Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Samuel Bronston|
Fredric M. Frank
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Editing by||Robert Lawrence|
|Distributed by||Allied Artists (USA)
Rank Organization (UK)
Dear Film (Italy)
Miramax Films (1993 re-release)
October 24, 1961
December 14, 1961
|Running time||184 min.|
El Cid (1961) is a historical epic film, a romanticized story of the life of the Christian Castilian knight Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, called "El Cid" who in the 11th century fought the North African Almoravides and ultimately contributed to the unification of Spain.
Made by Samuel Bronston Productions in association with Dear Film Production and released in the United States by Allied Artists, the film was directed by Anthony Mann and produced by Samuel Bronston with Jaime Prades and Michal Waszynski as associate producers. The screenplay was by Philip Yordan, Ben Barzman and Fredric M. Frank from a story by Frank. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa, the cinematography by Robert Krasker and the editing by Robert Lawrence.
General Ibn (pronounced Ben) Yusuf (Herbert Lom) of the Almoravid dynasty has summoned all the Emirs of Al-Andalus to North Africa and chastises them for their complacency in dealing with the infidels and reveals his plan for Islamic world domination. Later, while en route to his future bride Doña Jimena (Sophia Loren), Don Rodrigo (Charlton Heston) becomes involved in a battle against a Moorish army. Two of the Emirs, Al-Mu'tamin (Douglas Wilmer) of Zaragosa and Al-Kadir (Frank Thring) of Valencia, are captured, but Rodrigo releases them on condition that they never again attack King Ferdinand of Castile (Ralph Truman). The Emirs proclaim him ‘El Cid’ (the Castillian Spanish pronunciation of the Arabic for Lord: "Al Sidi") and swear allegiance to him.
For this act he is accused of treason against the King by Count Ordóñez (Raf Vallone) and later Jimena's father, Count Gormaz (Andrew Cruickshank). Rodrigo's proud father, Don Diego (Michael Hordern), supports Rodrigo against Count Ordóñez. Later Gormaz refuses to take back the challenge or the accusation of treason, and Rodrigo kills him, the King's Champion, in a duel. Jimena swears revenge upon her father's murderer. Rodrigo then takes up the mantle of the King's champion in single combat for control of the city of Calahorra, which he wins. Rodrigo is then sent upon a mission to collect tribute from Moorish vassals of the Castillian crown, but Jimena, in league with Count Ordóñez, has plotted to have Rodrigo killed. El Cid and his men are ambushed but are saved by Al-Mu'tamin, to whom he had previously showed clemency. Returning home, his reward is the hand of Jimena in marriage. But the marriage is not consummated, she removes herself to a convent and continues to plot with Count Ordóñez, who loves her.
King Ferdinand dies, and his eldest son, Prince Sancho (Gary Raymond), becomes king. The younger son, Prince Alfonso (John Fraser), also desires the throne; his sister, Princess Urraca (Geneviève Page) secretly has Sancho assassinated. At Alfonso's coronation, El Cid has him swear upon the Bible that he had no part in the death of his brother. Since he had no part in it as his sister was responsible, he swears so, but has Rodrigo banished for his impudence. Jimena's love for El Cid is rekindled, she chooses banishment with him and they have children.
But Rodrigo is called into service by other exiled Spanish fighters, and eventually into the service of the king once again, to protect Castille from Yusuf's North African army. Rodrigo does not join the king, and allies himself with the Emirs who fight at Valencia, where Rodrigo relieves the city of the wicked Emir Al-Kadir, who betrayed him. Count Ordóñez brings Jimena from where the king had imprisoned her and the children after his defeat by the Moors. Valencia falls and Emir Al-Mu'tamin, Rodrigo's army and the Valencians offer the crown to ‘The Cid’, but he refuses and sends the crown to King Alfonso. Rodrigo then repels the invading army of Ben Yusuf, but is wounded in battle by an arrow before the final victory. If the arrow is removed, there is a chance that he will live, but he will not be able to lead his army. El Cid obtains a promise from Jimena to not remove it, knowing that this will kill him. He intends to ride out, even if dead. King Alfonso comes to his bedside and asks for his forgiveness.
The morning after El Cid dies, his body is secured upon his horse and sent out at the head of his army with King Alfonso and Emir Al-Mu'tamin on either side of his horse. When Yusuf's army see him with his eyes still open, they believe that El Cid's ghost has come back from the dead. Babieca, his horse, tramples on and kills Ben Yusuf, who is too terrified to fight. The invading North African army is completely defeated. The film ends with King Alfonso leading Christians and Moors in a prayer "for the purest knight of all".
Ramón Menéndez Pidal, a Spanish authority on El Cid and Spain in the Middle Ages was the "historical adviser for the film and the "overall interpretation of the hero as presented by Charlton Heston."
Time magazine provided some production details: "Inevitably, the picture is colossal—it runs three hours and 15 minutes (including intermission), cost $6,200,000, employs an extra-wide widescreen, a special color process, 7,000 extras, 10,000 costumes, 35 ships, 50 outsize engines of medieval war, and four of the noblest old castles in Spain: Ampudia, Belmonte, Peñíscola and Torrelobatón."
Ampudia appears as the raided village at the beginning of the film, Torrelobatón as Cid's hometown Vivar, the Castle of Belmonte appears as Calahorra, and Peñíscola and Bamburgh Castle as Valencia.
The film was mostly shot on location in Spain but a few studio scenes were shot in Rome purely to achieve the financial gains of co-production status.
The movie earned $12 million in North American rentals.
Upon the film's release, Bosley Crowther wrote "it is hard to remember a picture—not excluding Henry V, Ivanhoe, Helen of Troy and, naturally, Ben-Hur—in which scenery and regal rites and warfare have been so magnificently assembled and photographed as they are in this dazzler...The pure graphic structure of the pictures, the imposing arrangement of the scenes, the dynamic flow of the action against strong backgrounds, all photographed with the 70-mm. color camera and projected on the Super-Technirama screen, give a grandeur and eloquence to this production that are worth seeing for themselves." Crowther also pointed out that while "the spectacle is terrific[,] the human drama is stiff and dull."
The film's leading lady had a major issue with Bronston's promotion of the film, an issue important enough to her that Loren sued Bronston for breach of contract in New York Supreme Court. As Time described it:
On a 600-sq.-ft. billboard facing south over Manhattan's Times Square, Sophia Loren's name appears in illuminated letters that could be read from an incoming liner, but—Mamma mia!—that name is below Charlton Heston's. In the language of the complaint: "If the defendants are permitted to place deponent's name below that of Charlton Heston, then it will appear that deponent's status is considered to be inferior to that of Charlton Heston ... It is impossible to determine or even to estimate the extent of the damages which the plaintiff will suffer."
It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Director, Anthony Mann and Samuel Bronston won the 1962 Special Merit Award.
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