Cast & Crew
Olivia De Havilland
In 1570, King Philip II of Spain travels from Madrid to the country home of Ana de Mendoza, the Princess of Eboli and one of Spain's most influential aristocrats. Ana is the widow of Philip's late Minister of State, Ruy Gomez, and one of Philip's oldest friends. In her youth, Ana even fought a duel with a pageboy who stated that Philip's ambitious brother John should be king. Despite losing her right eye in the duel and being forced to wear an eye patch, Ana is a renowned beauty. Philip and Ana were in love when they were younger, but, not wanting to turn Ana into his mistress, Philip, who is already married, arranged her wedding to Gomez. Philip hopes that Ana will use her influence to help him groom Antonio Perez, one of his two Secretaries of State, as a possible replacement for Gomez. Ana is skeptical, as Antonio is from a lower class background, but Philip assures her that Antonio is intelligent and courageous. Ana agrees to consider his proposition and moves to Madrid with her young son Fernando and their servant Bernadina. In Madrid, a plot to overthrow Philip and install John on the throne is led by Juan Escovedo, who was once a member of Philip's retinue. Mateo Vasquez, Philip's other secretary who is jealous of Antonio, intercepts a treasonous letter from Escovedo to John. The letter infuriates Philip, who issues a death warrant for Escovedo. Antonio, who was a childhood friend of Escovedo, asks Philip for the chance to talk with him, and holds the warrant for safekeeping. Soon after, Ana attends a bullfight at which her cousin, Don Inigo, is the matador. When Inigo falls from his horse, Antonio jumps into the ring and fights the bull while Inigo is rescued. Impressed by Antonio's bravery, Ana invites him to dinner that evening. As Antonio arrives, however, he sees Escovedo leaving and assumes that Ana has an ulterior, political motive for seeing him. Ana assures him that her loyalty lies with the king, and the couple begins to fall in love. Although Ana is thrilled by their love affair, gossip begins to circulate about the relationship. One day, Antonio visits Escovedo and commands him to renounce John before it is too late. Instead, Escovedo threatens to reveal his affair with Ana to the king unless he sides with the rebels. Antonio refuses, and warns Escovedo that he must have proof before he brings the accusation to the tempermental Philip. Worried, Antonio visits Ana and considers ending their affair, telling her that he has worked hard to attain his current position. Later that night, Antonio and Ana have made up, but as they are embracing, Escovedo bursts into the room and proclaims that he now has the needed proof. Antonio threatens to kill Escovedo and challenges him to duel after he insults Ana. A few hours later, Escovedo is killed by an assassin, and suspicion falls upon Antonio. Fearing for his safety, Antonio gives Philip's death warrant for Escovedo to his servant, Diego, and instructs him to hide it in Aragon, his birthplace, as proof that Philip wanted Escovedo dead. On his way, Diego informs Ana of Escovedo's murder, and Ana, believing that Antonio killed him, leaves Madrid. Soon after, Philip learns that John has died, and with that threat gone, turns his attention to Vasquez's references to Escovedo's death. Vasquez states that the dead man's family is complaining that Antonio murdered him because he discovered that Antonio was dallying with a high-born lady, but they do not name her in their petition. Vasquez tells Philip that the lady is Ana, and Philip yells that it is a lie and the gossip must be stopped. Philip knows that it is true, however, and prepares to separate the lovers by appointing Antonio as the ambassador to Brussels to replace John. In the countryside, the Cardinal visits Ana and informs her of the petition that Escovedo's family is presenting to Philip, although the king is sending Antonio away before he can be forced to stand trial. That night, Antonio comes to Ana's house and tells her that he is innocent of the murder. Unable to leave Ana's side, Antonio decides not to go to Brussels and instead stand trial. Ana summons Inigo, who is to present the Escovedos' petition to Philip. Ana informs Inigo that she is "that lady" named in the petition and orders him to drop the matter, but Inigo declares that Ana has disgraced the Mendoza name. Ana then returns to Madrid and becomes worried when two weeks pass without word from Philip. Finally, Ana goes to Philip, who, despite believing that Antonio is guilty, refuses to allow him to stand trial in order to avoid publicizing Ana's involvement. Ana is outraged to learn that Philip has confiscated her love letters to Antonio, but when he reveals that he was too tortured to read them, she pities him. Upon seeing Philip praying afterward, Ana assumes that he has reconsidered, but instead, Vasquez comes to her house and announces that Philip has ordered her to return to the country and never see Antonio again. When Ana refuses, she is arrested, and Antonio is also imprisoned. Months pass, until one day, the Cardinal pleads with Philip to release the prisoners and tells him that someone else has confessed to the murder. The priest who heard the confession cannot reveal the parishioner's name, however, and Philip denies the Cardinal's request, even though Ana's health is deteriorating. Philip visits Ana in her dank cell, and there she again refuses to leave Madrid until Antonio is allowed a public trial. Tormented by Ana's state, Philip agrees to the trial, but before it can be held, he must find the death warrant in order to avoid any complicity. Antonio is tortured but cannot reveal any information, as he does not know where Diego hid the document. Diego himself is captured and tortured, and broken, reveals the hiding place. With the warrant secure, Philip orders Ana's release, although she is placed under house arrest in the country. Knowing that Antonio will never receive a fair trial, the Cardinal helps him escape from prison, and he rushes to Ana. Back at the palace, Philip learns that Vasquez murdered Escovedo and orders him imprisoned. Philip also orders that Antonio be recaptured, for having defied him, but Ana saves Antonio by persuading him to leave with Fernando. She promises to follow when she regains her strength, and Antonio assures his beloved that he will send her a signal when he and Fernando are safe. Days later, Ana is on her death bed, but bravely fights to live while waiting for news from Antonio. The Cardinal and Bernadina keep vigil over her, and one afternoon, the village church bell rings out the same chimes used by the Church of Santa Maria in Madrid, which Ana dearly loves. Ana realizes that the chimes are the signal from Antonio that he and her son have reached safety, and, content at last, she dies smiling.
Olivia De Havilland
J. L. Saenz De Heredia
The London Symphony Orchestra
Author Kate O'Brien wrote a play based on her novel, also entitled That Lady, which opened in New York on November 22, 1949 and starred Katharine Cornell. O'Brien's novel and play, and the film, were loosely based on the lives of Ana de Mendoza (1540-1592), Antonio Pére (1534-1611) and King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598). As portrayed in the film, Ana was married to Ruy Gómez, Philip's most trusted advisor. After Ruy's death, the still-powerful Ana became involved with Pére, whose participation in the murder of Juan de Escobedo (called Juan Escovedo in the film) in 1578 has never been proven conclusively. In the scandal following Escobedo's death, Pére fled the country, while Ana was imprisoned, then held under house arrest until her death.
According to a June 28, 1953 New York Times article, Claudette Colbert was originally set to play "Ana de Mendoza." As noted by contemporary sources, much of the film was shot on location in Madrid, Spain, and included footage of nearby El Escorial, Philip's famed monastery retreat, and the bullring in Guadarrama. Some of the interior sequences were shot at the M-G-M British Studios in Elstree, England. On October 19, 1954, Hollywood Reporter noted that producer Sy Bartlett was going to show Twentieth Century-Fox studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck a print of the picture in two versions, one featuring a "straight story" and the other told in flashbacks. Zanuck was then to decide which version to distribute. The released film was a "straight story" that did not contain flashbacks.
The picture marked the screen debut of Paul Scofield, the well-known British, theatrical actor. According to a December 21, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, when Zanuck saw a rough cut of the film in London, "he was so struck" by Scofield's performance that "he ordered the part amplified and built up with the idea of turning Scofield into a star." Two more sequences featuring Scofield were then added. Modern sources include Fernando Sancho in the cast. Christopher Lee noted in his autobiography that in addition to playing "Captain of the king's guard," as he is credited onscreen, he also portrayed several other roles, but he was not identified in other roles in the viewed print.
On February 23, 1955, Variety reported that the film had been banned in Spain, despite having been shot on location there. According to the article, official censors passed the picture, but it was then banned by Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Although Franco gave no reason for his actions, the article speculated: "It's thought possible that political angles involving the monarchy May have influenced Franco's decision. Costuming, and the theme of the story also May have played a part." The ban was rescinded, however, and the film opened in Madrid on March 5, 1955. According to an March 8, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, "the Spanish audience...shouted disapproval of the cuts made by the censors before permitting exhibition."
1955 British Academy Award Winner for Most Promising Newcomer (Scofield) in what was his screen debut.
Released in England March 1955