The Black Shield of Falworth

The Black Shield of Falworth is a 1954 film made by Universal-International, produced by Robert Arthur and Melville Tucker and directed by Rudolph Maté. The screenplay was adapted by Oscar Brodney from Howard Pyle's 1891 novel Men of Iron and starred Tony Curtis as Myles Falworth, Janet Leigh as Lady Anne of Mackworth, David Farrar as the Earl of Alban, Herbert Marshall as the Earl of Mackworth, and Torin Thatcher as Sir James. The original music score was composed by Hans J. Salter.

The Black Shield of Falworth
Directed byRudolph Maté
Produced byRobert Arthur
Melville Tucker
Written byOscar Brodney
Based onMen of Iron novel by Howard Pyle
StarringTony Curtis
Janet Leigh
Barbara Rush
Torin Thatcher
Herbert Marshall
Craig Hill
David Farrar
Dan O'Herlihy
Music byHans J. Salter
CinematographyIrving Glassberg
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 2, 1954 (1954-09-02)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was Universal-International's first feature in CinemaScope. It opened in New York City on October 6, 1954 at the Loew's State Theater. It was the second of five films in which husband and wife Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh appeared together on screen during their marriage (1952-1961).


Myles Falworth (Tony Curtis) and his sister Meg (Barbara Rush) live in obscurity on a farm in Crisbey-Dale with their guardian Diccon Bowman (Rhys Williams). This is to protect them from the attainder placed upon their family by King Henry IV of England (Ian Keith) because their father has been (falsely) accused of treason and murdered by the Earl of Alban (David Farrar). When a hunting party comprising the Earl of Alban, the lord of Crisbey-Dale, and another nobleman, Sir Robert, stop at their farm for refreshment, they are repulsed by Myles to stop them molesting his sister.

This confrontation accelerates Diccon's plans to send them to Mackworth Castle in Derbyshire (based on the eponymous castle). The Earl of Mackworth (Herbert Marshall), a close friend of their father, becomes their protector, and he sees in Myles the man who can rid England of the evil machinations of the Earl of Alban. Myles is trained to be a knight, is knighted by the king, and kills the Earl of Alban in trial by combat, foiling Alban's attempt to seize the English crown. Myles then marries the Earl of Mackworth's daughter, Lady Anne (Janet Leigh).


Differences from Men of Iron

The story of The Black Shield of Falworth differs from the novel in a number of ways. In the novel:

  • Myles's father and mother are still alive, and he knows his name to be Myles Falworth.
  • Myles does not have a sister Meg.
  • Francis Gascoyne has no lady as does Myles.
  • There is no "black shield of Falworth": the Falworth coat of arms is not an issue although the whereabouts of Myles's parents must be kept secret because of his father's attainder.
  • Falworth's great enemy is only unmasked at the end while in the film Alban is known as the hated tyrant throughout.
  • Myles goes to Earl Mackworth's castle (the castle Devlen in the novel) at a younger age (16).
  • Friar Edward is Prior Edward, who governs the estates on which Crosbey-Dale is located.
  • Sir James (with the surname "Lee" in the novel) is Myles's friend and confidant inside the Mackworth establishment; he was a battle companion of Diccon Bowman.
  • The Mackworth establishment is more stratified: the royal and noble persons are not so easily accessible.
  • Myles and Francis Gascoyne find a secret hideout, which they call their Eyry at the top of the "Brutus Tower."
  • Myles falls in love with the Earl Mackworth's niece, Alice, rather than his daughter Anne.
  • There is no Dame Ellen identified as attending the Lady Anne.
  • Walter Blunt is not the Earl of Alban's brother, and he disappears from the story after Myles has decisively defeated him.
  • Walter Blunt is not a suitor for the hand of Lady Anne of Mackworth.
  • Sir Myles jousts with the Count de Vermois's (Comte de Vermoise in the novel) champion the Sieur de la Montaigne: in the film he is slated to joust with Vermois himself, but he is prevented from doing so.
  • Mackworth has a brother, Lord George Beaumont, who also becomes interested in Myles's future. The character appears only briefly in the film, teaching Myles "courtly behavior," including proper table manners.
  • The Earl of Alban does not try to seize the throne from King Henry, and he remains his friend.
  • King Henry is not so pleased by Myles's final victory over the Earl of Alban, and Myles and his family are only given full restitution when King Henry V ascends the throne.

False quotation

The film is famous for an apocryphal line, rendered as "Yonda stands da castle of my fodda" or similar. The plot details above show that this would not fit the story: there is no "castle of my father". The line is said to have come from a remark made by Debbie Reynolds on television.[1]

This chestnut used to be quoted in Radio Times whenever the film was on BBC television, and found its way into a 2007 study of Tony Curtis's work by Clive James. Curtis has denied ever saying that line, but he did actually say a similar line in the movie Son of Ali Baba, released in 1952 (and one of two "Arabian Nights" style fantasies he did with Piper Laurie) , that reads, "This is the palace of my father, and yonder lies the Valley of the Sun", and he did deliver it in a markedly New York accent.[2]


  1. Harry Purvis and Clyde Gilmour, Leisure Ways magazine, 1980s.
  2. Adam Kirsch, Jewish Journal, December 30, 2008
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