|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Samuel Bronston|
|Story by||Fredric M. Frank|
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Edited by||Robert Lawrence|
|Box office||$26,620,818 (Domestic)|
El Cid is a 1961 epic historical drama film that romanticizes the life of the Christian Castilian knight Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, called "El Cid" (from the Arabic as-sidi, meaning "The Lord"), who, in the 11th century, fought the North African Almoravides and ultimately contributed to the unification of Spain. The film stars Charlton Heston in the title role and Sophia Loren as Doña Ximena.
Made by Samuel Bronston Productions in association with Dear Film Produzione and released in the United States by Allied Artists, the film was directed by Anthony Mann and produced by Samuel Bronston, with Jaime Prades and Micha? Waszy?ski as associate producers. The screenplay was by Philip Yordan, Ben Barzman, and Fredric M. Frank from a story by Frank. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa, the cinematography by Robert Krasker and the editing by Robert Lawrence. The film had its World Premiere at the Metropole Theatre, Victoria, London on December 6, 1961.
Gen. Ibn (pronounced Ben) Yusuf (Herbert Lom) of the Almoravid dynasty has summoned all the Emirs of Al-Andalus to North Africa. He chastises them for their complacency in dealing with the infidels, then reveals his plan for Islamic world domination.
Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (Charlton Heston), on the way to his wedding with Doña Ximena (Sophia Loren), rescues a Spanish town from an invading Moorish army. Two of the Emirs, Al-Mu'tamin (Douglas Wilmer) of Zaragoza and Al-Kadir (Frank Thring) of Valencia, are captured. After escorting his prisoners to Vivar and seeing that peace will not come from others' desire for revenge, Rodrigo releases them on condition that they pledge never again to attack King Ferdinand of Castile's (Ralph Truman) lands. The Emirs proclaim him "El Cid" (the Castillian Spanish pronunciation of the Arabic for Lord: "Al Sidi") and swear allegiance to him.
For his act of mercy, Don Rodrigo is accused of treason by Count Ordóñez (Raf Vallone). When the charge is repeated in court, they are supported by Ximena's father, Count Gormaz (Andrew Cruickshank), the king's champion. Rodrigo's aged father, Don Diego (Michael Hordern), angrily calls Gormaz a liar. Gormaz strikes Don Diego, challenging him to a duel. Rodrigo asks Gormaz to meet privately, begging him several times to ask the aged but proud Diego for forgiveness (for accusing Rodrigo of treason). Gormaz refuses, and Rodrigo kills him in a duel. Ximena swears revenge, wishing that she were her father's son.
When a rival king demands the city of Calahorra, Rodrigo becomes Ferdinand's champion, winning the city in single combat. Victorious, he is sent on a mission to collect tribute from Moorish vassals to the Castillian crown. He asks that Ximena be given to him as his wife upon his return, so that he can provide for her. Count Ordóñez, conspiring with Ximena, plots to kill Rodrigo for her hand. Rodrigo and his men are ambushed, but are saved by Al-Mu'tamin, to whom Rodrigo had earlier showed mercy. Upon returning, he and Ximena are wed, but the marriage is not consummated: Rodrigo will not touch her if she does not give herself to him out of love. Ximena instead goes to a convent.
King Ferdinand dies and his younger son, Prince Alfonso (John Fraser) tells the elder son Prince Sancho (Gary Raymond) that Ferdinand divided the kingdom: Castile to Sancho, Asturias and León to Alfonso, and Calahorra to their sister, Princess Urraca (Geneviève Page). 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 the dungeon Zamora. Rodrigo tells Alfonso's guards they are violating God's law, defeats them all, and escorts Alfonso to Calahorra. When Sancho arrives to demand Alfonso, Urraca refuses to hand him over. She and Alfonso beg Rodrigo to join them but he refuses, because his oath was to serve them all equally.
Ibn Yusuf arrives at Valencia, planning to land his armada on Spanish shores. He hires Dolfos to kill one of Ferdinand's sons, making it look like the other's order, weakening their portion of Spain. Because Ferdinand had trusted Dolfos, Urraca suspects nothing when Dolfos offers to assassinate Sancho. At Alfonso's coronation, El Cid has him swear upon the Bible that he had no part in the death of his brother. Since he had no part in or any knowledge of it, Alfonso swears truthfully and banishes Rodrigo for his impudence. Ximena secretly listens to the edict, and her love for him is rekindled. On his way out of Spain, Rodrigo finds that Ximena has followed, choosing exile with him in other lands.
Years later, Rodrigo, known widely as "El Cid", is called into the service of the king to protect Castille from Yusuf's North African army. El Cid does not join the king but allies himself with the Emirs who fight at Valencia, where he relieves the city of Emir Al-Kadir, who had betrayed him.
Count Ordóñez brings Ximena from where the king had imprisoned her and her children after his defeat by the Moors. Patching things up between them, Ordóñez joins Rodrigo, El Cid, in his cause. Valencia falls and 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. Rodrigo then repels the invading army of Ben Yusuf, but is struck during the battle by an arrow before final victory. Yusuf and his men see that El Cid is badly wounded. If the arrow is removed, he will be unable to lead his army, but he might recover. Rodrigo obtains a promise from Ximena to leave the arrow, and so he chooses to ride out, dying or dead. King Alfonso comes to his bedside and asks for his forgiveness.
Rodrigo dies, and his body is secured in a heroic riding pose, wearing his armor and cape, to an iron frame fitted to his saddle. With the resounding battle cry, "For God, the Cid, and Spain!", uttered by King Alfonso, Rodrigo's body is sent out at the head of his army. Alfonso and Emir Al-Mu'tamin ride on either side to guide his horse. When Yusuf's soldiers see El Cid with his eyes still open, they believe that he has risen from the dead. The Cid's horse, Babieca, followed by the column of mounted knights, tramples Ben Yusuf, who is too terrified to fight. The invading North African army is routed and smashed. King Alfonso leads Christians and Moors alike in a prayer for God to receive the soul "of the purest knight of all".
Time magazine provided some production details: "Inevitably, the picture is colossal--it runs three hours and 15 minutes (including intermission), cost $6,200,000, employs an extra-wide widescreen, a special color process, 7,000 extras, 10,000 costumes, 35 ships, 50 outsize engines of medieval war and four of the noblest old castles in Spain: Ampudia, Belmonte, Peñíscola and Torrelobatón".
Ampudia appears as the raided village at the beginning of the film, Torrelobatón as Cid's hometown Vivar, the Castle of Belmonte appears as Calahorra, and Peñíscola and Bamburgh Castle as Valencia.
El Cid was shot mostly on location in Spain but a few studio scenes were shot in Rome, to achieve co-production status. An Iberian Airlines airplane is allegedly seen in the background during the Valencia battle scenes.
For script advice and historical truth, the famous Spanish historian Menendez Pidal helped the screenwriters and the director of the film. The naturalist Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente also helped to use raptors and other birds.
Upon the release of El Cid, Bosley Crowther wrote "it is hard to remember a picture--not excluding Henry V, Ivanhoe, Helen of Troy and, naturally, Ben-Hur--in which scenery and regal rites and warfare have been so magnificently assembled and photographed as they are in this dazzler . . . The pure graphic structure of the pictures, the imposing arrangement of the scenes, the dynamic flow of the action against strong backgrounds, all photographed with the 70mm color camera and projected on the Super-Technirama screen, give a grandeur and eloquence to this production that are worth seeing for themselves".
On a 600-sq.-ft. billboard facing south over Manhattan's Times Square, Sophia Loren's name appears in illuminated letters that could be read from an incoming liner, but--Mamma mia!--that name is below Charlton Heston's. In the language of the complaint: "If the defendants are permitted to place deponent's name below that of Charlton Heston, then it will appear that deponent's status is considered to be inferior to that of Charlton Heston... It is impossible to determine or even to estimate the extent of the damages which the plaintiff will suffer".
It was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Motion Picture Director (Anthony Mann), and Best Motion Picture Score (Miklós Rózsa). Samuel Bronston won the 1962 Special Merit Award.