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The Crusades Movie Review

richard mille king princess

1935 – Cecil B. De Mille –

Usually when a De Mille movie is bad, something still provides compensation—the exaggeration, the spectacle, even the bad taste can amuse. The Crusades may be one of the most hollow movies from a director who is all too often known for spectacle at the expense of character, pageantry without drama.

The film centers on King Richard the Lionheart (Henry Wilcoxon), and his crusade to liberate the holy land from Islam invaders. Along the way he marries Berengaria (Loretta Young), the princess of Navarre, or more properly, his sword marries her. Richard is so absorbed with patching an injury to his horse that he sends his minstrel (Alan Hale) to the ceremony with his sword as a token of something approximating good faith. The insulted princess sends back her scarf to Richard, saying that it will be all he will ever see of her, and he uses it for the horse bandage he has been needing. The next day, as Richard and his knights depart, he sees his wife for the first time, and her beauty inspires him to take her on the crusade. Another example of signature De Mille wit comes in a short scene where Richard and Berengaria argue in her bedroom. She climbs on top of the bed and brandishes a sword at him as two of Richard's men rush in to report on some trouble with the infidels. These messengers are caught short by the sight in the room, wondering no doubt about what sort of antics they have interrupted.

Like many of De Mille's films, the characters usually have one overpowering personality trait. Richard is intent on his mission. Berengaria's religious passion (she names her bedposts Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) comes to include a love for her husband. As he showed in Cleopatra and elaborated throughout his career, Wilcoxon doesn't have the personality to carry a whole production, but in the earlier film he had stronger support from his co-stars and a marginally better script. Here he is unable to create any interest for his character. A spotty affair, Cleopatra was made again in 1963 with even a deeper level of under-achievement.

As Halliwell's Film Guide noted about DeMille's empty extravaganza, “More of the vices than the virtues of its producer are notable in this fustian epic, which is almost but not quite watchable.” One of the battle scenes, however, the siege of Acre, does enliven the film for a moment.

Cast: Loretta Young (Princess Berengaria), Henry Wilcoxon (King Richard), Ian Keith (Saladin), C. Aubrey Smith (The Hermit), Katherine De Mille (Princess Alice), Joseph Schild-kraut (Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat), Alan Hale (Blondel the minstrel), C. Henry Gordon (King Philip of France), George Barbier (King Sancho of Navarre), Montagu Love (The Blacksmith), Ramsay Hill (Prince John of England), Lumsden Hare (Robert, Earl of Leicester), Maurice Murphy (Alan, Richard's squire), William Farnum (Hugo, Duke of Burgundy), Hobart Bosworth (Frederick of Germany) Screenwriter: Harold Lamb, Dudley Nichols, Waldemar Young Cinematographer: Victor Miller Composer: Rudolph G. Kopp Producer: Cecil B. De Mille for Paramount Running Time: 127 minutes Format: VHS Awards: Academy Awards, 1935: Nominations: Cinematography.

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