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This is an adaptation of Howard Pyle's "Men of Iron", and an unusually enjoyable film from start to finish. Ignore Tony Curtis's accent; it hardly matters to anyone that young and everyone in the film is bright, lively and suitable to his/her part. The direction by Rudolph Mate gives a light, sunny feel to the entire piece, and he keeps the action moving splendidly in my judgment. The storyline is classic. Myles and his sister Meg have been raised as peasants. One day they journey to Mackworth Castle and enter a new world, the world of noble landowners, quarrelsome young prigs and knights. Myles continues to search for the secret of his origins and finds it in the Library finally, the Black Shield of Falworth, shield of an attainted traitor--his father; of course he was innocent; and when Myles turns out to be a promising young knight of courage and natural skills, he is willing to be knighted in order to fight it out--at Prince Hal (the future Henry V's) plan--with the villain of the piece to claim his rightful heritage and wear the family symbol again. Along the way, he falls in love with the daughter of the household and his sister with his best friend in the dangerous and unruly body of young knights. In the cast along with Curtis and Barbara Rush as Meg are Janet Leigh, then Curtis's wife, as his love, Torin Thatcher in top form as the master of knights, David Farrar, Herbert Marshall as Mackworth, Dan O' Herlihy as Prince Hal, Patrick O'Neal as Walter Blunt (very good), and Craig ill as his friend Frances; others in the stellar cast include Ian Keith as Henry IV, Doris Lloyd, Rhys Williams, Maurice Marsac and others. Music was supplied by Hans J. Salter, and the screenplay adaptation of Pyle's novel is the work of Oscar Brodney. Irving Glasberg's cinematography is delightfully rich,the art direction by Alexander Golitzen and Richard H. Ledel very good indeed. Rosemary Odell's costume are worth the price of admission. But this is an in-depth adventurous look behind the grim tapestries that usually baffle the seeker into the late Medieval Age, There is humor in this film, much hard learning for the young knight-to-be, mystery, skillful dialogue and unusually well-developed characters. This is an enjoyable and memorable work that is bright and lively from start to finish.
To my mind, this is the best knights of olde movie ever made. Years ago it was the habit of British tv station BBC2 to have a movie on at 6pm most evenings and they were usually, either 40 & 50's westerns, historical yarns, melodramas or swashbucklers. One such film was The Black Shield of Falworth, I was a big fan of such films like The Vikings (Incidentally or co-incidentally both starred Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh) and decided to record this movie, if it was any good I'd keep it, but if not just tape over the damn thing. The movie was that good I still have it after 15/16 years. The plot is similar to Henty's Novel 'St George for England' in as much as it tells the story of a peasant boy ignorant of his noble blood for most of his upbringing. though that's where the similarities end. The American accents in a film set in medieval England are ludricrous, but the plot of the film is so engaging that you don't mind as much. Torin Thatcher gives us another scene stealing performance as the firm but fair Sir James and if it's possible, betters his performance as Humble Bellows in The Crimson Pirate. This film has everything, action, romance, subtle comedy, and an excellent music score. This is not one to miss and I can't wait to get this movie on DVD so i can give my old VHS copy a well deserved retirement.
Instead of trying to portray real historical events, Hollywood instead
opts for a fictitious story set in the England of Henry IV. Nothing
wrong with that, of course. Unusually for Hollywood, they actually make
an effort to get things right historically, and broadswords are used as
broadswords and not as rapiers. The weaponry and military techniques
are pretty OK for a Hollywood film, and are, on the whole, accurate.
The fight sequences are very exciting and, along with the training methods, are probably the best bits of the film.
As to Tony Curtis's accent. Well, we have in Geoffrey Chaucer an authentic idea of what the English language in London was like in the early 15th century. It is ridiculous to write the script in Chaucerian English - not if you want to fill the cinemas, at any rate. Compare Tony Curtis in Black Shield with Olivier in Henry V. Is Olivier's accent any more correct or authentic? This is not the deepest film ever made, but there is plenty to enjoy about it.
I'm surprised and delighted to see so many other comments, two or three of them identical to the one I had planned to make. I too saw this movie at age 8, and enjoyed it so much, I thought it my favorite movie the whole time I was growing up. I haven't seen it since it came out 53 years ago (!) yet I still looked it up, when IMDb was invented. Other little boys obviously had the same experience I had. My favorite comedy moment (no plot spoiler) at age 8 was the one in which Tony, being disciplined, is forced to hold a cannon ball at arm's length overnight, and in the morning can't put down his arm. The young Janet Leigh was in the film too? She must have been ravishing, but I never even noticed, of course. Hope an affordable DVD comes out which I could share with my son before he's too old to fully enjoy it. Best wishes to you other guys. It wasn't your imagination; it really was special, if you were a boy.
The Black Shield of Falworth is the only other story I know that
concerns itself with the time of Henry IV. He's played here by Ian
Keith and the film like the Shakespeare plays about him concern efforts
to topple him from his throne. But other than Prince Hal, played here
by Dan O'Herlihy, the rest of the cast are fictional characters from a
novel by Howard Pyle.
Young Tony Curtis and his sister Barbara Rush have been raised in the forest by Rhys Williams. They are in fact of noble birth, but Dad was accused of treason, his lands forfeited and his family under a death sentence.
They're sent still unaware of their identity to another nobleman's digs in this case Herbert Marshall's. Curtis trains first as a squire and then a knight by tough drill sergeant man at arms, Torin Thatcher. It's for the day he can challenge villain David Farrar and his equally villainous brother Patrick O'Neal for plotting against his father.
Of course Curtis also falls for his then real life wife Janet Leigh who O'Neal is also interested in.
The Black Shield of Falworth was the first Universal film in cinemascope and Universal was far more interested in the spectacle of the film than the story because they were competing with the small screen that was populating the homes of America. In his memoirs Tony Curtis says that the lack of interest in the story was all apparent, but that he did like working with director Rudolph Mate and his then wife Ms. Leigh.
Favorite in the film however has to be Torin Thatcher. You won't forget this rough and rugged old knight with a Rooster Cogburn eyepatch and a staff to support him walking. Still he's one tough old bird. Coming in second is David Farrar who is plotting to take the throne away from Ian Keith.
Which if you remember your Shakespeare was one that a lot of people felt he usurped from Richard II. So what we're watching The Black Shield of Falworth is just another reason why Ian Keith was not sleeping good at night.
I have always been a huge Tony Curtis fan and loved this movie when I
was a kid. It has been marvelous to see his development from fluff like
this (great fluff though) to The Sweet Smell of Success. He is one the
the most versatile and underrated stars of the last 50 years. The
unusually excellent cast make this movie rise above the usual such
fare. As one of the other posters here state, the training sequences
are great as is Torin Thatcher (almost as good as his evil wizard in
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad).
This movie is fun, anachronistic and historically inept but I love it almost as much now as I did as a child of 7/8 when I first saw it and revelled in the swash (and indeed buckle) of the medieval romp. Tony has never looked better and Janet Leigh is a dream. I remember playing Knights in armour all the way home with my pals after seeing this at the local fleapit. Power to you Tony!!! He never did say " Yonder lies the castle of my Fadda!" Suspend disbelief and enjoy!
Looking back, it seems like they showed this movie every other Sunday
afternoon (and I watched it everytime). It's of a time when knights were
bold and their women were beautiful. And, a time when you settled your
disputes on the 'field of honor'. Tony Curtis looks a bit awkward in the
role of 'knight wannabe', but you soon suspend belief and accept him in the
The story unfolds in nicely presented vignettes (over the course of years), that are assembled effortlessly and almost seamlessly. Battles and glory await our hero (the girl awaits too). It's an entertaining journey to the climatic finish. Enjoy....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tony Curtis...how I wanted to be him back in 1956.The hair,the voice,the athleticism and grace....and married to Janet Leigh,it must have been just about the perfect life.I saw him on "The One Show" on BBC last month and he still looks better than me,still has the ladies swooning,and he's in a wheelchair for heaven's sake.Go figure. Unfairly denigrated and ignored for nearly half a century,"The black shield of Falworth"is just getting the recognition it deserves as a near perfect example of the Hollywood technicolor costume picture. It has no pretensions to historical accuracy,not a huge use is made of the iambic pentameter,the general filth and casual cruelty and violence of the Middle Ages is nowhere to be seen.This is Henry IVth's England as it never was,presented to ordinary 20th century audiences as a world of gentle knights with perfect teeth,dimpled maidens and big bad barons. It's entertainment,not a history lesson.And very successful entertainment too. Mr T.Curtis is outstanding as the young Falworth.Fizzing with suppressed energy,he tears into the part like a young puppy with a new toy.As a dispossessed heir,it is a role not unlike the one he would later play in the mighty "The Vikings".Mr T.Thatcher(no relation) gives his customary all as his mentor.Miss Leigh is charming and demure,Mr O' Herlihy a bluff Prince Hal. This picture is best viewed from behind a stick of candy floss,having just finished your "Kia Ora" and prior to daring to sneak your hand into your girl friend's.As your heart beats louder in your chest you can think that maybe you wouldn't want to swap places with Tony Curtis after all.
My brother and I would wait and wiat and wait for this movie to be shown
TV on a classics show, and growing up loving D&D this was the closest
we had for a movie that was clean and enjoyable dealing with the awesome
subject matter and decient story line, and "OK" acting. But we did not
it had knights, and damsels, and kings, and jousting, etc... Great for the
whole family and manI wish it would come to DVD!!!!
Even the used VHS is $100, that is just too much for me!
If you ever get to watch this film do yourself a favor and go see it without any expectations and realize the date it was made and you will enjoy it!
I guess this qualifies as an overdue "thank you" to this movie for
getting me started in a lifelong love of history. I saw this movie
originally as an 8 year old. I knew nothing about movies, stars, plots,
directors or anything else about film, but Oh how I wanted to swash and
buckle after seeing it!
It also got me interested in reading more about the era, and beyond that to other eras as well. Since then I have always been sympathetic to historical epics and movies on screen--and elsewhere. No matter how horrendous they might be (and some of them are pretty horrendous), I figure if it gets people interested they can go from there. The funny thing is is that the real history is often much more fascinating--and can be more fun--than the Hollywood variety. In fact I never fully understood why people thought history was boring--perhaps it was too many dates.
So thanks Tony, Janet, David, and Craig for getting me started.
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