Legend of the Lost is a 1957 Italian-American adventure film produced and directed by Henry Hathaway, shot in Technirama by Jack Cardiff, and starring John Wayne, Sophia Loren, and Rossano Brazzi. The location shooting for the film took place near Tripoli, Libya.
In Timbuktu, experienced guide Joe January (John Wayne) reluctantly joins a Saharan treasure hunting expedition led by Paul Bonnard (Rossano Brazzi), a man obsessed with confirming his dead father's claim to have found a lost city. Dita (Sophia Loren), a woman of dubious reputation, becomes infatuated with Paul and his willingness to overlook her past. She invites herself along, despite Joe's protests. During the tough dry ordeal, Joe and Dita become attracted to each other, raising tensions.
Just as they run out of water, they stumble upon the ancient city and a well. There, they find three human skeletons, a woman and two men. It becomes evident that Paul's father found his woman in the arms of his guide, killed them and then himself. There is also no treasure to be found. Paul's faith in his father is shattered and he becomes drunk.
They find the treasure after Joe deciphers the clues left by Paul's father. They load it and prepare to leave in the morning. Paul makes an attempt to seduce Dita; she rejects him and he gets into a fight with Joe. Later, Paul sneaks away during the night taking all the animals, supplies, and treasure with him and leaving the other two to die.
Joe and Dita chase after him on foot and eventually catch up. Paul is unconscious from dehydration. While Joe and Dita dig for desperately needed water, Paul regains consciousness and thinks they are digging his grave. He buries the treasure and attacks Joe from behind with a knife. Dita is forced to shoot and kill Paul. When they spot a caravan, Joe and Dita are saved.John Wayne as Joe January
Sophia Loren as Dita
Rossano Brazzi as Paul Bonnard
Kurt Kasznar as Prefect Dukas
Youseff Daoud as Dr. Gamael
Sonia Moser as Girl
Angela Portaluri as Girl
Ibrahim El Hadish as Galli Galli
Legend of the Lost was directed by Henry Hathaway. Wayne and Hathaway worked together six times, beginning with The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) and ending with Wayne's Oscar-winning role in True Grit (1969). Co-author Robert Presnell, nearing the end of his career at this time, was one of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters. None of this talent managed to keep Legend of the Lost from being harshly reviewed by critics.
Wayne liked the location work in Rome and Libya. The plot is vaguely similar to another of Wayne’s movies crossing the Mojave Desert. The Roman remains of Leptis Magna in Libya were used extensively as a location for the ancient city. In the script Wayne's character refers to 'Timgad' in sardonic reference to the apparent delusions of Paul's father, despite the fact this places a considerable strain on the geography of the plot. The lost city of Timgad referred to in the film was actually the Leptis Magna ruins, a Roman city dating back to the 7th century B.C. near Tripoli, in northwest Libya, while "Timbuktu" was actually in Zliten, Libya. Headquarters for the film were located in Ghadames, where, according to the publicity material, citizens of the villages were employed on set, as well as some native Tuaregs, an ancient desert tribe.
This film was Wayne's only collaboration on film with international cinema stars Sophia Loren and Rossano Brazzi.
The film was photographed by noted British cinematographer Jack Cardiff in Technicolor and Technirama (the wide screen process developed by the Technicolor Corporation).