Lady Godiva of Coventry


1h 29m 1955

Brief Synopsis

In 11th-century England, King Edward the Confessor wants saxon Lord Leofric to marry a despised Norman woman, and has him jailed when he refuses. In jail, he meets Godiva, the sheriff's daughter, and soon they are wed. The times are turbulent and Godiva proves a militant bride; unhistorically, unrest between the Anglo-Saxon populace and the increasingly influential Norman French lead to her famous ride.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 2 Nov 1955
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In 1040 A.D., the English aristocracy name a reluctant Edward the Confessor as their king, hoping his half-Saxon, half-Norman ancestry will heal the rift between the country's warring factions. To cement the unity of the houses, Edward and William, Duke of Normandy, bring the Norman Lord Eustace's niece, Yolanda, to marry Lord Leofric, the Saxon who rules Coventry. Leofric, however, finds both Yolanda and the idea of marrying a Norman abhorrent, and so refuses her hand. For disobeying the king, he is jailed, and in the dungeon finds good-natured prisoners Grimald, Oswim and Pendar. He is cared for by the local sheriff's sister Godiva, whose long-haired beauty and spunk entrance Leofric. Leofric quickly charms Godiva into sneaking the group into the tavern later that night, and flirts with her, to her pleasure. In the morning, upon discovering that the king's soldiers are coming to take Leofric away, Godiva devises a plan to hand Leofric over but then have the other three men rescue him along the trail. When the authorities arrive, however, Leofric is furious to see his friend Reverend Pryor and his butler Humbert among them, and so refuses to go. That night, Leofric, realizing he must give in eventually, prepares to leave, but Godiva urges him to report to the king that he has already married. When Leofric then denounces Saxon women as too delicate, Godiva hastens to demonstrate her hardiness, and by the morning, the two are married. When Leofric presents Godiva to Edward as his wife, the king accuses the aristocrats of deliberately trying to upset the country's fragile peace. Frustrated, Edward denounces the Saxon/Norman accord and states that he will have only one army and rule alone. Although the other earls side with Edward, Leofric, whose lands are in dispute with fellow Saxon Godwin, refuses to give up his troops. Later, Godwin pleads with Leofric to form an alliance against Eustace, who wants Edward to embrace only the Normans. Leofric rejects the offer, stating that he will instead double his army. Eustace, who has been eavesdropping, plots with Edward to encourage the discord among the Saxons. Leofric and Godiva return to Coventry, where Leofric's soldiers, upset that he is jeopardizing the peace, rebel. Godiva tries to ease tensions in the township, and although the peasants love her, Leofric grows annoyed. In retaliation, Godiva bolts her door against him and meets with Godwin, and days later, Leofric agrees to deed his disputed lands to a monastery. Soon after, the couple attends Edward's birthday celebration in London. There they find Edward ill, but after Godiva takes control of his health regime, the king regains his strength. Godwin visits Godiva in secret to inform her that he and William share the same claim to the throne, and together they plan to convince Leofric to back Godwin's son, the impartial Harold, as the next king. Later, when the Norman army, under Eustace's orders, wreaks havoc in the country, Edward blames the Saxons, forcing Leofric to join forces with Godwin against the Norman earls. Eustace then insists that Godwin be banished for conspiring to name Harold king. After Leofric pledges his allegiance to the king, Godwin flees to Coventry to assemble his forces. While his men continue to terrorize the country, Eustace lies to Leofric that Godiva is having an affair with Godwin, and Edward grants Leofric the right to decide the punishment. As Leofric gathers the king's forces to attack Godwin, Godiva flees in horror to the monastery. When Leofric storms the walls in search of her, she sends a note that she will surrender if he comes to her. That night, Leofric feigns drunkenness and releases all the Saxon prisoners. Godwin informs Godiva that he and Leofric have been scheming together all along to lull Eustace into thinking that Leofric was on his side. During the ensuing battle, Leofric is imprisoned. Godiva sneaks in to see him and begs his forgiveness for doubting him. Both are found and sentenced to hang. Days later Eustace proposes that Godiva be forced to ride naked through the streets, where the people will stone her to death. Godiva accepts the sentence, but declares that the Saxons will prove their loyalty to the king by averting their eyes from her and remaining peaceful. The next day, as she parades through the streets with her hair as her only covering, the windows stay shut as the townspeople mourn her humiliation. When she returns to the court, Eustace orders his men to attack Godwin's. As Leofric grabs Eustace at knifepoint, Edward realizes who the true traitor is. The next day, Edward names Harold his successor, and as soon as the revelries begin, Godiva pretends to faint so she and Leofric can finally be alone together.

Film Details

Release Date
Nov 1955
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 2 Nov 1955
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the onscreen title reads Lady Godiva of Coventry, all the reviews refer to the film as Lady Godiva. The film begins with the following written foreword: "England, in the eleventh century, was torn by warfare between the rival Saxon earls... As a last hope for peace, the earls summoned to the throne Edward the Confessor. Half-Saxon, half-Norman, Edward would have rather been a monk than a king." As depicted in the film, Lady Godiva (1040-1080) was the wife of Earl Leofric, and with him founded a monastery at Coventry. Although she is most famous for her naked ride through Coventry, it is not known whether this ride occurred or is merely legend.
       According to a May 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Rudolph Maté was originally assigned to direct the film. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast: Riza Royce, Gene Roth, Herbert Reans, Alma Lawton, Vincent G. Perry, Peter Ortiz, John O'Malley, James Lilburn, Patricia O'Callaghan, January Arvan and Gil Perkins. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A September 1954 Hollywood Reporter item states that Rhodes Reason, actor Rex Reason's brother, made his feature-film debut in Lady Godiva of Coventry.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1955

Released in United States 1955