Helen of Troy is a 1956 Warner Bros. WarnerColor epic film in CinemaScope, based on Homer's Iliad 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, her first film production shot outside of France.
The film retells the story of the Trojan War in 1100 B.C., 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.
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.
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.Dell Four Color #684 (March 1956)