Cast & Crew
In 1192, England's King Richard the Lion-Hearted is leading the united European Christian nations in the Third Crusade to drive the Mohammedans from the Holy Land and recover the Holy Sepulchre. Richard's allies are King Philip of France, Archduke Leopold of Austria, Sir Giles Amaury, who is Grand Master of an order of unchivalrous knights called the Castelains, and the wealthy Venetian who is financing the Crusade, Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat. Despite their show of solidarity, there is much intrigue and plotting against Richard. At their camp on the Plains of Jaffa, Richard publicly acknowledges the courage and loyalty of his Scottish bodyguard, Sir Kenneth of Huntington, who confesses that he is loyal to Richard, but not to England. Later, when an assassin shoots Richard with a poisoned arrow, Kenneth correctly guesses that Giles and Conrad, rather than the enemy Saracens, are behind the murder attempt, but Richard refuses to believe ill of his comrades. As the physicians are unable to counteract the poison that is slowly killing him, Richard's wife, Queen Berengaria, and his cousin, Lady Edith, announce plans to go on a pilgrimage to a convent across the desert. Richard sends Kenneth to protect the caravan, but orders the lowborn knight not to pursue his romance with the noble Edith. Riding ahead of the caravan as a scout, Kenneth encounters a Saracen, with whom he unsuccessfully jousts. After sparing Kenneth's life, the Saracen takes him to an oasis, and introduces himself as Emir Ilderim, an emissary and physician to the great Sultan Saladin. Fascinated by the ideals of chivalry and troubled that Saracens are being blamed for the attempted assassination of Richard, Ilderim offers to help restore Richard`s health, asking in return that Richard personally settle the outcome of the Crusade with Saladin by a fair and chivalrous, man-to-man fight. Three Castelains from the caravan, who have been ordered by Giles to kill Kenneth, ride up and fight both Ilderim and Kenneth, but Ilderim slays all three. After Kenneth introduces Ilderim to Richard, the king, who knows Saladin is a man of integrity, agrees to Ilderim's offer, and the Saracen mixes medicines using a special diamond talisman, while keeping an appreciative eye on Edith, who is assisting him. Later, when the recovered and grateful Richard grants a boon to Ilderim for restoring his health, the Saracen asks for time to choose it. Kenneth becomes jealous when Ilderim proposes to Edith and abandons his guard post to see her. Richard, finding his bodyguard kissing Edith, commands that they fight in a joust to the death. The next day, during the combat, Kenneth has several opportunities to kill Richard, but refrains from striking the deathblow. Finally, Richard gets the upper hand and is about to kill Kenneth, when Ilderim intervenes, asking that the sparing of Kenneth's life be his promised boon. Richard agrees, but strips Kenneth of his knighthood and gives him to Ilderim as a slave. At the Saracen camp, Kenneth is treated well and learns that Ilderim is really the great Saladin. Ilderim warns Kenneth that Giles is betraying Richard and as proof, brings in a Castelain, who was found by the Saracens abandoned and near death. Because his tongue has been cut out by Giles, the Castelain must communicate by writing, but claims to be the bowman who injured Richard at Giles's orders. He further reveals that Giles plans to gain command of the army by killing Richard and then enslave the Syrian people. Disguised as a Saracen, Kenneth returns to Richard's camp and is granted a private audience. After revealing his identity, Kenneth shares the bowman's confession with Richard and reluctantly reports Saladin's offer of an alliance between Christendom and Islam in return for Edith's hand in marriage. The eavesdropping Conrad and Giles try unsuccessfully to accuse Kenneth of treachery, then Giles and the Castelains kill the men in Kenneth's Saracen entourage. Disguised as the murdered Saracens, they kidnap Edith and head for a Castelain fortress. Upon learning about the kidnapping of Edith and the death of his men, Ilderim joins Richard and Kenneth, who have gathered their men and are chasing the Castelains. At the fortress, Kenneth kills Giles on a rising drawbridge, and the Castelains are defeated. After giving his blessing, Ilderim returns to his people. Although Richard restores Kenneth's knighthood and offers him power and riches if he returns to England, Kenneth and Edith plan to marry and go to Scotland.
D. R. O. Hatswell
William L. Kuehl
J. Peverell Marley
George "rusty" Meek
King Richard and the Crusaders
No question here about which warrior we're supposed to root for in the ensuing action. Sure enough, the instant the narrator mentions swift entrapment, a troop of English horsemen are swiftly entrapped by Saladin's men. He of the Lionheart definitely has his work cut out for him, and so do the other monarchs and soldiers fighting for the cause alongside him. There's so much European royalty and aristocracy around - from France, Austria, and elsewhere - that it's clear why history books call this crusade the Kings' Crusade.
The battle against Saladin becomes even more challenging when Richard gets hit with a poisoned arrow shot by an unseen bowman hidden somewhere in his encampment. In an early plot twist that goes refreshingly against the grain of Hollywood stereotyping, Saladin hears about Richard's possibly mortal injury and sends his personal healer to nurse the king back to health, on the condition that the two rulers will then settle the long-standing struggle over Jerusalem in mano a mano combat between themselves.
In a much later twist, we learn what film-savvy viewers may have guessed way earlier: the smart, kindly, witty physician is none other than Saladin himself, personally making sure Richard recovers from his wound so they can duke out their differences like the civilized autocrats they are. As a big believer in learning through experience, Saladin also wants to study the ways of the West as part of his ongoing self-education program. He'll do whatever needs doing to prevent Europe from retaking the Holy Land, of course, but as the movie proceeds he becomes one of its most sympathetic figures, and he's vastly more interesting to watch and listen to than his English counterpart. With relentlessly genteel George Sanders as the king versus breezily dashing Rex Harrison as the sultan, it's really no contest.
The movie takes its story from The Talisman, an 1825 novel by Sir Walter Scott that was published with a second tale called The Betrothed under the collective title Tales of the Crusaders. It's puzzling that Warner Bros. didn't retain The Talisman as the film's title, since it's a lot snappier than King Richard and the Crusaders, but the studio probably found "Crusaders" an exciting buzzword, and King Richard's name would have reached out to moviegoers who'd recently enjoyed two 1952 releases, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men and Ivanhoe, in which the lionhearted king appears. The prolific John Twist wrote the screenplay.
This was Warner Bros.' first excursion into CinemaScope, still a fairly new format and well suited to the desert expanses, galloping steeds, and flashy swordplay that recur throughout the picture. The director was David Butler, doing one of his last feature-film assignments before moving over to television, where the many shows he worked on included Wagon Train, The Deputy, and about a zillion Leave It to Beaver episodes. He brings little inspiration to King Richard and the Crusaders, but he handles both the action scenes and romantic interludes with reasonable skill. He also gives the actors free reign to have fun with the dialogue, which tends toward amusingly wooden locutions, as when the king's love-struck niece responds to a kiss by sighing, "Ah, this is a pleasant madness," or when Saladin exclaims, "These strange, pale-eyed Goths, they show their hearts like the bumps on a pomegranate!" (And it's interesting to note that while people who fall prey to today's religious stereotypes generally think of the word "infidel" as a slur spoken by Muslims, only British speakers use it in the movie - a nod to historical accuracy, perhaps.)
In addition to Sanders and Harrison, the mostly spirited cast includes Virginia Mayo as Richard's handful of a niece, Lady Edith Plantagenet, and Laurence Harvey as Sir Kenneth of the Leopard, a Scottish warrior who fights at Richard's side not because he has patriotic feelings toward England - quite the contrary, the very thought of England makes him cringe - but because he deeply respects the king, just as the king respects the sultan and the sultan respects both Kenneth and the king. With so much respect going on, and so much dialogue expressing the respect, it's a wonder there's time left over for fighting, plotting, and swiftly entrapping. But action rears up regularly, splashed across the screen in WarnerColor hues and the great Yakima Canutt directed the second-unit scenes. Add a rollicking music score by Max Steiner at the peak of his career, and King Richard and the Crusaders ends up being good fun despite its shortcomings - not a movie to fall in love with, but a pleasant enough madness while it lasts.
Director: David Butler
Producer: Henry Blanke
Screenplay: John Twist; from Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman
Cinematographer: J. Peverell Marley
Film Editing: Irene Morra
Art Direction: Bertram Tuttle, William S. Darling
Music: Max Steiner
With: Rex Harrison (Emir Hderim Sultan Saladin), Virginia Mayo (Lady Edith Plantagenet), George Sanders (King Richard I), Laurence Harvey (Sir Kenneth of the Leopard), Robert Douglas (Sir Giles Amaury), Michael Pate (Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat), Paula Raymond (Queen Berengaria), Lester Matthews (Archbishop of Tyre), Anthony Eustrel (Baron De Vaux), Henry Corden (King Philip of France), Wilton Graff (Duke Leopold of Austria), Nick Cravat (Nectobanus), Nejla Ates (Moorish dancing girl), Leslie Bradley (Castelaine captain), Bruce Lester (Castelaine), Mark Dana (Castelaine), Peter Ortiz (Castelaine)
by David Sterritt
King Richard and the Crusaders
Virginia Mayo (1920-2005)
She was born Virginia Clara Jones in St. Louis, Missouri on November 30, 1920, and got her show business start at the age of six by enrolling in her aunt's School of Dramatic Expression. While still in her teens, she joined the nightclub circuit, and after paying her dues for a few years traveling across the country, she eventually caught the eye of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. He gave her a small role in her first film, starring future husband, Michael O'Shea, in Jack London (1943). She then received minor billing as a "Goldwyn Girl," in the Danny Kaye farce, Up In Arms (1944). Almost immediately, Goldwyn saw her natural movement, comfort and ease in front of the camera, and in just her fourth film, she landed a plumb lead opposite Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate (1944). She proved a hit with moviegoers, and her next two films would be with her most frequent leading man, Danny Kaye: Wonder Man (1945), and The Kid from Brooklyn (1946). Both films were big hits, and the chemistry between Mayo and Kaye - the classy, reserved blonde beauty clashing with the hyperactive clown - was surprisingly successful.
Mayo did make a brief break from light comedy, and gave a good performance as Dana Andrews' unfaithful wife, Marie, in the popular post-war drama, The Best Years of Their Lives (1946); but despite the good reviews, she was back with Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), and A Song Is Born (1948).
It wasn't until the following year that Mayo got the chance to sink her teeth into a meaty role. That film, White Heat (1949), and her role, as Cody Jarrett's (James Cagney) sluttish, conniving wife, Verna, is memorable for the sheer ruthlessness of her performance. Remember, it was Verna who shot Cody¿s mother in the back, and yet when Cody confronts her after he escapes from prison to exact revenge for her death, Verna effectively places the blame on Big Ed (Steve Cochran):
Verna: I can't tell you Cody!
Cody: Tell me!
Verna: Ed...he shot her in the back!!!
Critics and fans purred over the newfound versatility, yet strangely, she never found a part as juicy as Verna again. Her next film, with Cagney, The West Point Story (1950), was a pleasant enough musical; but her role as Lady Wellesley in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951), co-starring Gregory Peck, was merely decorative; that of a burlesque queen attempting to earn a university degree in the gormless comedy, She¿s Working Her Way Through College (1952); and worst of all, the Biblical bomb, The Silver Chalice (1954) which was, incidentally, Paul Newman's film debut, and is a film he still derides as the worst of his career.
Realizing that her future in movies was slowing down, she turned to the supper club circuit in the 60s with her husband, Michael O'Shea, touring the country in such productions as No, No Nanette, Barefoot in the Park, Hello Dolly, and Butterflies Are Free. Like most performers who had outdistanced their glory days with the film industry, Mayo turned to television for the next two decades, appearing in such shows as Night Gallery, Police Story, Murder She Wrote, and Remington Steele. She even earned a recurring role in the short-lived NBC soap opera, Santa Barbara (1984-85), playing an aging hoofer named "Peaches DeLight." Mayo was married to O'Shea from 1947 until his death in 1973. She is survived by their daughter, Mary Johnston; and three grandsons.
by Michael T. Toole
Virginia Mayo (1920-2005)
Fight, fight, fight! That's all you think of, Dick Plantagenet.- Lady Edith
The working title of the film was The Talisman. Voice-over narration is heard intermittently at the beginning of the film. Sir Walter Scott, who is credited with inventing the historical novel, based the highly romanticized novel, The Talisman, on real events and people. Richard I (1157-1199), who was also known as Coeur de Lion or Lion-Hearted, led the Third Crusade (1189-1192) and although he led several battles against the forces of Saladin or Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (ca. 1137-1193), who was sultan of Egypt and Syria, he eventually returned to Europe without gaining the city of Jerusalem for Christianity.
Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: William Steele, Kansas Moehring, David Kashner, Jeanne Baker, Velma Cragin, Laraine Knight, Madelyn Wittlinger, Nick Thompson, June Leabow and Ben Corbett, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A December 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Norman Stuart as dialogue director for the film, although only Demetrio Vilan is listed onscreen. Portions of the film were shot at the Ray Corrigan Ranch, nicknamed "Corriganville" in Simi Valley, CA and the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA, according to a February 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item. A February 1954 San Francisco Chronicle adds that other location shooting took place at a desert near El Centro, CA.
A June 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the film's premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood was delayed by the extended run of the highly successful John Wayne film, The High and the Mighty. When King Richard and the Crusaders premiered on July 8, 1954, the festivities were simulcast on KABC-TV and radio. According to a July 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, the premiere marked the first use of an aperture developed by Warner Bros., which adapted the film's projection to any screen size and allowed theaters to show films of any gauge.
Although a San Francisco Chronicle article noted that the screenplay had little do to with Scott's novel, the Hollywood Reporter review praised the filming of the "famous desert combat" between Kenneth and Saladin as effective, and a July 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that USC professor Dr. Frank C. Baxter, who was noted for his Shakespeare on Television program, proclaimed the film to be "a good example of bringing fine literature to the American public." A January 1954 Los Angeles Daily News news item noted that the Great Dane portraying "Roswal," Kenneth's loyal and discerning wolfhound, wore false ears in the film.
Although the Variety review cited King Richard and the Crusaders as Laurence Harvey's Hollywood debut, the British actor had appeared in the 1950 Twentieth Century-Fox British co-production, The Black Rose. Another film based on Scott's novel, The Talisman, is the 1923 Associated Authors production Richard, the Lion-Hearted, which was directed by Chet Withey and starred Wallace Beery as King Richard and Charles Gerrard as Saladin (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). Historical figures King Richard I and Saladin also appear in the 1935 Paramount production The Crusades, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Loretta Young, Henry Wilcoxon and Ian Keith as "Berengaria," "Richard" and "Saladin," respectively (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). The character of "King Richard I" also appears in many of the films about Robin Hood, including the 1938 Warner Bros. production The Adventures of Robin Hood, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In the late 1990s, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven were interested in filming an epic action film set in the eleventh century, titled Crusade, but financial concerns halted the project and, as of 2005, the film has not been produced. In May 2005, Twentieth Century-Fox released Kingdom of Heaven, a feature about a young man coming of age during the Crusades. That film was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson.
Released in United States Summer July 1954
Released in United States Summer July 1954