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The film's opening title card reads: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe." Hollywood Reporter news items and other contemporary sources offer the following additional information about the production: M-G-M had planned to adapt Scott's novel to the screen as early as 1937. At that time, the production was to be shot at M-G-M's British studios, with Robert Taylor announced as the star. Various news items in 1937 and 1938 also mentioned M-G-M stars Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer, Lionel Barrymore and Wallace Beery as possible co-stars with Taylor. Following the outbreak of war in 1939, pre-production on the film was halted.
According to a New York Times article, in 1947, when producer Dore Schary was at RKO, he became interested in adapting Scott's novel for the screen. When he left RKO to become head of production at M-G-M, he brought the property with him, then in 1949, producer Pandro S. Berman began pre-production on the film and assigned writer Marguerite Roberts to work on the script. At that time, according to a New York Times article, Roberts was to alter the story so that "Isaac's avarice will be considerably moderated" from Scott's novel. In early January 1951, Noel Langley was brought on as the film's co-screenwriter. Only Langley received a screenplay credit on the film, with Aeneas MacKenzie credited with adaptation. According to Hollywood Reporter news items in 1951, M-G-M received permission from the SWG (Screen Writer's Guild) to remove Roberts' name from the film after she refused to testify before HUAC. A cutting continuity of the film, on deposit with copyright records, indicates the removal of Roberts' name from the previously typed credits with the handwritten notation "not on film." In 1997, her credit was restored by the WGA (Writer's Guild of America).
When M-G-M revived the production, a decision was made to go ahead with the film at M-G-M's British studios, with Taylor as the star, just as planned in the late 1930s. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Kathleen Bourne from M-G-M's story department, and Cyril Cambridge, from the electrical department, went to England to determine requirements for the production, along with cinematographer F. A. Young, but the exact contribution to the film of Bourne and Cambridge has not been ascertained. Just prior to the start of production, actress Deborah Kerr, who was to portray "Rowena," had to drop out of the cast because she was pregnant. Actor Stuart Raymond was cast in the film, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
The picture was filmed entirely on location in England, with some of the castle sequences filmed in a reproduction of Torquilstone, a twelfth century Norman castle. Although a studio press release indicated that Taylor would sing for the first time onscreen, he had actually sung, briefly, in the 1935 M-G-M film Broadway Melody of 1936 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40).
According to news items and studio press materials, the studio launched one of their largest publicity campaigns in many years for the film. A July 22, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that, on behalf of M-G-M, Maurice Wolf was scheduled to give a series of lectures of Ivanhoe for various clubs, including the Rotarians, the Lions and the Kiwanis. According to a September 9, 1952 news item, the film had taken in $1,310,590 at the box office in thirty-nine days of limited release, setting a record for an M-G-M film. According to Motion Picture Almanac, the film was the second highest-grossing film of 1952, taking in more than $7,000,000 at the box office. Ivanhoe received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The film received two other nominations, one for Young for Best Cinematography (Color) and one for Miklos Rozsa for Best Score.
The Saxon-Norman conflict, which is a major theme in the film, began following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Norman William the Conqueror defeated the then-ruling Saxons. Modern historical sources note that the conflict between the groups was no longer a factor by the late twelfth century, but that Scott chose to incorporate the animosity between the two groups for his novel. The legendary character Robin Hood was only called "Locksley" in the film. For additional information on films featuring the character, please see the entry for the 1938 Warner Bros. picture The Adventures of Robin Hood in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.
There have been many film adaptations of Scott's novel, including several silent short films and Italian-language features. Universal released a feature-length version in 1913, directed by Herbert Brenon in England and starring King Baggot (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20). A British feature film, entitled Rebecca the Jewess was also released in 1913. There was a British television series entitled Ivanhoe that ran from 1957 to 1958, starring Roger Moore, and a British mini-series of the same title, produced in 1997.