Alfred the Great (film)

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Alfred the Great
Directed by Clive Donner
Produced by Bernard Smith
Written by James R. Webb
Ken Taylor
Starring David Hemmings
Michael York
Prunella Ransome
Colin Blakely
Ian McKellen
Peter Vaughan
Alan Dobie
Julian Glover
Music by Raymond Leppard
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Edited by Fergus McDonell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 14 July 1969 (1969-07-14)
Running time
122 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $197,788 (US)[2]

Alfred the Great is a 1969 epic film which portrayed Alfred the Great's struggle to rid Wessex of the invading Danes, in the 870s AD. It starred David Hemmings in the title role.


Alfred is preparing to join the priesthood, but, angered by the invasion of his country by the Danes, he puts aside his religious vows to lead the West Saxon English against the invaders. Alfred defeats the Danes and becomes an English hero. However, although Alfred still desires to join the priesthood, he is pulled between serving God and his lust for blood. After he marries the beautiful Aelhswith (Prunella Ransome), the Danes return and Alfred must muster the English forces once again for a final battle, but he also must battle the dark conflicts within his own soul.



Producer Bernie Smith says he became interested in Alfred the Great after reading about him in Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples. Smith said he "wanted a director who had never done a historical. That way I knew we could minimise cliches and the possibility of someone simply repeating, imitating what went before."[3] Clive Donner, then best known for What's New Pussycat? was hired.

Donner said he wanted to make the film "because of the inherent youth problem which is so close to our so-called youth revolt; turning the destructiveness of youth into constructiveness. Like so many students today, he [Alfred] advocated peace, but at the same time proclaimed violence in order to redo the world."[1]

The film was partly shot in Castlehackett, Tuam, Co. Galway, Ireland.[4]

A vast amount of money was spent on the exact replication of every aspect of the ninth century it depicted, turning some corners of County Galway into Wessex, including etching a 200-foot-long white horse into the hill at Knockma. Members of the Irish military served as extras during the battle scenes filmed in Counties Galway and Westmeath.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pageant of 'Alfred' Unfolds in Ireland Reisfeld, Bert. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 6 Sep 1968: e16.
  2. ^ "U.S. Films' Share-of-Market Profile", Variety, 12 May 1971 p 179
  3. ^ Authenticity Goal of 'Alfred' Director: An Authentic 'Alfred' Knapp, Dan. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 June 1969: g20.
  4. ^ Alfred the Great at Kilchreest The Irish Times (1921-Current File) [Dublin, Ireland] 26 Oct 1968: 10.

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