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Ivanhoe is a 1952 historical (Technicolor) film made by MGM. It was directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Pandro S. Berman. The cast featured Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Emlyn Williams, Finlay Currie and Felix Aylmer. The screenplay was by Æneas MacKenzie, Marguerite Roberts, and Noel Langley from the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Pandro S. Berman for Best Picture, Freddie Young for Best Cinematography, Color, and Miklós Rózsa for Best Music, Scoring. In addition, Richard Thorpe was nominated by the Directors Guild of Americamarker, USA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. There were also two Golden Globe Award nominations: Best Film Promoting International Understanding and Best Motion Picture Score, for Miklós Rózsa.

The film was the first in what turned out to be an unofficial trilogy made by the same director and producer and starring Robert Taylor. The others were Knights of the Round Table (1953) and The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955). All three were made at MGM's British Studios at Elstreemarker, near London.

Plot

Richard the Lionheart (Norman Wooland), King of England, vanishes while returning from the Crusades. One of his knights, the Saxon Wilfred of Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor), searches tirelessly for him, finally finding him being held for ransom by Leopold of Austria for the enormous sum of 150,000 mark of silver. Richard's treacherous brother, Prince John (Guy Rolfe), knows about it, but enjoys ruling in his absence.

Ivanhoe returns to England, to the house of his estranged father, Cedric (Finlay Currie), to be reunited with his love and Cedric's ward, the Lady Rowena (Joan Fontaine), and to beg his father's help in raising the ransom. Cedric refuses to help a Norman king and orders his son to leave. Wamba (Emlyn Williams), Cedric's court jester, begs to go with Ivanhoe and is made his squire.

Two separate parties of travelers arrive and are granted Cedric's hospitality: a Jew, Isaac of York (Felix Aylmer), and Norman knights Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) and Sir Hugh de Bracy (Robert Douglas), and their entourage. That night, two of the Normans try to rob Isaac, but are foiled by Ivanhoe. Not feeling safe, Isaac decides to return to his home in Sheffieldmarker; Ivanhoe offers to escort him there.

When they reach Isaac's home, Ivanhoe secures his help raising the ransom in return for better treatment for the Jews once Richard returns. Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor), Isaac's daughter, visits Ivanhoe secretly in the night to reward him for rescuing her father; she gives him jewels to purchase arms and a horse for an important upcoming joust. She falls in love with him, despite the great social gulf between them.

Nearly everyone of note is at the tournament, including Prince John. Norman knights loyal to him defeat all comers. Just when it seems that they are victorious, a mysterious new Saxon knight appears, arrayed all in black with his face hidden behind his visor. He does not give his name, but challenges all five Norman champions. He defeats four of them, one after the other, but is seriously wounded in the shoulder in the fourth bout. When Ivanhoe salutes Rebecca after his first victory, Bois-Guilbert is immediately smitten by her beauty. In the last joust, the weakened Ivanhoe falls from his horse. He is carried off, to be tended to by Rebecca.

Fearing Prince John's wrath, the Saxons depart, Ivanhoe to the woods under the protection of Robin Hood (Harold Warrender). The rest make for the city of Yorkmarker, but are captured and taken to the castle of Front de Boeuf (Francis De Wolff). When Ivanhoe hears the news, he gives himself up, in exchange for his father's freedom. However, the Normans go back on their word and keep them both. Robin Hood's men then storm the castle, freeing most of the captives. In the fighting, de Boeuf drives Wamba to his death in a burning part of the castle and is slain in turn by Ivanhoe. Bois-Guilbert alone escapes, by using Rebecca as a shield.

Meanwhile, the enormous ransom is finally collected, but the Jews face a cruel choice: free either Richard or Rebecca, for Prince John has set the price of her life at 100,000 marks, the Jews' contribution. Isaac chooses Richard. Ivanhoe entrusts the ransom delivery to Cedric, but promises Isaac that he will rescue Rebecca.

John has her condemned to be burned at the stake as a witch, but Ivanhoe appears and challenges the verdict, invoking the right to "wager of battle", which cannot be denied. Prince John chooses the conflicted Bois-Guilbert as his champion. The Norman makes a last desperate plea to Rebecca: in return for her love, he is willing to forfeit the duel, though he would be forever disgraced as a knight. She refuses, saying "We are all in God's hands, sir knight."

In the battle to the death, Ivanhoe's axe prevails over Bois-Guilbert's mace and chain. As he lays dying, Bois-Guilbert reaffirms to Rebecca that he is the one who loves her, not Ivanhoe. And indeed, he speaks the truth.

Richard and his knights (with Cedric as an escort) return to reclaim his throne from his usurping brother.

Cast



Differences from Scott's novel

The film omits the characters Aethelstane, Lucas Beaumanoir, and Gurth, while the Crusaders play no role. Ivanhoe's early injuries are modest and he plays a very active role throughout the film. Unlike the novel, King Richard is not involved until the final scene, when he and his knights ride in (costumed as Crusaders).

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