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 »
Whatever else you can say about Richard I, the Lion Hearted he was a mighty warrior in battle. In fact he loved wars and battles so much he spent very little time ruling his own kingdom. Remembering that his kingdom was not just England, but a good deal of what is now France, it is estimated that he may have spent at most, six months on the British Isles.
Not that his brother John was any bargain. But Richard and his wars cost his people a great deal in taxation. England was in medieval chapter 11 after he was done.
Yet his legend as a warrior lives on, perpetuated greatly by Cecil B. DeMille and this film. It's a typical DeMille product characterized by topflight spectacle and action scenes and some arcane dialog, the kind that was used when DeMille was learning his trade from David Belasco in the early 20th century.
DeMille sent out for his leading lady, over to Fox for Loretta Young. I'm sure Ms. Young was more than happy to star in The Crusades as she, Irene Dunne, and Rosalind Russell were THE three Catholic stars of the screen. Young plays Berengaria of Navarre who has the dubious distinction of being the only Queen of England never to set foot on English soil.
Berengaria, here and in real life, was a political pawn in an arranged marriage. Richard was supposed to marry Princess Alice of France, played here by Katharine DeMille. But for the real story of who Richard would have married in a love match, check out The Lion In Winter. Berengaria survived her husband by about 30 years. I'm sure in real life she was one lonely person.
DeMille tried hard to make his good friend Henry Wilcoxon a star, both here and in Cleopatra. Wilcoxon as an actor did far better away from C.B. than with him. He's probably best known for playing the Vicar in Mrs. Miniver.
It's hard to sympathize with Richard. Even in this favorable treatment of him, he comes across like a blundering fool. He goes to The Crusades in the first place to get out of marrying Alice because any promises would be absolved if he went on Crusade to reclaim Jerusalem for Christendom. And after that it's one blunder after another.
Remember in Patton George C. Scott remarks how much he enjoys all the combat and how Karl Malden chides him for just that. The plain truth is that was what got Richard going in the morning. Sex with whomever didn't measure up to a good battle.
Ian Keith as Saladin comes off far better. He was a genuine warrior hero defending his kingdom, as chivalrous a person as the Christian knights claim to be. And politically he spins rings around Richard. So does the wily Conrad of Montferrat as played by Joseph Schildkraut. Another reviewer described him as unctuous. That's the word that fits him best. In fact in a later role in The Shop Around the Corner, Schildkraut practically patented unctuous for the screen.
The spectacle is grand, the Battle of Acre was one of the most ambitious screen undertakings up to that point. But a Victorian script and a fool for a hero defeats this film.
I'd recommend the recent Kingdom of Heaven for a more accurate depiction of The Cruades. I'd even recommend King Richard and the Crusaders with George Sanders as Richard and Rex Harrison as Saladin as being better.
5 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?