🎥 El Cid – 1961
The Story …
General Ben Yusuf of the Almoravid dynasty has summoned all the emirs of Al-Andalus to North Africa.
He chastises them for co-existing peacefully with their Christian neighbours, which goes against his dream of Islamic world domination. The emirs return to Spain with orders to resume hostilities with the Christians while Ben Yusuf readies his army for a full-scale invasion.
Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, on the way to his wedding with Doña Chimene, rescues a Spanish town from an invading Moorish army. Two of the emirs, al-Mu’tamin of Zaragoza and al-Kadir of Valencia, are captured …
More interested in peace than in wreaking vengeance, Rodrigo escorts his prisoners to Vivar and releases them on condition that they never again attack lands belonging to King Ferdinand of Castile. The Emirs proclaim him “El Cid” (Castilian Spanish for the Arabic for milord: “al-Sidi”) and swear allegiance to him.
For his act of mercy, Don Rodrigo is accused of treason by Count Ordóñez. In court, the charge is supported by Chimene’s father, Count Gormaz, the king’s champion. Rodrigo’s aged father, Don Diego, angrily calls Gormaz a liar.
Gormaz strikes Don Diego, challenging him to a duel. At a private meeting Rodrigo begs Gormaz to ask the aged but proud Diego for forgiveness (for accusing Rodrigo of treason). Gormaz refuses, so Rodrigo fights the duel on Diego’s behalf and kills his opponent. Chimene witnesses the death of Gormaz and swears to avenge him, renouncing her affection for Rodrigo.
When the King of Aragon demands the city of Calahorra from Castile, Rodrigo becomes Ferdinand’s champion, winning the city in single combat. In his new capacity he is sent on a mission to collect tribute from Moorish vassals to the Castilian crown.
He asks that Chimene be given to him as his wife upon his return, so that he can provide for her. Chimene promises Count Ordóñez she will marry him instead if he kills Rodrigo. Ordóñez lays an ambush for Rodrigo and his men but is captured by al-Mu’tamin, to whom Rodrigo had earlier showed mercy.
Rodrigo forgives the Count and returns home to marry Chimene. The marriage is not consummated: Rodrigo will not touch her if she does not give herself to him out of love. Chimene instead goes to a convent.
King Ferdinand dies and his younger son, Prince Alfonso tells the elder son Prince Sancho that their father wanted his kingdom divided between his heirs: Castile to Sancho, Asturias and León to Alfonso, and Calahorra to their sister, Princess Urraca. Sancho refuses to accept anything but an undivided kingdom as his birthright.
After Alfonso instigates a knife fight, Sancho overpowers his brother and sends him to be imprisoned in Zamora. Rodrigo, who swore to protect all the king’s children, single-handedly defeats Alfonso’s guards and brings the Prince to Calahorra.
Sancho arrives to demand Alfonso, but Urraca refuses to hand him over. Rodrigo cannot take a side in the conflict, because his oath was to serve them all equally.
Ben Yusuf arrives at Valencia, the fortified city guarding the beach where he plans to land his armada. To weaken his Spanish opponents he hires Dolfos, a warrior formerly trusted by Ferdinand, to assassinate Sancho and throw suspicion for the crime on Alfonso, who becomes the sole king.
At Alfonso’s coronation, El Cid has him swear upon the Bible that he had no part in the death of his brother. Alfonso, genuinely innocent (although his ally Urraca was aware of the plot), is offended by the demand and banishes Rodrigo from Spain.
Chimene discovers she still loves Rodrigo and voluntarily joins him in exile. Rodrigo makes his career as a soldier elsewhere in Spain, and he and Chimene have twin girls.
Years later, Rodrigo, now known widely as “El Cid”, is called back into the service of the king to protect Castile from Yusuf’s North African army. However, Alfonso rejects an alliance with El Cid’s Muslim friends, and rather than work directly with the king, El Cid allies himself with the emirs to besiege Valencia, where the cowardly al-Kadir has violated his oath of allegiance to Rodrigo and come out in support of Ben Yusuf.
After being defeated by the Moors at the Battle of Sagrajas, Alfonso seizes Chimene and her children and puts them in prison. Count Ordóñez rescues the three and brings them to Rodrigo, wanting to end his rivalry with El Cid and join him in the defense of Spain.
Knowing that the citizens of Valencia are starving after the long siege, Rodrigo wins them over by throwing bread into the city with his catapults. Al-Kadir tries to intercede, but the Valencians kill him and open the gates to the besiegers. Emir al-Mu’tamin, Rodrigo’s army, and the Valencians offer the city’s crown to El Cid, but he refuses and instead sends the crown to King Alfonso.
Ben Yusuf arrives with his immense invasion army, and Valencia is the only barrier between him and Spain. Ordóñez is tortured and killed after being captured on a reconnaissance mission.
The ensuing battle goes well for the defenders until El Cid is struck in the chest by an arrow and has to return to the city in plain sight of the Moorish army. Doctors inform him that they can probably remove the arrow and save his life, but he will be incapacitated for a long time after the surgery. Unwilling to abandon his army at this critical moment, Rodrigo obtains a promise from Chimene to leave the arrow and let him ride back into battle, dying or dead.
A guilt-ridden King Alfonso comes to his bedside and asks for his forgiveness. Rodrigo grants it, and Alfonso promises to look after Rodrigo’s children.
Rodrigo dies, and a rumour of his death spreads. His allies honour Rodrigo’s final wish.
With help of an iron frame they prop up his body, its eyes staring straight ahead. Dressed in full armour and holding an unfurled banner, he is strapped to the back of his horse, Babieca. Guided by King Alfonso and Emir al-Mu’tamin riding on either side, the horse leads a mounted charge against Ben Yusuf’s now terrified soldiers, who believe that El Cid has risen from the dead. In the panic that ensues, Ben Yusuf is thrown from his horse and is crushed beneath Babieca’s hooves, leaving his scattered army to be annihilated.
King Alfonso leads Christians and Moors alike in a prayer for God to receive the soul “of the purest knight of all” …
- Directed by Anthony Mann
- Screenplay by Philip Yordan, Fredric M. Frank and Ben Barzman
- Story by Fredric M. Frank
- Produced by Samuel Bronston
- Cinematography : Robert Krasker
- Edited by Robert Lawrence
- Music by Miklós Rózsa
- Production Companies : Samuel Bronston and Productions Dear Film Produzione
- Distributed by
Allied Artists and Dear Film (Italy)
- Release Date : December 6, 1961
- Charlton Heston as Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid
- Sophia Loren as Chimene
Herbert Lom as Ben Yusuf
- Raf Vallone as García Ordóñez
- Geneviève Page as Doña Urraca (sister of Alfonso VI)
- John Fraser as Alfonso VI (King of Castile)
- Douglas Wilmer as al-Mu’tamin (Emir of Zaragoza)
- Frank Thring as al-Kadir (Emir of Valencia)
- Michael Hordern as Don Diego (father of Rodrigo)
- Andrew Cruickshank as Count Gormaz (father of Chimene)
- Gary Raymond as Prince Sancho, the 1st born of King Ferdinand
- Ralph Truman as King Ferdinand
- Massimo Serato as Fañez (nephew of Rodrigo)
- Hurd Hatfield as Arias
Tullio Carminati as Al-Jarifi
- Fausto Tozzi as Dolfos
- Christopher Rhodes as Don Martín
- Carlo Giustini as Bermúdez
- Gérard Tichy as King Ramiro
- Barbara Everest as Mother Superior
- Nerio Bernardi as Soldier (Credited on film as Nelio Bernardi)
- Franco Fantasia as Soldier
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