Sunday, January 6, 2013

Elizabeth Taylor as the Jewish Rebekah in 1194 England's Ivanhoe

Nadene Goldfoot
Elizabeth Taylor played the part of the Jewish Rebekah of 1194 in England.  Jews have been in England since The Roman days.  Rome had taken Jerusalem in 70 CE, and probably that instigated Jewish migration as far as England.   They stood out in countries and were never treated as equals.  It's known that Jews entered England in 1066 with William the Conqueror and were expulsed in 1290 by King Edward I "Longshanks", who was 6'2" tall.  ."This not only generated revenues through royal appropriation of Jewish loans and property, but it also gave Edward the political capital to negotiate a substantial lay subsidy in the 1290 Parliament."

"Merchants had a special status in the system as did Jews. Jews were declared to be direct subjects of the King,  unlike the rest of the population. This had advantages for Jews, in that they were not tied to any particular lord, but were subject to the whims of the king. Every successive King formally reviewed a royal charter granting Jews the right to remain in England. Jews did not enjoy any of the guarantees of Magna Carta  of 1215."

"Economically, Jews played a key role in the country. The church at the time strictly forbade the lending of money for profit. This created a vacuum in the economy of Europe that only Jews were able to fill.  Canon law was not considered to apply to Jews, and Judaism permits loans with interests between Jews and non-Jews).  As a consequence, some Jews made large amounts of money. Taking advantage of their unique status as his direct subjects, the King could appropriate Jewish assets in the form of taxation. He levied heavy taxes on Jews at will without having to summon Parliament.  The Jewish community acted as a kind of giant monetary filter: Jews collected interest on money lent to the people which the King could take at his pleasure."  Jews did this as they were not allowed to own land.

I just watched the 1952 film, Ivanhoe, which takes place in 1194 during the failure of the 3rd Crusade.  Elizabeth Taylor played the part of the Jewish girl, Rebekah, daughter of a Jewish doctor who saves Ivanhoe when other doctors would have bled him to death after he had been injured.  Elizabeth's curvaceous figure reminded me so much of the Israeli girls I saw in Israel from 1980-1985.  Israeli girls are as curvaceous as Elizabeth was; tiny-waisted but fully endowed in other places.  In the arena scene where Ivanhoe has to fight with a hatchet another to keep Rebecca from being killed shows her figure in a white dress, the only one in this scene.  Her long black hair accents the whiteness.  She is beautiful.  I only hope our original Rebekah was just as lovely.  Robert Taylor plays the part of Ivanhoe and Joan Fontaine is the Royalty that loves him.

Ivanhoe, originally written by Sir Walter Scott in 1820, is about 12th Century England.  The good guy in the story is King Richard the Lionheart, King of England who was in the Crusades in Jerusalem fighting and probably slaughtering both Arabs and Jews.  The Crusaders were known to kill any Jews found as they went through Europe on their way to Jerusalem as well.  He vanished on his way back home to England.

His Saxon knight, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, searches for him and finds he is being held by  Leopold of Austria for ransom.  The bad guy in the story is King Richard's brother, Prince John, knows about the kidnapping but doesn't tell anyone as he wants the chance to rule in his stead.  Ivanhoe returns to his father and beloved (Joan Fontaine) and wants his father to help get the ransom money of 150,000 marks in silver, but he refuses as the king is a Norman and is so mad that he tells his son to leave..

To get the ransom, our hero, Ivanhoe will turn to the Jews for the money, Isaac of York and his daughter.  The wicked King John wants Elizabeth Taylor burned at the stake as a witch.  How he could believe that with her wearing this sexy long white dress and looking so beautiful shows how hard hearted a man he is.  Though Richard will get back his throne, somehow,   King Edward, who went on the 9th Crusade to Jerusalem,  will have wicked thoughts about Jews to force them all to leave England only 100 years later and would not be asked back for 350 years.

The irony is that Jews were expelled from England over problems with usury.  They were invited back with the hope that they could help speed things up for the recovery of the country which had suffered from major civil wars.  A double irony is that Elizabeth converted to Judaism after marrying a Jewish man.


No comments:

Post a Comment