Ivanhoe. 1952. USA. Directed by Richard Thorpe. 106 min.
Screenplay by Noel Langley, Marguerite Roberts, based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott. With Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders. Ivanhoe makes a rousing spectacle of Sir Walter Scott’s medieval adventure, in which the valiant Saxon knight (a stiffly chivalrous Robert Taylor) is compelled to restore King Richard the Lionhearted to the throne while extricating himself from a love triangle involving his father’s ward, Lady Rowena (Joan Fontaine), and a moneylender’s daughter, Rebecca (a surprisingly convincing Elizabeth Taylor), even as he does battle with Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the leader of the Normans (a cunning yet sympathetic George Sanders). MGM executive Dore Schary spared no expense on the production, constructing elaborate sets in England and even replicating a 12th-century Norman castle—as Michael T. Toole reports, “an average day's shooting for some of the more elaborate sequences like the Ashby Tournament called for the presence of all the principal actors plus 12 trumpeters, 15 Norman and 15 Saxon squires, 25 special foresters, 135 ordinary foresters, 160 members of a rough Saxon crowd, 120 Normans, 60 horses, a truckload of arrows and 6 cows!”—and he assembled some of the greatest craftsmen in England to make Ivanhoe a classic of the genre: cinematographer Freddie Young (Lawrence of Arabia), art director Alfred Junge (Picadilly, Black Narcissus), composer Miklós Rósza (Ben-Hur, The Thief of Baghdad), and costumer Roger Furse (Henry V, Bonjour Tristesse). 35mm print from George Eastman House; courtesy Warner Bros.