Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It started out as a best seller historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, written in the early 19th century.  I encountered the tale as a Hollywood movie starring Taylor and Taylor as a small child.  Robert Taylor, tall dark and handsome, played Ivanhoe and the much more famous Elizabeth Taylor played Rebecca of York, the "other" love interest in the story, completely eclipsing who ever it was who played Rowena, the Saxon heiress.  The movie had jousting, fighting, siege of a castle by Robin Hood, and a climatic final trial by arms on horseback between Ivanhoe and Bois Gilbert, to save Rebecca from a capital charge of witchcraft.  The movie made a vivid impression, and although I didn't see it again until the dawn of the VCR age, I remembered every scene, and most of the dialog.
   Many years later the BBC did their own Ivanhoe.  It was longer, (two DVDs instead of one) and much more sophisticated than the Hollywood costume drama from long ago.  Naturally as a died in the wool fan I rented it from Netflix and watched it.  Interesting.  First thing I noticed is that the BBC version demanded very close attention to follow the story at all.  All the characters dressed about the same, in gray and brown, and the men all hid behind  flowing full beards making it hard for the viewer to tell one character from another. The women wore no makeup, and were nowhere near as pretty as the Hollywood actresses.  Technicolor it was not, the film was processed by one of those arty labs that specializes in turning color into black and white.  At least the camera man used a tripod to steady the camera, and the sound man made the dialog audible over the score.
   I think Hollywood did a better movie than the BBC.

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