Charlton Heston is the legendary Rodrigo Diaz di Bivar – the Christian hero who rids Spain of the Moors in the 11th century – in this lavish, opulent historical epic. This is Hollywood at its spectacular best.
Mostly shot in Spain, the magnificent spectacle features an eyeful of flashy costumes, impressive settings, and big battle scenes.
In order to make El Cid effective as a grandiose historic fresco, producer Samuel Bronston placed vast resources at the disposal of director Anthony Mann: More than 7,000 extras, a battle fleet of 35 sailing ships, monumental sets and a number of international stars. Bronston also lavished $150,000 on medieval objects and $40,000 on jewellery.
As a result, the film was a magnificent looking spectacle with fine photography by Robert Krasker and superbly staged battle scenes by second unit director Yakima Canutt.
To guarantee historical accuracy, the Spanish historian Don Ramon Menendez Pidal was used as a consultant to the screenwriters Philip Yordan and Frederick M Frank, and to art directors Veniero Colesanti and John Moore.
Heston is at his stoical heroic best in the title role, while Sophia Loren is alluring as Chimene, his fiancée. Anthony Mann chased the Italian actress all over Rome to get her to agree to portray the Spanish noblewoman, a role she had turned down twice, saying “I just don’t see myself in the part”. Luckily she was persuaded otherwise.
At the beginning of filming, Heston found out that Loren was earning a $1m paycheque – substantially larger than his. He was so angry that he refused even to look at her in most of their scenes. This soon becomes amusing for the viewer.
The cast also includes Geraldine Page, Hurd Hatfield, Gary Raymond, Herbert Lom, and John Fraser.
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar/El Cid