Knights of the Round Table


1h 55m 1954
Knights of the Round Table

Brief Synopsis

Queen Guinevere is torn between love for her husband and Sir Lancelot.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Historical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 15, 1954
Premiere Information
World premiere in Hollywood: 22 Dec 1953; New York opening: 7 Jan 1954
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Ashridge, England, Great Britain; Belfast,Ireland; Cardiff, Wales, Great Britain; Dublin,Ireland; Elstree, England, Great Britain; Tintagel, England, Great Britain; Trent Park, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Le morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (England, 1485).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Perspecta Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1, 2.55 : 1
Film Length
10,393ft (14 reels)

Synopsis

In 6th century England, the end of the Roman occupation has left the country in turmoil. At the site of a recent battle between warring overlords, Arthur Pendragon and his half-sister, Morgan LeFay, meet as arranged by the sorcerer Merlin to discuss how to end the bloodshed. Morgan maintains that as she is the only legitimate offspring of the late king, the throne belongs to her, but Merlin puts the adversaries to a test to determine England's rightful ruler. Merlin leads them to Excalibur, a sword embedded in an anvil, and says that according to legend, whoever can remove the sword shall be England's true sovereign. Morgan's knight champion Modred tries in vain to extract the sword, but Arthur removes it easily. Modred accuses Merlin of witchcraft, and a hearing is arranged with the Council of Kings at the circle of stone. After advising Arthur that he must prove himself worthy of the throne by his deeds, Merlin instructs him to return the sword to the stone. Meanwhile, the French knight Lancelot and his men ride toward the circle of stone, hoping to offer their services to Arthur. On the road, Lancelot encounters a young woman named Elaine, who quickly falls in love with the handsome knight. They are waylaid by Modred's men, and Lancelot bravely does battle with all of them. Arthur arrives and join in the battle, and the chagrined Lancelot, unaware of Arthur's identity, challenges him to fight. After a long, exhausting battle, Lancelot finally asks his opponent's name, and when he learns it is Arthur, breaks his sword against a tree and kneels before him. They are joined by Elaine's brother Percival, who asks to be Arthur's knight errant. Later, at the circle of stone, Arthur and Modred debate before the Council of Kings. When the crowd turns against Arthur and Lancelot, they are forced to flee, vowing to take the kingdom on the battlefield. Arthur and his men lie low throughout the cruel winter, then launch their attack against Modred's men in the spring. Despite being greatly outnumbered, Arthur's men win, and Arthur is crowned King of England. In the interest of peace, Arthur immediately pardons all his former enemies, but when Lancelot objects to Modred's pardon, the two men angrily part ways. On the road, Lancelot discovers that the lovely Guinevere has been kidnapped and rescues her, unaware that she is Arthur's fiancée. Arthur and Guinevere are wed, and the king's joy is complete when Lancelot arrives at Camelot and pledges his allegiance anew. Arthur swears in his select group of knights at the Round Table, and England enjoys a period of peace and prosperity. One day, Percival brings Elaine to court and asks Guinevere to make her a lady-in-waiting. Meanwhile, Morgan and Modred continue to harbor ill feelings against Arthur, and note with interest the growing warmth between Lancelot and Guinevere. Merlin privately warns Guinevere that Modred will attempt to sow suspicion about her relationship with the knight, and says that Lancelot should marry. Guinevere tells Lancelot she knows of his secret love for her and urges him to marry Elaine. Lancelot proposes to Elaine and asks Arthur to let him join the fight at the Scottish border. One night, Lancelot and Elaine are visited by Percival, who relates how a heavenly vision instructed him to go on a quest for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper. Modred calls a meeting of Arthur's enemies in Scotland and urges them to make peace so that Lancelot will be forced to return to Camelot, where he will eventually be exposed as Guinevere's lover. Word of peace reaches Arthur at Camelot at the same time that Lancelot's infant son Galahad, whose mother died in childbirth, is brought to court with instructions that he be sent to Lancelot's father. Sensing a plot, Merlin argues against bringing Lancelot back to Camelot, but Morgan poisons him, and the knight returns amid great fanfare. Late one night, jealous after seeing Lancelot kiss another woman, Guinevere goes to his rooms, unaware that she is being spied on by Morgan and Modred. Lancelot angrily denounces Guinevere's folly in coming to him, and Modred's men soon arrive to arrest them for high treason. Lancelot fights them off and flees with Guinevere. Lancelot and Guinevere are tried in absentia at the Round Table and declared guilty. Lancelot suddenly walks in and surrenders, and when he confesses his chaste love for Guinevere, Arthur revokes their death sentence. Over Modred's protests, Arthur orders that Guinevere be confined in a convent and banishes Lancelot from England. Outraged at this show of mercy, Modred succeeds in turning the other knights against Arthur, and civil war returns to the land. Arthur meets with Modred and agrees to his terms for ending the war, which include disbanding the Round Table. When one of Arthur's men draws his sword to kill a snake, however, the battle cry is sounded. Arthur is mortally wounded, and Lancelot returns from exile to be at his side. With his dying breath, Arthur commands Lancelot to destroy Modred and give Guinevere his love and forgiveness. Pausing only to hurl Excalibur into a lake, Lancelot calls on Guinevere at the convent and conveys Arthur's message, then kills Modred after a fierce battle. Lancelot then meets Percival at the Round Table and weeps, blaming himself for the noble fellowship's demise. After Percival receives another holy vision of the Grail, he hears God's voice telling him that Lancelot's son Galahad will be a worthy knight, and that Lancelot is forgiven and will now know peace.

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Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
Historical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 15, 1954
Premiere Information
World premiere in Hollywood: 22 Dec 1953; New York opening: 7 Jan 1954
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Ashridge, England, Great Britain; Belfast,Ireland; Cardiff, Wales, Great Britain; Dublin,Ireland; Elstree, England, Great Britain; Tintagel, England, Great Britain; Trent Park, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Le morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (England, 1485).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 55m
Sound
Perspecta Stereo
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1, 2.55 : 1
Film Length
10,393ft (14 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1953

Best Sound

1953

Articles

Knights of the Round Table


For their entrance into the rectangular CinemaScope arena, MGM shrewdly bowed to their British arm for Knights of the Round Table, a rousing 1954 re-telling of the Camelot saga. Pulling out all the stops, MGM created a Technicolor extravaganza that was intended to surpass The Robe (1953), Twentieth-Century-Fox's religious spectacle and the first Cinemascope production, a film which was still breaking world box office records when Knights went into production. Re-teaming the chemistry-friendly Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner (ideal as Lancelot and Guinivere), who had formerly co-starred in The Bribe (1949), Ivanhoe (1952) and Ride, Vaquero! (1953), and, who had once had a brief albeit volcanic affair, was a calculated move that had exhibitors bidding for playdates sight unseen. Indeed, Taylor had an unusually chameleon-like career - a true testament to his 25 year reign as a movie star. The typical all-American boy in the 1930s, he re-invented himself as a dark seductive villain in the post-War 1940s. Playing a Roman-turned-Christian in 1951's Quo Vadis? transformed the veteran leading man into a sort of Mr. Ancient World - going on to unlikely but nonetheless successful turns in the aforementioned Ivanhoe, 1955's Quentin Durwood and this mammoth medieval extravaganza.

Knights of the Round Table was filmed at the Boreham Wood backlot of MGM's British studios and used the same castle built for the Ivanhoe set. Despite authentic locales, the production was a troubled one. The cold, drizzy weather hampered shooting and a strike of extras forced director Richard Thorpe to travel to Ireland to shoot a particular battle scene. But the problem with extras continued as the Irish recruits refused to wear the heavy armor required for the scene unless they were paid a bonus. When the British Association of Motion Picture Producers hear about the Irish extras, they refused to allow the film's producers to use them at all. As a solution, Thorpe approached the Eire government which allowed the director to use their soldiers as extras in the battle scene. The Guinness heiress also allowed the use of her estate for some location shooting. Second unit man Yakima Canutt was entrusted with directing 100 trained stunt riders and the caterers had their work cut out for them with a total of 3000 production people to feed every day. It was not unusual for their shopping list to include requests for 975 pork chops, 300 pounds of potatoes, or 400 gallons of coffee and tea.

Among the cast members, Ava Gardner was probably the least pleased with her role in Knights of the Round Table. She later commented, "What was I doing in that costume epic, for heaven's sake?" Not only did the actress dislike the dreary weather but, as a self-confessed nightowl, she hated getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning to put on complicated costumes and heavy makeup. She was also bored by the lack of nightlife in the small English villages where they were staying and, matters weren't helped when her husband at the time, Frank Sinatra, would show up on the set. There were going through a difficult time in their marriage and often engaged in terrible marital spats. But, there was one consolation for Gardner. She was now a bona fide star at MGM and, with a new contract, was able to command $17,300 a week for 50 weeks a year with a two picture minimum.

Director: Richard Thorpe
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Talbot Jennings, Jan Lustig, Noel Langley, based on the novel Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory
Cinematography: Stephen Dade, F.A. Young
Editor: Frank Clarke
Art Direction: Alfred Junge, Hans Peters
Music: Miklos Rosza
Cast: Robert Taylor (Sir Lancelot), Ava Gardner (Queen Guinevere), Mel Ferrer (King Arthur), Anne Crawford (Morgan Le Fay), Stanley Baker (Modred), Felix Aylmer (Merlin)
C-116m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Mel Neuhaus

Knights Of The Round Table

Knights of the Round Table

For their entrance into the rectangular CinemaScope arena, MGM shrewdly bowed to their British arm for Knights of the Round Table, a rousing 1954 re-telling of the Camelot saga. Pulling out all the stops, MGM created a Technicolor extravaganza that was intended to surpass The Robe (1953), Twentieth-Century-Fox's religious spectacle and the first Cinemascope production, a film which was still breaking world box office records when Knights went into production. Re-teaming the chemistry-friendly Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner (ideal as Lancelot and Guinivere), who had formerly co-starred in The Bribe (1949), Ivanhoe (1952) and Ride, Vaquero! (1953), and, who had once had a brief albeit volcanic affair, was a calculated move that had exhibitors bidding for playdates sight unseen. Indeed, Taylor had an unusually chameleon-like career - a true testament to his 25 year reign as a movie star. The typical all-American boy in the 1930s, he re-invented himself as a dark seductive villain in the post-War 1940s. Playing a Roman-turned-Christian in 1951's Quo Vadis? transformed the veteran leading man into a sort of Mr. Ancient World - going on to unlikely but nonetheless successful turns in the aforementioned Ivanhoe, 1955's Quentin Durwood and this mammoth medieval extravaganza. Knights of the Round Table was filmed at the Boreham Wood backlot of MGM's British studios and used the same castle built for the Ivanhoe set. Despite authentic locales, the production was a troubled one. The cold, drizzy weather hampered shooting and a strike of extras forced director Richard Thorpe to travel to Ireland to shoot a particular battle scene. But the problem with extras continued as the Irish recruits refused to wear the heavy armor required for the scene unless they were paid a bonus. When the British Association of Motion Picture Producers hear about the Irish extras, they refused to allow the film's producers to use them at all. As a solution, Thorpe approached the Eire government which allowed the director to use their soldiers as extras in the battle scene. The Guinness heiress also allowed the use of her estate for some location shooting. Second unit man Yakima Canutt was entrusted with directing 100 trained stunt riders and the caterers had their work cut out for them with a total of 3000 production people to feed every day. It was not unusual for their shopping list to include requests for 975 pork chops, 300 pounds of potatoes, or 400 gallons of coffee and tea. Among the cast members, Ava Gardner was probably the least pleased with her role in Knights of the Round Table. She later commented, "What was I doing in that costume epic, for heaven's sake?" Not only did the actress dislike the dreary weather but, as a self-confessed nightowl, she hated getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning to put on complicated costumes and heavy makeup. She was also bored by the lack of nightlife in the small English villages where they were staying and, matters weren't helped when her husband at the time, Frank Sinatra, would show up on the set. There were going through a difficult time in their marriage and often engaged in terrible marital spats. But, there was one consolation for Gardner. She was now a bona fide star at MGM and, with a new contract, was able to command $17,300 a week for 50 weeks a year with a two picture minimum. Director: Richard Thorpe Producer: Pandro S. Berman Screenplay: Talbot Jennings, Jan Lustig, Noel Langley, based on the novel Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory Cinematography: Stephen Dade, F.A. Young Editor: Frank Clarke Art Direction: Alfred Junge, Hans Peters Music: Miklos Rosza Cast: Robert Taylor (Sir Lancelot), Ava Gardner (Queen Guinevere), Mel Ferrer (King Arthur), Anne Crawford (Morgan Le Fay), Stanley Baker (Modred), Felix Aylmer (Merlin) C-116m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Mel Neuhaus

Quotes

Trivia

First MGM to be shot in CinemaScope and recorded in stereo.

Notes

The film opens with a voice-over narration stating that England was released from the grip of civil strife by the emergence of "a new force, wherein flowered courtesy, humanity and noble chivalry." Although the onscreen credits state that the film was based on Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century work Le morte d'Arthur (which was composed circa 1469 and first printed in 1485), the Hollywood Reporter review noted that the screenwriters also drew material from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's series of poems on the Arthurian legend, Idylls of the King (1859). King Arthur was a semi-legendary figure whose life and heroic deeds have been extolled in myth and literature for centuries. There is little factual information about his life, but Arthur May have lived in the 6th century and led the Britons in their resistance against pagan invaders. The first full narrative rendition of the Arthurian legend appeared in Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1139) by English writer Geoffrey of Monmouth. The legend was embellished throughout the Middle Ages to include stories of the Round Table, the search for the Holy Grail and the love between Lancelot and Guinevere.
       According to a February 15, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film's title had been registered with the Motion Picture Association by eight companies or individual producers, including Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and David O. Selznick. A December 13, 1953 Los Angeles Times article reported that Knights of the Round Table was first put into development at Paramount in the early 1940s, and that Albert Lewin collaborated on a screenplay with Talbot Jennings at that time. The extent of Lewin's contribution to the final film has not been determined. The article added that Clark Gable was considered for the role of "Lancelot" during the early planning stages. According to pre-production news in Hollywood Reporter, George Sanders was originally cast in the role of "Modred," but was forced to withdraw from the production due to illness. Hollywood Reporter news items also include Ralph Truman, Henry Oscar, the Don Cossack Riders and British ballet dancer Michel De Lutry in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a March 24, 1953 news item in Los Angeles Herald Express, British Equity initially refused to issue a work permit to Mel Ferrer, in disapproval of the American actor being cast as Arthur. The film was shot at M-G-M's Borehamwood Studios near London, and on location in Tintagel, Ashridge and Trent Park England; Cardiff, Wales; and Belfast and Dublin, Ireland.
       Knights of the Round Table was the first film made by M-G-M using the wide-screen process known as CinemaScope. The picture was also the first wide-screen feature film to be shot in England. In a November 22, 1953 New York Times essay on the making of the film, unit man Morgan Hudgins wrote that in addition to being shot in CinemaScope, Knights of the Round Table was shot in "the more normal wide-screen" (with an aspect ratio of 1.66 to one foot, compared to CinemaScope's 2.55:1 aspect ratio) and the standard format. A February 5, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Knights of the Round Table was the first film for international release to feature M-G-M's new optical track stereophonic sound system. For more information about CinemaScope, see the entry below for The Robe.
       In its initial release, Knights of the Round Table was preceded by a nine-minute film-also in CinemaScope-featuring the M-G-M Symphony Orchestra playing the overture to the opera The Merry Wives of Windsor. According to a January 1954 article in New York Mirror, Radio City Music Hall installed a new screen, measuring 1,960 square feet, for the film, which marked the theater's first CinemaScope engagement. In August 1956, according to a Los Angeles Times news item, M-G-M was sued by writer Donna B. Costello, who claimed that the studio plagiarized her 1934 play about King Arthur, The Sangreal. The U.S. Federal Court in Washington found in M-G-M's favor in February 1958. According to a Variety news item, the judge ruled that because both M-G-M and Costello had drawn their material from the works of Malory and Tennyson, neither side could claim originality.
       Knights of the Round Table received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (Color) and Best Sound Recording. The film marked the first appearance of actress Dana Wynter in an American film, although her first film appearance in a picture produced in the United States was in 1955 Twentieth Century-Fox production, The View from Pompey's Head (see below) A modern source adds the following names to the crew credits: 2nd Unit Director Yakima Canutt, Recording Supervisor Anthony W. Watkins, Re-rec supv Douglas Shearer and Wesley C. Miller and Assistant Editor Ernest Walker. In addition, the modern source includes the following actors in the cast: Howard Marion Crawford (Simon), John Brooking (Bedivere), Peter Gawthorne (Bishop), Alan Tilvern (Steward), John Sherman (Lambert), Mary Germaine (Brizid), Martin Wyldeck (John), Barry McKay (Green Knight's first squire), Derek Tansley (Green Knight's second squire), Roy Russell (Leogrance) and Gwendoline Evans (Enid).
       The Arthurian legend has been the inspiration for numerous films, including Sword of Lancelot (1963), directed by Cornel Wilde and starring Wilde, Jean Wallace and Brian Aherne; the musical Camelot (1967), directed by Joshua Logan and starring Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70); the 1975 satire Monty Python and the Holy Grail, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones and starring the British comedy group Monty Python's Flying Circus; Excalibur (1981), directed by John Boorman and starring Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren and Nicholas Clay; and First Night (1995), directed by Jerry Zucker and starring Sean Connery, Richard Gere and Julia Ormond.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 1953

CinemaScope

Released in United States Winter December 1953