Prince Valiant (1954)

100 mins | Adventure | April 1954

Director:

Henry Hathaway

Writer:

Dudley Nichols

Producer:

Robert L. Jacks

Cinematographer:

Lucien Ballard

Editor:

Herbert Simpson

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, Mark-Lee Kirk

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The film begins with an offscreen narrator describing the betrayal of Viking king Aguar at the hands of Sligon, and his subsequent retreat to Britain, where he was sheltered by King Arthur of Camelot. According to a Nov 1946 HR news item, the rights to Harold Foster’s popular comic strip were first purchased by Eagle-Lion, with Leonard Picker assigned to produce. In May 1952, a M-G-M News article announced that M-G-M was going to make a picture based on the “Prince Valiant” character, which was to be produced by Carey Wilson with a screenplay by Alec Coppel. According to Twentieth Century-Fox publicity, M-G-M’s option on the material ran out before the studio could complete a satisfactory screenplay. The rights were then purchased at the behest of producer Robert L. Jacks, who had pursued the project for three years. Studio publicity also reported that the film’s costumes, art direction and set direction were all based on Foster’s original drawings for the comic strip.
       According to Jan 1953 HR news items, Twentieth Century-Fox originally intended to film Prince Valiant in 3-D. On 2 Apr 1953, HR announced that in addition to Robert Wagner, Robert Newton and Michael Rennie (who does the opening voice-over narration) were under consideration for “top roles.” Victor Mature was suspended by the studio for refusing the role of “Sir Gawain,” according to a 8 Jul 1953 HR news item. Although HR news items include the following actors in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Clint Dorrington, James Dime, Robert St. Angelo, James Water, Fred Aldrich, Paul Bakanas, ... More Less

The film begins with an offscreen narrator describing the betrayal of Viking king Aguar at the hands of Sligon, and his subsequent retreat to Britain, where he was sheltered by King Arthur of Camelot. According to a Nov 1946 HR news item, the rights to Harold Foster’s popular comic strip were first purchased by Eagle-Lion, with Leonard Picker assigned to produce. In May 1952, a M-G-M News article announced that M-G-M was going to make a picture based on the “Prince Valiant” character, which was to be produced by Carey Wilson with a screenplay by Alec Coppel. According to Twentieth Century-Fox publicity, M-G-M’s option on the material ran out before the studio could complete a satisfactory screenplay. The rights were then purchased at the behest of producer Robert L. Jacks, who had pursued the project for three years. Studio publicity also reported that the film’s costumes, art direction and set direction were all based on Foster’s original drawings for the comic strip.
       According to Jan 1953 HR news items, Twentieth Century-Fox originally intended to film Prince Valiant in 3-D. On 2 Apr 1953, HR announced that in addition to Robert Wagner, Robert Newton and Michael Rennie (who does the opening voice-over narration) were under consideration for “top roles.” Victor Mature was suspended by the studio for refusing the role of “Sir Gawain,” according to a 8 Jul 1953 HR news item. Although HR news items include the following actors in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Clint Dorrington, James Dime, Robert St. Angelo, James Water, Fred Aldrich, Paul Bakanas, Jack Bellin, Guy Buccola, Lloyd B. Dawson, Will Duffy, Milton Freibrun, Philip Herron, Pete Kellett, Bill Sinley, Bill Swing, Tom Gilson, Boyd Ackerman, Clyde Courtright, Chuck Hamilton, Paul Kruger, Bill Wallace, Michael Grace, Whitey Haupt, Mary Carroll, Karl Davis, Nestor Eristoff, Edward Mundy, Fred Fisher, Kit Guard, Jean Gale, Bo-Peep Karlin, Eleanor Moore, Sally Yarnell, Rosemary O’Neill, Robert Henry , John Kennedy, Dorothy Philips, Joe Evans, Ace Hudkins, Alan Pinson, Jack Mather, Bud Cokes, Jimmy Gonzales, Richard Kiser and Stephen Hase. A 6 Aug 1953 HR news item reported that “Hap” Henry, Walter Pietila and Jerry Chiat would perform a “sword-diving act” in the picture, but they were not in the viewed print.
       According to HR news items, some location shooting for the picture was done at the Arroya Sequit, Sherwood Forest and the Rowland V. Lee Ranch in the San Fernando Valley of CA. Studio publicity noted that numerous locations in Great Britain were used, including the village of Dornie, Braemar Castle at Aberdeenshire and Eilan Donan Castle at Loch Duich in Scotland; Alnwick Castle, Northumberland and Warwick Castle, Warwickshire in England; and Caernarvon Castle in Wales. A 1 Feb 1954 HR news item announced that a musical short of Haydn’s “Farewell Symphony,” directed by Otto Lang and conducted by Alfred Newman, was being shot to accompany Prince Valiant in theaters, but no other information about the short has been found. In connection with the film’s publicity, James Mason left his hand- and footprints in the forecourt of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre on 30 Mar 1954. On 30 Nov 1953, HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column asserted that “Fox agreed to hold up its release of Prince Valiant till M-G-M had its crack with [the similarly themed] Knights of the Round Table ” (see above).
       Foster's comic strip was also the basis for a 1997 English-language feature filmed in Germany. Directed by Anthony Hickox, the picture, also named Prince Valiant , starred Stephen Moyer and Katherine Heigl. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Apr 1954.
---
Daily Variety
2 Apr 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 Apr 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1952
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1953
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1953
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1953
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1953
p. 2, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1953
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1953
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1954
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 54
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1954
p. 5.
Los Angeles Daily News
3 Apr 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Apr 54
pp. 2254-55.
New York Times
1 Nov 1953.
---
New York Times
7 Apr 54
p. 40.
Newsweek
19 Apr 1954.
---
Time
12 Apr 1954.
---
Variety
7 Apr 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Loc asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Loc dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff chief
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Fencing instructor and tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Research dir
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the comic strip "Prince Valiant" created by Harold Foster, distributed by King Features Syndicate (1937--).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1954
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 2 April 1954
New York opening: 6 April 1954
Production Date:
16 July--mid September 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
2 April 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3760
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
100
Length(in feet):
8,999
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16695
SYNOPSIS

In the time of King Arthur, a group of Vikings led by Sligon betray the Christian king of Scandia, Aguar, and steal his throne, which forces him to flee to Britain. With his wife and impetuous, athletic son Valiant, Aguar lives in a secluded abbey, the location of which is known only to Arthur and Boltar, Aguar’s closest friend. One day, Boltar arrives with news that Sligon is intensifying his efforts to find the exiles, and so Aguar orders Valiant to travel to King Athur’s court at Camelot and become a Knight of the Round Table. During the journey, Valiant spies upon a knight dressed in black armor as he meets with a group of Viking warriors. The Vikings promise the Black Knight that if he delivers the exiles, Sligon will send him 1,000 armed men, but their parlay is interrupted when Valiant falls from the cliff onto the beach where they are meeting. Valiant steals the horse of the Black Knight’s squire and escapes, then, when he hears another rider coming, knocks the man off his horse for fear that he is allied with the Black Knight. The rider quickly overpowers the youth and reveals that he is Sir Gawain, whom Aguar had told Valiant to trust. When Valiant informs Gawain of what he has seen, the knight takes him to Camelot, where Valiant relates his story to Arthur. Many of the knights at the table are skeptical of Valiant’s tale, as the Black Knight is considered a non-existent phantom, but the grateful Arthur offers Valiant a reward. Valiant asks to be knighted, to which Arthur replies that he must first become a squire and earn his knighthood. ... +


In the time of King Arthur, a group of Vikings led by Sligon betray the Christian king of Scandia, Aguar, and steal his throne, which forces him to flee to Britain. With his wife and impetuous, athletic son Valiant, Aguar lives in a secluded abbey, the location of which is known only to Arthur and Boltar, Aguar’s closest friend. One day, Boltar arrives with news that Sligon is intensifying his efforts to find the exiles, and so Aguar orders Valiant to travel to King Athur’s court at Camelot and become a Knight of the Round Table. During the journey, Valiant spies upon a knight dressed in black armor as he meets with a group of Viking warriors. The Vikings promise the Black Knight that if he delivers the exiles, Sligon will send him 1,000 armed men, but their parlay is interrupted when Valiant falls from the cliff onto the beach where they are meeting. Valiant steals the horse of the Black Knight’s squire and escapes, then, when he hears another rider coming, knocks the man off his horse for fear that he is allied with the Black Knight. The rider quickly overpowers the youth and reveals that he is Sir Gawain, whom Aguar had told Valiant to trust. When Valiant informs Gawain of what he has seen, the knight takes him to Camelot, where Valiant relates his story to Arthur. Many of the knights at the table are skeptical of Valiant’s tale, as the Black Knight is considered a non-existent phantom, but the grateful Arthur offers Valiant a reward. Valiant asks to be knighted, to which Arthur replies that he must first become a squire and earn his knighthood. Although the erudite Sir Brack, Arthur’s illegitimate brother, offers to train Valiant, Arthur offers the Viking to Gawain, and Gawain cheerfully begins instructing him in the use of the joust, axe and sword. One day, Brack announces that he is going to search for the Black Knight, and Valiant sneaks away to help. Although Aguar had cautioned Valiant not to tell anyone their location, Brack is able to deduce where Valiant came from when he shows him where he saw the Black Knight. Brack then tells Valiant to wait alone while he investigates farther afield, and Valiant is set upon by a dozen archers. Valiant is shot in the back as he escapes, and after falling from his horse, crawls to a lake, where sisters Aleta and Ilene are bathing. They take him to their home, where their father, King Luke of Ord, grows disgruntled by the amount of time Aleta spends nursing the Viking back to health. Luke, who wants Aleta to marry Brack, orders her to stay away from Valiant, but by the time Valiant is able to walk, the young couple has fallen in love. Brack, who desires Aleta, arrives and claims that he had searched for Valiant but could not find him until now. When Brack decides that Valiant is well enough to return to Camelot, Aleta, desperate to spend time with her sweetheart, suggests that the family accompany them to attend the yearly tournament. Upon arriving at Camelot, Valiant learns that Gawain, while searching for him, was seriously injured by the same archers who attacked him. Valiant pleads with Gawain to forgive his earlier desertion, and the gruff knight agrees, although he sternly disputes Valiant’s theory that Brack is the Black Knight. Valiant then introduces Gawain to Ilene, who has been infatuated with the knight for years without his knowledge, and rushes to find Aleta. Aleta enters Gawain’s chamber alone, and after falling in love with her at first sight, Gawain mistakenly believes that Ilene is Valiant’s sweetheart. Valiant, who has been warned that Gawain is more seriously injured than he believes, does not have the heart to correct his hero’s mistake, and so avoids Aleta for the next three days. Aleta assumes that Valiant does not really love her, and on the day of the tournament, confronts him. Valiant refuses to speak in his defense, and after tearing off the cross he gave her, Aleta joins her father. Luke announces that the winner of the tournament will receive Aleta’s hand in marriage, and Aleta watches in horror as Brack easily clears the field of his opponents during the jousting. It appears that Brack will win until suddenly Gawain appears, but after Brack unseats him, his helmet is removed and the onlookers gasp as Valiant is revealed. The disgraced squire is hurried off the field, while another challenger appears and succeeds in defeating Brack. The challenger is revealed to be the real Gawain, who collapses after his victory. In his tent, Brack receives word that Aguar and his queen have been captured and is given Aguar’s ring, which Aguar had promised to send to Valiant if he was needed. When Valiant is brought before Arthur for the crime of impersonating a knight, Brack arranges for him to be confined to quarters while awaiting Gawain’s recovery. Valiant pledges not to flee, but when Brack later tosses the ring into his room, Valiant is forced to leave. Aleta sees Valiant preparing his horse, and after begging him not to break his vow to Arthur, swears her undying love. As Valiant is journeying to his home, he is attacked by the Black Knight and his men, who are then met by their Viking cohorts. Valiant is not surprised when Brack reveals himself to be the traitorous knight, but is infuriated to learn that his parents have already been captured, and that Brack intends to dethrone Arthur. Aleta, who has followed Valiant, is also captured, and the couple are taken to Scandia, where Valiant refuses to tell Sligon the names of other Christian Vikings. While Valiant and Aleta are taken to the dungeon, Boltar meets with other loyal Vikings and urges them to take action, even though they are outnumbered. Boltar plans to kill Sligon and then signal his compatriots to storm the castle, but by the time he reaches the castle, Valiant has escaped, and Boltar is unable to get close enough to Sligon to kill him. The Christian Vikings mistakenly believe that the burning torch Valiant thrusts at a pursuer is the attack signal, and soon an immense battle rages around the castle. Valiant succeeds in killing Sligon, and the Christians triumph over the traitors. Later, Valiant returns to Camelot, where he accuses Brack of being the Black Knight. Brack refuses to answer the charges and instead asks for a trial by combat, and although Gawain offers to fight in Valiant’s place, Valiant insists on fighting the more experienced Brack himself. After a prolonged sword battle, Valiant kills Brack, and then tells Gawain that he has brought Aleta back for him. Gawain laughingly explains that Ilene has told him the truth and that they have fallen in love. With a proud Aleta looking on, Valiant is then rewarded for his bravery by Arthur, who knights him with the sword Excalibur. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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