The Flame and the Arrow

The Flame and the Arrow is a 1950 American swashbuckler film made by Warner Bros. and starring Burt Lancaster, Virginia Mayo and Nick Cravat. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced by Harold Hecht and Frank Ross from a screenplay by Waldo Salt. The music score was by Max Steiner and the cinematography by Ernest Haller. The film was shot in Technicolor.

The Flame and the Arrow
Promotional poster
Directed byJacques Tourneur
Produced byHarold Hecht
Frank Ross
Written byWaldo Salt
StarringBurt Lancaster
Virginia Mayo
Nick Cravat
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyErnest Haller
Edited byAlan Crosland Jr.
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 9, 1950 (1950-07-09)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5,626,000[1]


In the time of Frederick Barbarossa, in the area of Italy known as Lombardy, Dardo Bartoli (Lancaster) has brought his son Rudi (Gordon Gebert) to the town especially to see Count Ulrich (Frank Allenby), known as "the Hawk", together with his niece, Lady Anne (Mayo), and his mistress, Dardo's unfaithful wife Francesca (Lynn Baggett). Dardo shows off his skill as an archer by shooting down Ulrich's expensive hunting hawk. In revenge, the count orders that Dardo's son be taken to his castle. Dardo is struck by an arrow while fleeing with Rudi, so the boy allows himself to be captured in order to draw the soldiers away.

At the palace, young Marchese Alessandro de Granazia (Robert Douglas), to whom Ulrich plans to marry Anne's hand for political reasons, refuses to pay Ulrich's taxes; in retaliation, Ulrich orders de Granazia's arrest and confiscation of his lands and property. After his rescue by Dardo, the marchese joins Dardo's band of outlaws. Dardo makes another attempt to free his son. Acting on information provided by his uncle Papa Bartoli (Francis Pierlot), Dardo obtains the help of Anne's maid (one of Dardo's many lovers) to sneak into Ulrich's castle along with his best friend Piccolo (Cravat), but the rescue proves unsuccessful. When they find themselves in Lady Anne's apartment, Piccolo suggests they kidnap her instead. They take her to their secret hideout. She tries several times to escape, but Dardo is too crafty for her.

Dardo sends a message to the count, offering an exchange of prisoners, but Ulrich threatens to execute Bartoli unless Anne is released. Dardo and the others race to the village and rescue Bartoli. Then Dardo learns from his aunt Nonna (Aline MacMahon) that five more prisoners have been taken to hang in Papa's place. Dardo gives himself up to save the others and is hanged in front of his son. Ulrich takes the rest of the rebels prisoner, including the marchese.

The marchese informs Ulrich that the rebels are planning an attack the next day and that Dardo is still alive (the executioner had been replaced by Dardo's friend). As a reward for this betrayal, Ulrich agrees to the marchese's marriage to Anne. When she finds out their plans, she warns Nonna Bartoli, with Dardo and his men hiding around the corner. They decide that they must attack at once.

Piccolo comes up a plan for getting into the castle by the men posing as some of the acrobats providing entertainment. The ruse works. When they are ready, they remove their disguises and a battle ensues. During the melee, Anne warns Dardo that Ulrich has gone for his son. When Dardo catches up to Ulrich, he is in the company of the marchese. The count leaves Dardo and the marchese to fight. Though Dardo tries to persuade the marchese to stand aside, the marchese refuses, trusting in his swordsmanship, but Dardo manages to plunge the room into darkness, where his hunter's instinct gives him the fatal edge.

Afterwards, Dardo finds his wife dead, killed by a knife in the back while trying to protect Rudi. Then he finds the count holding Rudi at sword-point, using him as a human shield to make his escape. Dardo finds a bow and, aiming carefully, kills Ulrich and frees his son. With the battle won, Dardo embraces Anne.



Box Office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $2,737,000 domestically and $2,889,000 foreign, making it the studio's most popular film of the year.[1]

Court case

Warner's offered $1 million to anyone who could prove that Lancaster did not perform all his stunts for the film. Someone claimed that Don Turner performed some of the stunts but Warners refused to pay out and a breach of contract claim was filed. Warner claimed that Turner did not perform the stunts within the term of the offer and that they had withdrawn the offer before the claim.[3] The appeals court judge ruled against the claim.[4]


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 30 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. Kate Buford, Burt Lancaster: An American Life, Da Capo 2000 p 103
  3. "Ballyhooliganism Hits Top Court; Did or Didn't Lancaster Really 'Stunt'". Variety. January 11, 1956. p. 7. Retrieved August 25, 2019 via
  4. The Flame and the Arrow at the American Film Institute Catalog
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