(Off topic. Not really about American history although El Cid was an American film. However, when I posted this on The American Catholic it got considerable reaction, so I thought our Almost Chosen People readers might enjoy perusing it.)
Something for the weekend. The theme song from the movie El Cid (1961). The theme and the etchings at the beginning of the film I find very evocative of Spain and Spanish history.
I have always loved this film for many reasons: the acting is of a high level (in spite of, or perhaps because, Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston cordially detested each other); I find medieval Spain and the Reconquista inherently fascinating; the film has scenes of compelling beauty, as if painted sequences from a medieval manuscript have been brought to life; and, of course, it is simply a rattling good retelling of the legend of El Cid. However, the background story of the film is just as fascinating as the film itself.
Filmed on location in Spain, the film had the enthusiastic support of dictator Francisco Franco, including the use of thousands of Spanish troops in the battle scenes. Franco fancied himself as a modern El Cid, and the film fit right in with his belief that Spain was a great nation that had saved Christendom from the threat of expansionist Islam in the days of El Cid and Communism and Arnarchism in the time of Franco.
Even the scenes of El Cid fighting with muslims as allies in the film would have been congenial to Franco as he had used North African Morrocan Regulares during the Spanish Civil War. (Republican propaganda blasted Franco for bringing the Moors back to Spain.) The film portrayed El Cid as the hero who saved Spain from a foreign menace and unified Spaniards. That is precisely how Franco viewed himself.
The reality was somewhat different for both men. (more…)