El Cid (film)

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El Cid
El Cild film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anthony Mann
Produced by Samuel Bronston
Written by Story:
Fredric M. Frank
Screenplay:
Philip Yordan
Starring
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Robert Krasker
Edited by Robert Lawrence
Distributed by Allied Artists (USA)
Rank Organization (UK)
Dear Film (Italy)
Miramax Films (1993 re-release)
Release date(s) Italy:
October 24, 1961
United States:
December 14, 1961
Running time 184 minutes
Country Italy
United States
Language English
Budget $6,200,000[1]
Box office $30,000,000 (Domestic)

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. The film stars Charlton Heston in the title role and Sophia Loren as Doña Ximena.

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.

Plot[edit]

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 Ximena (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 pledge to never again attack King Ferdinand of Castile's (Ralph Truman) lands. 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 Ximena'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. Ximena swears revenge upon her unrepentant 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 Ximena, 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 Ximena in marriage. But the marriage is not consummated, she removes herself to a convent.

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. Ximena'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 Ximena 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 Ximena 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. King Alfonso leads Christians and Moors in a prayer "for the purest knight of all".

Cast[edit]

Pre-production[edit]

Loren was paid $200,000 for ten weeks' work; producer Samuel Bronston also agreed to pay $200 a week for her hairdresser.[2]

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."[3]

Production[edit]

The Old Town of Peñíscola

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."[1]

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,[4] and Peñíscola and Bamburgh Castle as Valencia.[4]

The film was shot mostly on location in Spain but a few studio scenes were shot in Rome, purely to achieve the financial gains of co-production status.

Reception[edit]

The movie earned $12 million in North American rentals.[5]

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."[4] 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:[2]

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."

The film is a favorite of Martin Scorsese, who called it "one of the greatest epic films ever made."[6] Scorsese was one of the major forces behind a 1993 restoration and re-release of El Cid.[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

El Cid was nominated for three Academy Awards, for Best Art Direction (Veniero Colasanti, John Moore), Original Music Score for Miklós Rózsa and Best Song.[8]

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.

Robert Krasker won the 1961 Best Cinematography Award by the British Society of Cinematographers. Verna Fields won the 1962 "Golden Reel Award" of the Motion Picture Sound Editors.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Specific references:

  1. ^ a b "Cinema: A Round Table of One". Time. December 22, 1961. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  2. ^ a b "Egos: Watch My Line". Time. January 5, 1962. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  3. ^ Richard A. Fletcher (1990). "Chapter 1". The Quest for El Cid. ISBN 0-394-57447-8.  Fletcher considers Pidal's work on El Cid somewhat idealized and "eccentric."
  4. ^ a b c Bosley Crowther (December 15, 1961). "Spectacle of El Cid Opens: Epic About a Spanish Hero at the Warner". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  5. ^ "All-time top film grossers", Variety 8 January 1964 p 37. Please note this figure is rentals accruing to film distributors not total money earned at the box office.
  6. ^ James Berardinelli (1993). "El Cid". ReelViews.net. 
  7. ^ "Miramax to rerelease a restored '61 'El Cid'". Variety. April 16, 1993. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  8. ^ "NY Times: El Cid". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 

General references:

  • Richard Burt (2008). Medieval and Early Modern Film and Media. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 0-230-60125-1. 

External links[edit]