The Third Crusade as it didn't happen. King Richard Coeur de Lion goes on the crusade to avoid marrying Princess Alice of France; en route, he marries Berengaria to get food for his men. Berengaria.is captured by Saladin, spurring Richard to attack and capture Acre. But Saladin, attracted to her, takes her on to Jerusalem, and Richard is in danger of assassination. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You need ten eyes to see..ten ears to hear...ten hearts to feel...the tumultuous surge and glory of this mighty sepctacle, this shining romance...as impassioned now as when it first awed the world with its perfection! See more »
Cecil B. DeMille is one of those rare directors that infuses his "historical" epics (and I realize that many may dispute that term as his films can play fast and loose with the facts) with an exhiliarating level of zest, sweep and scope as to make it riveting even to those that are history-averse. The title is a tad misleading as it isn't the entire expeditions that are spanned in the film, but rather, focuses upon the Third Crusade. However, that's understandable since a title like "The Third Crusade" doesn't have quite the impactful air of romance and drama as just "The Crusades," does it? The story takes place amongst the struggle between the Christians and Muslims for the Holy Land, when the insolent and crass King Richard the Lion-Hearted (Henry Wilcoxon) selfishly uses the conflict as an "escape hatch" from his arranged marriage with Princess Alice of France (Catherine DeMille). In an amusing scene, the wily and determined Princess, not to be outsmarted, also takes the oath to accompany him to Jerusalem. The marriage-averse Richard's scheme backfires when he must marry Berengaria, Princess of Navarre (Loretta Young), a woman he has never met and has no desire to, in order for her father to agree to provide much-needed food for his half-starving men and horses. The wedding scene in what in essence is a "name-only" arrangement, is a memorable one with a justifiably heartbroken and incensed Berengaria having to exchange her vows in a proxy marriage with Richard's sword!
Their marriage is off for a bad start, with Richard's disinterest (and even after his subsequent, superficial fascination after discovering what a gorgeous creature his bride is!) and Berengaria's loathing, but genuine, deep love for each other is awakened when she displays the courage and faith of her character, and his budding zeal and growing realization that The Crusades is not something to use for his own selfish ends, but is a cause worth believing in, fighting for, even dying for. Amidst this bloody atmosphere, further complications arise when Berengaria becomes the captive and object of desire for Saladin, the Sultan of Islam (Ian Keith) and Richard attempts to get her back, all the whilst facing assassinations and alarming casualties.
The two leads shine here: Henry Wilcoxon cuts an impressively stalwart and brash persona, bringing to life a legendary character not above human fault. His strong performance here, along with that as Marc Antony in "Cleopatra," makes one wonder why--with his virile good looks, strapping physique, solid talent and imposing presence--he never became a bona-fide star. Go figure. As for Loretta Young, she is the glue that holds the film together and while it may be an exaggeration it wouldn't be so far off to say that she's a revelation. It takes quite a woman to completely convince the audience that she could captivate 2 such larger-than-life men, mere decorative beauty, however grand, is not enough. And while Young is an ethereal, sublime vision in long flaxen wig and her exceptionally luminous and pure doe-eyed satin-skinned beauty with a hint of sensual promise in her full lips and prominent cheekbones, it is her performance that is the key--she radiates goodness and spirituality and faith without being preachy, an unflappable belief that those around her will do what is right for the Cause, so much so that she makes it irresistible to anyone with an ounce of humanity in them. Also noteworthy are Ian Keith as the honorable Saladin, C. Aubrey Smith as the inspiring Hermit, Joseph Schildkraut as the unctuously cunning Conrad, and Alan Hale as the minstrel Blondel, offering comic relief without getting hammy.
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