the name to the Cahiers du cinéma , but of whom he says he lives close to pyramids and he “has written many books on the history Égytienne 1 .” ) the man who would be Jean-Philippe Lauer [ref. necessary] , as well as other specialists of ancient Egypt , informed Hawks and his writers about the customs of that time. Hawks says he tried to make a movie “as realistic as possible”, but he also explains that, compared to the questions asked to Egyptologists , the film crew probably took into account only the answers that suited him 1 .

Some methods for the transport and handling of stone blocks have been reported in agreement with Egyptologists, such as using a ramp to climb the stones at the top. Others were invented by Hawks’ team, like the one to place the stones on the boat, the process to seal the pyramid after its construction. These methods are, at the time, possible, but not proven 1 .

Hawks took the liberty of showing in the movie camels , rare in Egypt at that time. They seemed to him “an integral part of Egypt 1 . ” He also chose to illustrate the hypothesis that the workers building the pyramid were free at first, then were enslaved later, construction spanning thirty years and a hundred thousand men need one . He said: “After a few years the exaltation went out and the enthusiasm gave way to a kind of collective rage: here is our idea: there are some scenes in the film about this idea, it is an indivisible part of history 1 . ”


At the time, apart from the Americans Dewey Martin and Sydney Chaplin , the other main players are unknown to the American public 2 . Jack Hawkins , Joan Collins , James Robertson Justice and James Hayter are British , Luisella Boni is Italian , Kerima is French and Alexis Minotis is one of the great actors of the Greek scene .


It is the painter and creator of French costume Mayo , already known for his work on Children of Paradise or Beauty and the Devil , which ensures the creation of the costumes 3 .


The film was shot from late March to early September 1954 2 . The interiors are made at Titanus Studios in Rome 4 . The exteriors are made in Egypt : Cairo and surroundings (scenes on the Nile and in the valley of the pyramids), pyramid of Cheops , northern pyramid of Pharaoh Baka in Zaouiet el-Aryan (first scenes of construction of the pyramid), Tourah ( scenes at the limestone quarry), unfinished obelisk of the Aswan quarry 2 , 5 .


Dimitri Tiomkin has incorporated into the orchestra musical instruments identical to those used in the time of the pharaohs, but in an article in the magazine Film Music [Which one?] , He says he did not try to recreate the music of that time. The orchestra was expanded with a choir of 80 singers individually handpicked by Jester Hairston, the eminent choir of Los Angeles 2 .

The magazine Hollywood Reporter salutes the music of Dimitri Tiomkin by writing “it is unlikely that this epic in CinemaScope Warner could be as captivating without considerable symphonic score … It is virtually impossible to separate the history of music. ” According Allmovie [ref. necessary] “the energetic music of Dimitri Tiomkin accompanies each pull and jerk 6 ” .


  • Christmas Howard , Hollywood on Nile , Paris , Ramsay Publishing , coll.  “Cinema pocket”,, 258 p. ( ISBN  9782841149391 )Noël Howard , who was responsible for the nd team on this film and therefore figuration, tells the filming with humor. Reedition by Ramsay after the first edition by Fayard ( 1977 ).
  • Evelyne Yeatman-Eiffel, Mayo . Biography and catalog raisonné of the painter and costume designer Mayo ,, 2012.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ a , b , c , d , e , f , g , h and i Jacques Becker , Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut , ” Interview with Howard Hawks ‘ Cahiers du cinéma , o 56,reprinted in The Politics of Authors: Interviews with Ten Filmmakers , Cahiers du Cinéma / Éditions de l’Étoile,, 214 p. , pages 79 to 82.
  2. ↑ a , b , c, and d Source: The TCM Movie Database United States . [ref. insufficient]
  3. ↑ Evelyne Yeatman-Eiffel , Mayo , mayo-peintre.coml,p.  143-150.
  4. ↑ Source: according to an article in the magazine Hollywood Reporter June 1954. [ref. necessary]
  5. ↑ Source: IMDb .
  6. ↑ Free translation of English by the publisher.

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