The Black Knight (film)

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The Black Knight
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tay Garnett
Produced by Irving Allen
Albert R. Broccoli
Written by Alec Coppel
Bryan Forbes (uncredited)
Starring Alan Ladd
Peter Cushing
Harry Andrews
Music by John Addison
Cinematography John Wilcox
Edited by Gordon Pilkington
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
28 October 1954
Running time
85 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $1 million (approx)[1]
Box office $1.3 million (US rentals)[2]

The Black Knight is a 1954 film starring Alan Ladd as the title character and Peter Cushing and Patrick Troughton as two conspirators attempting to overthrow King Arthur.[3][4] It is the last of Ladd's trilogy with Warwick Films, the others being The Red Beret and Hell Below Zero based on Hammond Innes' book The White South.


John (Alan Ladd), a blacksmith and swordsmith, is tutored at Camelot. As a commoner, he can't hope to win the hand of Lady Linet (Patricia Medina), daughter of the Earl of Yeonil (Harry Andrews), so he creates an alternative secret identity as the Black Knight. In this new role, he is now able to help King Arthur when Saracens and Cornishmen— disguised as Vikings— plot to take over the country, with the pagan King Mark intending to overthrow Christianity. However, John's thoughts are not only on the protection of England when the good Lady Linet becomes threatened— in fact, a scene of pagan sacrifice at Stonehenge shows that the ancient monument was ultimately destroyed on the orders of King Arthur to eradicate paganism and uphold Christianity. When conspirators within Camelot plan to use the "Vikings" to overthrow King Arthur, the Black Knight is branded a traitor.[5]

Selected cast[edit]


This was the fourth film Alan Ladd made outside the US in order to qualify for a tax exemption.[6] His fee was $200,000 as against 10% of the gross.[1]

Filming started in September 1953.[7]

Shooting took place at Pinewood Studios and on location in Spain.[8][9] Producer Irwin Allen called Spain "a wonderful country to make pictures in" because of its more than 2,000 old castles, twelve of which were used in the film.[10]

Halfway through production, Bryan Forbes was called in to do some rewriting of the script (he is credited as "additional dialogue by..."). According to Forbes's memoirs, Alan Ladd's wife and long-time agent, Sue Carol, had script approval and objected to a scene where her husband's character stole a horse. 'During a script conference she repeated "Alan Ladd does not steal a horse, period. I'm telling you. He steals a horse, we lose the Boy Scouts Association and the Daughters of the American Revolution, to say nothing of his fan club." Irving [Allen], the senior producer was equal to the occasion and replied "He's not stealing a horse, Sue, he's borrowing a horse. You know like a Hertz car." "So, show me the difference" said Mrs Ladd, "You keep the stolen horse in and you start looking for another star because we're gonna be on the next plane home." "How would it be" I said, "if we kept all the action up to the point where Mr Ladd disposes single-handedly of the attacking Vikings, then he runs to a sentry and says "Is that the horse I ordered?" The sentry nods in agreement and Mr Ladd jumps on the horse and rides over the drawbridge?" "Yeah, I'll buy that" said Mrs Ladd and that is what we shot.' She also instructed Forbes when writing dialogue for Ladd to "keep him monosyllabic".[11]

Donald Sinden, then a contract star for the Rank Organisation at Pinewood Studios, had a permanent dressing room in the same block as Ladd's. He said "(Ladd) brought in his entourage a double-cum-stunt man who bore an uncanny resemblance to him. The double did all the long shots, most of the medium shots and even appeared in two-shots when the hero had his back to the camera. The 'star' only did eleven days work in the entire film. He was extremely short in stature and unless he was alone, the camera could never show his feet, because if he was stationary he was standing on a box; if walking, the other actors were in specially dug troughs or ditches and for anything between, all other actors were required to stand with their legs apart and their knees bent."[12]

The title tune for the film was "The Whistling Gypsy". For this purpose it was given new lyrics by its songwriter, Leo Maguire, and Elton Hayes, who sang it in the film.


One critic thought Ladd badly miscast, "playing the part like a tired American businessman prevailed upon to take the lead in a revival of Merrie England". By contrast Andrews and Bushell "played their parts for all and more than they were worth, giving every one of the pseudo-archaic line (e.g., 'Away with him, his presence doth offend our sense of honour') the full treatment: resonant Shakespearean delivery and Lyceum flourishes".[13]

A lot of footage from this film was re-used in the low-budget, 1963 matinée film Siege of the Saxons, which is also set in Arthurian times. Even the outrageous (short-sleeved!) signature armour of the Black Knight reappears for continuity's sake.


  1. ^ a b A TOWN CALLED HOLLYWOOD: Producers Want English Clear--Even in Oklahoma Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 13 June 1954: D4.
  2. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, 25 January 1956
  3. ^ "The Black Knight (1954)". Rotten tomatoes. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "The Black Knight (1954)". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ TCM
  6. ^ METRO PLANS FILM DRAWN FROM BIBLE: Ava Gardner, Vittorio Gassman Assigned to All-Star Cast of Gospel Story 'The Prodigal' By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 June 1953: 35.
  7. ^ ZANUCK PREDICTS REHEARSED FILMS: Urges Screen Guild to Fix Two Pay Scales in Move to Cut Movie Costs By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 June 1953: 37.
  8. ^ "These Are the Facts", Kinematograph Weekly, 31 May 1956 p 14
  9. ^ Allen, Broccoli Make American Pictures Abroad Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 10 Jan 1954: E4.
  10. ^ HOLLYWOOD CHEER: Eric Johnston Predicts Good Year for Industry -- Producer's Point of View By THOMAS M. PRYORHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 10 Jan 1954: X5
  11. ^ Bryan Forbes, A Divided Life, Mandarin, 1993 p3-4
  12. ^ A Touch Of The Memoirs Donald Sinden. Hodder & Stoughton 1982. page 238
  13. ^ Richards, Heffrey (1977). Swordsmen of the Screen: From Douglas Fairbanks to Michael York. Rourledge. p. 87. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 

External links[edit]