on this movie monday, i want to start talking about the old knight movies, and beginn with "Ivanhoe" from Walter Scott. The movie with Robert and Elizabeth Taylor is amazing. He is the middle of three movies from early middle age till the late middle age of the earth history from the year 1952.
The film was the first in what turned out to be an unofficial trilogy made by the same director and producer and starring Robert Taylor. The others were Knights of the Round Table (1953) and The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955). All three were made at MGM's British Studios at Elstree, near London.
The StoryRichard the Lionheard (Norman Wooland), King of England, vanishes while returning from the Crusades. One of his knights, the Saxon Wilfred of Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor), searches tirelessly for him, finally finding him being held for ransom by Leopold of Austria for the enormous sum of 150,000 marks of silver. Richard’s treacherous brother, Prince John (Guy Rolfe), knows about it, but enjoys ruling in his absence.
Ivanhoe returns to England, to the house of his estranged father, Cedric (Finlay Currie), to be reunited with his love and Cedric’s ward, the Lady Rowena (Joan Fontaine), and to beg his father’s help in raising the ransom. Cedric refuses to help a Norman king and orders his son to leave. Wamba (Emlyn Williams), Cedric’s court jester, begs to go with Ivanhoe and is made his squire.
Two separate parties of travellers arrive and are granted Cedric’s hospitality: a Jew, Isaac of York (Felix Aylmer), and Norman knights Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) and Sir Hugh de Bracy (Robert Douglas), and their entourage. That night, two of the Normans try to rob Isaac, but are foiled by Ivanhoe. Not feeling safe, Isaac decides to return to his home in Sheffield; Ivanhoe offers to escort him there.
When they reach Isaac’s home, Ivanhoe secures his help raising the ransom in return for better treatment for the Jews once Richard returns. Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor), Isaac’s daughter, visits Ivanhoe secretly in the night to reward him for rescuing her father; she gives him jewels to purchase arms and a horse for an important upcoming joust. She falls in love with him, despite the great social gulf between them,in that Jews are not allowed to marry Gentiles.
Nearly everyone of note is at the tournament, including Prince John. Norman knights loyal to him defeat all comers. Just when it seems that they are victorious, a mysterious new Saxon knight appears, arrayed all in black, with white trim, his face hidden behind his visor. He does not give his name, but challenges all five Norman champions. He easily defeats the first three, Malvoisin, Ralph, and Front de Boeuf (Francis de Wolff), one after the other, and also wins the fourth bout against de Bracy, but is seriously wounded in the shoulder. He is soon identified by many as Ivanhoe. When Ivanhoe salutes Rebecca after his first victory, Bois-Guilbert is immediately smitten by her beauty. In the last joust against Bois-Guilbert, the weakened Ivanhoe falls from his horse. He is carried off, to be tended to by Rebecca.
Fearing Prince John’s wrath, the Saxons depart; Ivanhoe is taken to the woods under the protection of Robin Hood (Harold Warrender). The rest make for the city of York, but are captured and taken to the castle of Front de Boeuf. When Ivanhoe hears the news, he gives himself up, in exchange for his father’s freedom. However, the Normans go back on their word and keep them both. Robin Hood’s men then storm the castle, freeing most of the captives. In the fighting, de Boeuf drives Wamba to his death in a burning part of the castle and is slain in turn by Ivanhoe. Bois-Guilbert alone escapes, by using Rebecca as a shield, while de Bracy is defeated and captured by Ivanhoe after attempting to do the same with Rowena.
Meanwhile, the enormous ransom is finally collected, but the Jews face a cruel choice: free either Richard or Rebecca, for Prince John has set the price of her life at 100,000 marks, the Jews’ contribution. Isaac chooses Richard. Ivanhoe entrusts the ransom delivery to Cedric, but promises Isaac that he will rescue Rebecca.
John has her condemned to be burned at the stake as a witch, but Ivanhoe appears and challenges the verdict, invoking the right to “wager of battle,” which cannot be denied. Prince John chooses the conflicted Bois-Guilbert as his champion. The Norman makes a last desperate plea to Rebecca: in return for her love, he is willing to forfeit the duel, though he would be forever disgraced as a knight. She refuses, saying “We are all in God’s hands, sir knight.”
In the battle to the death, presided over by Malvoisin, Ivanhoe fights with an axe and Bois-Guilbert a mace and chain. For most of the battle, Bois-Guilbert has the upper edge, but in the end Ivanhoe prevails, mortally wounding Bois-Guilbert. As he lies dying, Bois-Guilbert reaffirms to Rebecca that he is the one who loves her, not Ivanhoe. Rebecca accepts that Ivanhoe’s heart has always belonged to Rowena, and Richard and his knights (with Cedric as an escort) return to reclaim his throne from his usurping brother.
I think a good movie for this time in the year. Nextweek we talk about the other two Knights of the Round Table and Quentin Durward.