The best thing to be said for the 1952 film version of Ivanhoe is that the writers, Aeneas MacKenzie, Marguerite Roberts and Noel Langley, managed to turn Walter Scott's almost unreadable novel--and having had the book inflicted on me years ago in school, I can attest that it is barely readable--into a workable storyline. If you've never read it, here's the basics: Our setting is England, same time as the Robin Hood tales (in fact, Robin Hood plays a part in both the novel and film). Prince John is, as usual, making trouble while his brother King Richard is away on the crusades. The Saxon knight Ivanhoe, a loyalist of Richard's, returns to England and tries to disrupt John's schemes. Along the way, he has opportunities for romance with two fair ladies, the Saxon Rowena and a Jewish girl named Rebecca, and he also crosses swords more than once with a knight named Brian de Bois-Guilbert.
Yikes, the basics took a while.
Anyway, the film version is directed by Richard Thorpe, competently but without the flair that Michael Curtiz, for one, brought to this kind of film. Robert Taylor is a good swashbuckling hero as Ivanhoe, and there are three big action sequences for him to be heroic in. Unfortunately, George Sanders was a poor choice as Bois-Guilbert; he was really too old for the part. Elizabeth Taylor is so lovely and charming as Rebecca that you'll wonder why Ivanhoe would ever leave her to go off with Joan Fontaine's Rowena.
"May the hinges of friendship never rust, nor the wings of love lose a feather"--Scottish blessing