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Matt Hough

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Another work of classic literature comes to the screen in Richard Thorpe’s 1952 version of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, an abridged yet faithful rendition of the gallant tale of knights, fair damsels, and a kingdom torn apart by civil war.



Ivanhoe (1952)



Released: 20 Feb 1953
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 106 min




Director: Richard Thorpe
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History



Cast: Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine
Writer(s): Noel Langley, Æneas MacKenzie, Marguerite Roberts



Plot: A knight seeks to free the captive King Richard and put him back on the throne.



IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: N/A





Disc Information



Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC...

Continue reading...


 

Andrew Budgell

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Fantastic review as always, Matt! I'm planning to watch my copy on Friday to kick off my Christmas vacation. I hope it arrives as quickly as National Velvet did. I'm sure it will look every bit as stunning! Dinner at Eight and In the Good Old Summertime will be arriving with it, so it will be a very merry WAC holiday!
 

benbess

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Matt H. writes in his excellent review: "Cinematographer Freddie Young has photographed both Joan Fontaine and (especially) Elizabeth Taylor to great advantage, and each lady plays her role with earnest devotion and conviction despite the overly familiar love quadrangle (De Bois-Guilbert loves Rebecca who loves Ivanhoe who loves Rowena) that sits at the heart of the tale. As always, George Sanders makes for an oily, calculating villain, and Guy Rolfe as the weasel-like King John matches him sneer for sneer. Both Finlay Currie and Felix Aylmer make for stalwart family patriarchs while Emlyn Williams delightfully steals all of his scenes as jester-turned-squire Wamba."

I watched this for the first time a few days ago, and I was taken with the effectively somber portrayal by Elizabeth Taylor, who at the time of filming had just escaped from her disastrous first marriage to the abusive Conrad Hilton Jr., heir to a hotel fortune. Taylor portrays well someone intimate with injustice. This film was more direct than I thought it would be in addressing that:

"Isaac of York: I see you love Richard, sire, but he was no friend to my people. Our synagogues were looted to send him on his crusades.

Ivanhoe: Do you prefer the persecution of his brother, John?

Isaac of York: There is little to choose between Black John and Richard, yea and nay, if you are a Jew.

Ivanhoe: Then I pledge you this, Isaac. You're a race without a home or a country. Deliver Richard, and he will deliver your people from persecution.

Isaac of York: My friend, you ask for more than we can give. - And you offer more than Richard can give."

The movie features another wonderful score by Miklos Rosza, and here's an interesting quote from him about his work for Ivanhoe:

"Rebecca needed a Jewish theme, reflecting not only the tragedy of this beautiful character but also the persecution of her race. Fragments of medieval Jewish motifs suggested a melody to me. My most difficult job was the scoring of the extensive battle in the castle because the producers wanted music to accompany almost all of it. I devised a new theme for the Saxons, along with a motive for the battering ram sequence, thereby giving a rhythmic beat which contrapuntally and polytonally worked out with the previous thematic material, forming a tonal background to this exciting battle scene. Scoring battles in films is very difficult, and sadly one for which the composer seldom gets much credit. The visuals and the emotional excitement are so arresting that the viewer tends not to be aware that he or she is also being influenced by what is heard."


There are some good action scenes in this movie, including one really long fall that to me was jaw dropping, and a bit worrying. According to imdb it was well-known among stuntmen of that era and even beyond.


"Stuntman Paddy Ryan's fall from the battlements of a castle into the moat below became the stuff of legend amongst his peers because it was so spectacular."

According to wikipedia the movie was a huge hit....

"Ivanhoe was released in the summer of 1952. It opened at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City on July 31, 1952[1] and set an opening week record at the Hall with a gross of $177,000.[10] In its opening 39 days, the film took $1,310,590 at the box office, setting a new record for an MGM film. According to the studio records, it made $5,810,000 in the US and Canada and $5,086,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $2,762,000.[2] It was MGM's biggest earner for 1952."

In the non-alphabetical listing of Elizabeth Taylor before Joan Fontaine I guess you can see how one star is rising, while the other is starting to fall.


ivanhoe 2.jpeg
liz taylor.jpeg
 
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benbess

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Oh, one more thing. As mentioned, the colors and clarity for this restoration are spectacular. But at one point the clarity seems to reveal in close-up the glue that is holding on Robert Taylor's beard and mustache. Mostly, however, this blu-ray shows in a wonderful way the details of the performances, costumes, and production design.

i.jpeg
 
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richardburton84

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Matt H. writes in his excellent review: "Cinematographer Freddie Young has photographed both Joan Fontaine and (especially) Elizabeth Taylor to great advantage, and each lady plays her role with earnest devotion and conviction despite the overly familiar love quadrangle (De Bois-Guilbert loves Rebecca who loves Ivanhoe who loves Rowena) that sits at the heart of the tale. As always, George Sanders makes for an oily, calculating villain, and Guy Rolfe as the weasel-like King John matches him sneer for sneer. Both Finlay Currie and Felix Aylmer make for stalwart family patriarchs while Emlyn Williams delightfully steals all of his scenes as jester-turned-squire Wamba."

I watched this for the first time a few days ago, and I was taken with the effectively somber portrayal by Elizabeth Taylor, who at the time of filming had just escaped from her disastrous first marriage to the abusive Conrad Hilton Jr., heir to a hotel fortune. Taylor portrays well someone intimate with injustice. This film was more direct than I thought it would be in addressing that:

"Isaac of York: I see you love Richard, sire, but he was no friend to my people. Our synagogues were looted to send him on his crusades.

Ivanhoe: Do you prefer the persecution of his brother, John?

Isaac of York: There is little to choose between Black John and Richard, yea and nay, if you are a Jew.

Ivanhoe: Then I pledge you this, Isaac. You're a race without a home or a country. Deliver Richard, and he will deliver your people from persecution.

Isaac of York: My friend, you ask for more than we can give. - And you offer more than Richard can give."

The movie features another wonderful score by Miklos Rosza, and here's an interesting quote from him about his work for Ivanhoe:

"Rebecca needed a Jewish theme, reflecting not only the tragedy of this beautiful character but also the persecution of her race. Fragments of medieval Jewish motifs suggested a melody to me. My most difficult job was the scoring of the extensive battle in the castle because the producers wanted music to accompany almost all of it. I devised a new theme for the Saxons, along with a motive for the battering ram sequence, thereby giving a rhythmic beat which contrapuntally and polytonally worked out with the previous thematic material, forming a tonal background to this exciting battle scene. Scoring battles in films is very difficult, and sadly one for which the composer seldom gets much credit. The visuals and the emotional excitement are so arresting that the viewer tends not to be aware that he or she is also being influenced by what is heard."


There are some good action scenes in this movie, including one really long fall that to me was jaw dropping, and a bit worrying. According to imdb it was well-known among stuntmen of that era and even beyond.


"Stuntman Paddy Ryan's fall from the battlements of a castle into the moat below became the stuff of legend amongst his peers because it was so spectacular."

According to wikipedia the movie was a huge hit....

"Ivanhoe was released in the summer of 1952. It opened at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City on July 31, 1952[1] and set an opening week record at the Hall with a gross of $177,000.[10] In its opening 39 days, the film took $1,310,590 at the box office, setting a new record for an MGM film. According to the studio records, it made $5,810,000 in the US and Canada and $5,086,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $2,762,000.[2] It was MGM's biggest earner for 1952."

In the non-alphabetical listing of Elizabeth Taylor before Joan Fontaine I guess you can see how one star is rising, while the other is starting to fall.


View attachment 122140 View attachment 122141

Thanks for posting all that information about one of my favorite films growing up, especially that quote from Rózsa on the score (one of my all-time favorites from his repertoire). As it turns out, Rózsa didn’t have to work too hard to find the battering ram motif during the siege sequence. If you listen to the magnificent Tadlow recording of his score for Quo Vadis, you’ll find it’s actually repurposed from music he wrote for the Burning of Rome sequence in the earlier film which was for the most part discarded.
 

benbess

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As far as I'm remembering at the moment, Ivanhoe is maybe the only Technicolor movie on blu-ray from the year 1952 that looks great. There were actually dozens of movies made in three-strip Technicolor in 1952, but for various reasons none of the others looks more than good on blu-ray.


Warner Archive is one of the very few places beyond Criterion that I'm remembering at the moment that actually goes back to the original three-strip negatives, cleans them all up perfectly, aligns them all perfectly, and then adjust the color perfectly. Compare what you see with this blu-ray of Ivanhoe with the blu-rays or streaming versions of other Technicolor movies from 1952 and you can see the difference. The other Technicolor movies from 1952 from Paramount (such as The Greatest Show on Earth) and Universal (such as Bend in the River) have so-so pq in comparison. With these movies from other studios there are registration issues at times, plus dust and damage that hasn't been cleaned up, and the colors aren't always quite right. Of course, the Technicolor movies from Paramount, Universal, etc, still look better than those from 20th Century Fox, which as we know threw out their three-strip Technicolor negatives back in 1976.

Iirc even the other movies owned by Warner from 1952 so far don't look as good as Ivanhoe. Warner also owns Singin' in the Rain, but the three-strip negatives for that one were actually lost in a fire iirc, and so it looks good but not great. Warner released a blu-ray for the 1952 Technicolor Danny Kaye movie Hans Christian Anderson years ago, but the pq was a disappointment. John Huston's Moulin Rouge from 1952 I thought it looked great streaming a year or so ago, but so far no blu-ray for that one that I know of.

Anyway, overall 1952 was a good year for movies, and Ivanhoe makes my personal top-ten list, although there are still a lot I haven't seen from this year.

Singin’ in the Rain
High Noon
My Cousin Rachel
The Greatest Show on Earth
The Member of the Wedding
The Bad and the Beautiful
Moulin Rouge
Ivanhoe
Bend of the River
The Quiet Man

Interesting how many different versions of the Ivanhoe poster MGM made. And here's one for 1952's Moulin Rouge....

iv best.jpeg
moulin rouge.jpeg
 

M90GM

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With many of these Technicolor Blu-rays, it's like really seeing them for the first time.
Hopefully Warner will open up the vaults a little more as there are many more "A" Technicolor M-G-M titles in their vaults to follow Ivanhoe ........Three Musketeers is coming in Feb along with two old "forgotten" (1930's & 40's) B/W films that are not particularly "important" .....while KL continually release "B" grade old B/W Paramount & Universal titles on Blu Ray indicating the sales potential for old movies remains alive .....
 

Robin9

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John Huston's Moulin Rouge from 1952 I thought it looked great streaming a year or so ago, but so far no blu-ray for that one that I know of.
I don't know why I didn't respond to this at the time but better late than never. Moulin Rouge is available on a very good U.K. Blu-ray disc. I thought the transfer was excellent.
 

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