“I love you, with all the longing in this lonely world.”
While visiting his estranged father (Finlay Currie) to request money for the ransom of Richard the Lionheart (Norman Wooland) — who is being held prisoner by his treacherous brother Prince John (Guy Rolfe) — a Saxon knight named Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor) visits his life-long love, Lady Rowena (Joan Fontaine), and earns the loyalty of the court jester (Emlyn Williams). When his father rejects his plea, Ivanhoe turns to a Jewish banker (Felix Aylmer) whose daughter Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor) falls secretly in love with Ivanhoe and risks her life to assist him. With an entourage of Norman knights — including Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) — determined to defeat him, and a team of men led by a Robin Hood-like fighter (Harold Warrender) on his side, will Ivanhoe prevail in his quest?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Elizabeth Taylor Films
- George Sanders Films
- Historical Drama
- Joan Fontaine Films
- Love Triangle
- Robert Taylor Films
- Royalty and Nobility
No money was spared on this adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, which turned into the highest grossing film for MGM studios in 1952. In his review for the NY Times, Bosley Crowther referred to it as a “brilliantly colored tapestry of drama and spectacle”, and it does remain that — particularly given the excellent cinematography (by Freddie Young) and sets (by Alfred Junge). However, Robert Taylor’s uncharismatic performance as Ivanhoe leaves quite a bit to be desired, and it’s awkward to see beautiful Liz Taylor pining for someone we know she “shouldn’t” have (given Ivanhoe’s allegiance to Rowena). It’s bold of the filmmakers to openly tackle issues of anti-semitism; knowing one of the lead screenwriters was banned from Hollywood given her unwillingness to testify before HUAC adds extra poignancy to this aspect of the screenplay. Ultimately, however, this visually appealing film will be of most interest to those who enjoy well-mounted medieval dramas with plenty of swordplay, castles, jousting, and festive attire.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Freddie Young’s cinematography
- Fine sets and art direction by Alfred Junge
- The exciting castle siege sequence
No, but it’s worth a one-time look simply for the visuals.