43 user 18 critic

Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama, History, Romance | 25 December 1959 (USA)
After becoming king of ancient Israel, Solomon faces threats coming from his jealous dispossessed brother Adonijah, the Egyptian Pharaoh and the scheming Queen of Sheba.


King Vidor


Crane Wilbur (story), Anthony Veiller (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Yul Brynner ... Solomon
Gina Lollobrigida ... Sheba
George Sanders ... Adonijah
Marisa Pavan ... Abishag
David Farrar ... Pharaoh
John Crawford ... Joab
Finlay Currie ... David
Harry Andrews ... Baltor
José Nieto ... Ahab (as Jose Nieto)
Maruchi Fresno ... Bathsheba
William Devlin William Devlin ... Nathan
Jack Gwillim ... Josiah
Jean Anderson ... Takyan
Laurence Naismith ... Hezrai (as Lawrence Naismith)
Julio Peña ... Zadok (as Julio Pena)


Shortly before his death in ancient Israel King David has a vision from God telling him that his younger son Solomon should succeed him as king. His other son Adonijah is unhappy and vows to attain the throne. Meanwhile the Egyptian Pharoah agrees to cede a Red Sea port to the Queen of Sheba if she can find a way to destroy Solomon, whose wisdom and benevolent rule is seen as a threat to more tyrannical monarchs in the region. Sheba, Pharoah, Adonijah, the leaders of the Twelve Tribes and his own God make life difficult for Solomon who is tempted by Sheba to stray. Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Behold! The love story of the ages! See more »


Drama | History | Romance | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The use of Jehovah by characters is not a mistake. The name Yahweh was always written without vowels and never spoken by Jews. See more »


Several characters refer to God as "Jehovah," the Latin name for God. "Yahweh" is the Hebrew name. See more »


Baltor: I have come to ask your permission to arrange your immediate departure.
Sheba: Yes. Let us go, quickly. There is no reason for us to remain now that I have accomplished my purpose.
Baltor: Your Majesty should not reproach herself. It was nothing more than a sudden storm. It is not the first time lightning has dealt death, nor will it be the last.
Sheba: Was it nothing more than a coincidence?
Baltor: Surely, Your Majesty cannot believe the Israelites, that it was a sign of the anger and revenge of their god?
Sheba: I no longer know ...
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Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: Tyrone Power (1962) See more »

User Reviews

Saved by Brynner
16 March 2004 | by gleywongSee all my reviews

Previous reviewers did not like this film, but it kept my attention to the end. Compared to other great biblical spectacles, this one has some true moments, due mainly to the strong cast and the director's restraint. This was King Vidor's final film. Remember, he made "The Great Parade,""The Crowd" and other early silent hits. What I liked about this film was Brynner's dignity and kingliness. For someone born a gypsy, Brynner had an innate aristocracy and gravitas; in any scene, he holds your attention and roots the action. And he could deliver the lines elegantly. Could you imagine Tyrone Power in this role? It would be a bit of fluff by comparison (remember him as the feckless husband in "Witness for the Prosecution"?), or perhaps, one might say, Power would have been an equal to George Sanders'surface play of the role.

Another thing going for the film is the consistent delivery of lines by all the actors. Most of the other players were English (Harry Andrews, David Farrar) or Italian (Lollobrigida, Pavan), or foreign, and that gave the dialogue a certain musicality. If all actors had been been "amurican," the tone of the dialogue would have been flatter and much less interesting to listen to. Probably the weakest actor was Lollobrigida, with her masklike visage. She delivered her lines credibly, but there was really no frisson between her and Brynner, (certainly not as there was between Brynner and Deborah Kerr), so that the love scenes came across as a tad dull.

As for the combat and action scenes, Vidor's background in silents shows in the way he holds back with the soundtrack, even as horses, chariots and warriors are running headlong over a cliff. The final sword fight between the brothers was certainly no 10-minute "Prisoner of Zenda", but it was not the fighting itself that was important, but the confrontation between the brothers themselves, reliving the Caine and Abel tragedy. The director is presenting the story as a parable of a failed brotherhood (regardless of how it jives or not with the Biblical text or historical accuracy) that bows before allegiance to a single God and social covenants, so the action is on a straight and simple level that some viewers may find too simple. This sense of the parable guides the actors' delivery of their lines, all with a distinctly measured rhythm that some may consider artificial, and others elevating, as if it were verse.

One can compare Vidor's approach in this film with the many other Biblical spectacles before and after (such as "David and Bathsheba," "Ben Hur," even "Spartacus"), and this movie comes out very "clean" in the battle scenes and refusal to focus on the blood and gore of battle. Vidor's pacing in the dialogue (not quite Shakespearean, but close to it) is consistent with the overall sense of restraint that he excercised.

The clarity of the film's message is reinforced by the costumes, which are openly differentiated as to Egyptian or Israelite,making it easy to distinguish the sides in the battle scenes.

Of five *****, three and a half, it's still worth watching as the swansong of one of Hollywood's great directors.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

25 December 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Solomon and Sheba See more »


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
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