You’ll just have to put up with me and my King Arthur obsession until I move on, although during this time… you might just learn more about Arthuriana than you ever cared to know! For one, you might be surprised to know that, for such a massive cultural figure, there are actually quite few movies about King Arthur, and even fewer that are just straight adaptations of the legend. Excalibur, flawed and wonderful as it is, seems to be the ONLY straight-up, serious adaptation of the source material, and there are so few films that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is widely considered to be one of the better adaptations, because other things put too much of a spin on it, like Antione Fuqua’s King Arthur, in which Arthur is actually Roman, or First Knight, which wraps the Launcelot story into some court intrigue with an evil knight or whatever.
By the way, the guy at my video store had never heard of “Lancelot…” maybe this whole legend, that so many of us grew up with constantly in the background, will finally die out due to not being exciting enough for today’s kids?
This movie is from 1953 and is one of those things where you see one actor stick his sword underneath the arm of another in order to simulate “stabbing” him. As such, it’s kind of cute, and it does generally follow the overall Arthur story [which is way too sprawling to be done in two hours], but mostly this is a very Hollywood romance with Arthurian spicing. The outdoor scenes look nothing like England and very much like California. The actors make no effort whatsoever to speak with a British accent, and all sound very, VERY American. It can be a bit jarring to hear Arthur refer casually to Sir Launcelot as “Lance.” And of course, all the rape and incest and mystical visions and any content about ideals of chivalry or society’s collapse are long gone.
The picture’s main claim to existence is Ava Gardner as Guinevere, which is a pretty convincing claim. You also get sexy Robert Taylor as Lancelot, who doesn’t seem even remotely British, but you get a kind of nice Hollywood romance of the 50s with a strong man, beautiful woman, and star-crossed love. You also get an overbearing score by Miklos Rozsa, if you’re into that sort of thing. The whole movie is there for free on YouTube [Search for “Ana Gardner Knights of the Round Table” for a high-quality version]. And yeah, that’s about it. It’s cute. It’s old-timey. It’s sweet. But Ava Gardner as Guinevere is an idea for the ages.