The Black Rose

The Black Rose is a 1950 20th Century Fox Technicolor film starring Tyrone Power and Orson Welles, loosely based on Thomas B. Costain's book. It was filmed partly on location in England and Morocco[3] which substitutes for the Gobi Desert of China. The film was partly conceived as a follow-up to the movie Prince of Foxes,[4] and reunited the earlier film's two stars.

The Black Rose
Directed byHenry Hathaway
Produced byLouis D. Lighton
Written byThomas B. Costain (novel)
Screenplay byTalbot Jennings
Based onThe Black Rose (novel)
StarringTyrone Power
Orson Welles
Cécile Aubry
Jack Hawkins
Music byRichard Addinsell
CinematographyJack Cardiff
Edited byManuel del Campo
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • September 1, 1950 (1950-09-01)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.65 million (US rentals)[1][2]

Talbot Jennings' screenplay was based on a popular novel of the same name by Canadian author Thomas B. Costain, published in 1945, introducing an anachronistic Saxon rebellion against the Norman aristocracy as a vehicle for launching the protagonists on their journey to the Orient.

It was nominated for Best Costumes-Color at the 23rd Academy Awards (Michael Whittaker). [5]


The story begins in England approximately two centuries after the Norman Conquest, or around 1300 A.D. Saxon scholar Walter of Gurnie is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Lessford and has been dispossessed of his inheritance by his father's Norman widow. After joining a group of Saxons who free hostages held by Lessford, Walter is forced into exile when he is recognized.

Walter flees England, accompanied by his friend Tristram Griffen, a Saxon archer, and sets out to make his fortune in Cathay during the times of Pax Mongolica. Walter seeks the patronage of Mongol warlord General Bayan of the Hundred Eyes and agrees to fight for him.

The "Black Rose" of the title is the beauteous Maryam,[lower-alpha 1] the half-English, half-Greek girl who has escaped from the harem Bayan is escorting to China. Disguised as a servant boy, she travels with Walter and Tristram in the caravan. Maryam loves Walter, but he is too interested in his adventure to pay her any attention. Tristram doesn't like all the killing and decides to get away. He takes Maryam with him because she wants to go to England.

Bayan sends Walter on a mission to see the Sung Dynasty Empress of that part of China not yet under Mongol rule. When he arrives he is told that he must stay in China as a "guest" for the rest of his life. Then he finds Tristram and Maryam had also been captured and imprisoned. During this time, Walter realizes he loves Maryam. The three of them decide to escape. Tristram dies. The small boat in which Maryam is waiting for Walter in drifts away before Walter can catch her. Walter returns to England alone.

Walter is welcomed back by the Norman King Edward because of all the cultural and scientific knowledge (including gunpowder) he has brought back from China. The king knights Walter and grants him a coat of arms. Two Mongol emissaries from Bayan show up. They have brought the Black Rose to England to join Walter there.



It was the first movie Henry Hathaway directed after an operation for cancer. He had a doctor with him on set. Hathaway later said he felt the movie was badly cast, saying Jack Hawkins was "too old" for his role ("it should have been played by someone like Van Johnson") and that Cecile Aubry "didn't have a lick of sense. I tried to get Leslie Caron but Caron said she loved ballet and didn't want to be in pictures." He also says he and Orson Welles got along "terrible" because Welles would not follow direction. "It pleased him to outwit people. That was the trouble with him throughout his career."[6]


Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1950.[7]


There are unsubstantiated stories regarding a 40 second scene in the movie where the bodies of two Moroccan peasants can be seen hanging from a tree. The two bodies were said to have been offered to the movie director by a French colonel called Louis Morin (or Moran) due to his admiration for actor Orson Welles. The movie was shot in Morocco, which was a French colony at the time.[8]

See also

Notes and references


  1. Black Rose is a quote from the book by Thomas Costain. "I speak of lady," he said. "This lady different from others. She has great spirit, a tang like the black rose." 'Black Rose' being another name for cloves.


  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1950', Variety, January 3, 1951
  2. Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century-Fox: A Corporate and Financial History Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 p 223
  3. "The Black Rose (1950)". Rotten tomatoes. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  4. "The Black Rose(1950)". Yahoo movies. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  5. "The 23rd Academy Awards (1951) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  6. Davis, Ronald L. (2005). Just Making Movies. University Press of Mississippi. p. 148.
  7. Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 2003 p213
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