Knights of the Round Table (1954)

114-116 mins | Drama | 15 January 1954

Director:

Richard Thorpe

Producer:

Pandro S. Berman

Cinematographers:

F. A. Young, Stephen Dade

Editor:

Frank Clarke

Production Designers:

Alfred Junge, Hans Peters

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

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 HR 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 15 Feb 1952 HR 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 13 Dec 1953 LAT 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 ... More Less

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 HR 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 15 Feb 1952 HR 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 13 Dec 1953 LAT 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 HR , George Sanders was originally cast in the role of "Modred," but was forced to withdraw from the production due to illness. HR 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 24 Mar 1953 news item in LAHE , 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 22 Nov 1953 NYT 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 5 Feb 1954 HR 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 Jan 1954 article in NYMirror , 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 Aug 1956, according to a LAT 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 Feb 1958. According to a Var 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: 2d unit dir Yakima Canutt, Rec supv Anthony W. Watkins, Re-rec supv Douglas Shearer and Wesley C. Miller and Asst ed 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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Aug 53
p. 401.
Box Office
2 Jan 1954.
---
Daily Variety
23 Dec 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Dec 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 53
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 53
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 53
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 53
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 53
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 53
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 53
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 54
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 54
p. 1.
Los Angeles Daily News
23 Dec 1953.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
24 Mar 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 53
p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1956.
---
Motion Picture Daily
23 Dec 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald
26 Dec 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Dec 53
p. 2117.
New York Mirror
8 Jan 1954.
---
New York Times
22 Nov 1953.
---
New York Times
8 Jan 54
p. 17.
New Yorker
16 Jan 1954.
---
Saturday Review
16 Jan 1954.
---
Variety
23 Dec 53
p. 6.
Variety
26 Feb 1958.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Fencing coach
Unit man
STAND INS
Stunt rider
Stunt rider
Stunt rider
Stunt rider
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Le morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory (England, 1485).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 January 1954
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Hollywood: 22 December 1953
New York opening: 7 January 1954
Production Date:
4 June--2 September 1953 at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Boreham Wood, Elstree, England
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 December 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
114-116
Length(in feet):
10,393
Length(in reels):
14
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16742
Passed by NBR:
Yes
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 ... +


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. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.