Classic Cinema: Valley of the Kings (1954) – By Jason S. Lockard

My Name is Jason Lockard and ever since I saw a mummy exhibit in New York when I was just a small child I was enthralled by ancient Egypt. Well, this month I’m bringing you a cinema classic that was filmed on location in Cairo, Luxor, Faiyûm, Suez, the Libyan desert and at the Pyramids of Giza Egypt. I’m talking about 1954’s Valley of the Kings starring Robert Taylor!

Robert Taylor was born Spangler Arlington Brugh on August 5, 1911 in Filley, Nebraska, he was the son of Ruth Adaline  and Spangler Andrew Brugh, who was a farmer turned doctor. The Young Spangler was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College to study music.

While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor E. Gray, his idol. When Professor Gray announced he was leaving the university to accept a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Brugh followed Gray and enrolled at Pomona College. He soon joined the campus theatre group and was spotted by an MGM scout after production of Journey’s End in 1932.

Brugh signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $35 a week and his name was changed to Robert Taylor. Taylor made his film debut in a 1934 comedy, Handy Andy, opposite Will Rogers. After a few small roles, he got his first leading roles in Magnificent Obsession, co-starring Irene Dunne. This was followed by Camille, with Greta Garbo.

In 1950, Taylor landed the role of General Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis. The film was a hit, grossing $11 million. He would follow that success up by starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film version of Walter Scott’s classic Ivanhoe. Than in 1954 Robert starred in Valley of the Kings is an MGM Production written and directed by Robert Pirosh from a screenplay by Robert Pirosh and Karl Tunberg, "suggested by historical data" in the book Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C. W. Ceram.

Robert Taylor stars as Mark Brandon, is a hard-nosed archeologist and pupil of Dr. Barclay who was an archeologist in search of the proof collaborating to the Old Testament – that Joseph was in Egypt and there was one pharaoh who believed in one god. While on a dig at the turn of the 19th century Brandon is visited by a woman named Ann who reveals to Mark that she is the daughter of Dr. Barclay and after his death, she decided to carry on her father’s work and enlisted the help of Barclay’s former star pupil.

Mark initially refuses to help believing that the bible is just a book, but after some convincing arguments he agrees and the two are off to find the proof! Ann and Mark are sure that Ra-Hotep is the pharaoh in they need to locate. So Mark, Ann and her devoted husband Philip set out in search for Ra-Hotep’s tomb, in the Valley of Kings.

What follows is not the most intriguing of stories I’ve ever watched but the cinematography and brilliant color is just so beautiful you can’t take your eyes off the screen! Robert Taylor seems uncomfortable at time in this role and you feel that way when you watch it, but Eleanor Parker makes up for his short comings in this film! 

The plot is a bit predictable but seeing the actual legendary sphinx, St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai and the rousing fist-fight on the crown of one of the Abu Simbel make this film a definite must see. There is a definite good payoff at the end as well, but to find out what that is you’ll have to watch the film!

In 1958, Robert Taylor formed his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, and the following year, he starred in the ABC hit television series The Detectives. Following the end of the series in 1962, Taylor continued to appear in films and television including A House Is Not a Home and two episodes of Hondo. In 1965, after filming Johnny Tiger in Florida, Taylor took over the role of narrator in the television series Death Valley Days, when Ronald Reagan left to pursue a career in politics. Taylor would remain with the series until 1969 when he became too ill to continue working.

On June 8, 1969, Taylor died of lung cancer at the age of 57 and was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Robert Taylor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.
So Until next month this is Jason Lockard saying if you want to see a good movie Check out a Classic!

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Moral Rating: Nothing Offensive
Audience: Teens & Adults
Genre: Action/Adventure
Length: 86 min.
Released: 1954
Our Rating: C+