Based on Samuel Shellaberger’s 1945 best-selling historical novel, the cinema adaptation hews closely to the structure of the book, capturing the vast sweep of its story and adding to it an eye-stunning Technicolor dimension. The coin poured into this production, reported to be around $4.5 million, is visible in every inch of the footage.
For this plume-and-sabre epic of 16th-century Spanish imperial conquerors, producer and production chief have assembled a group of thespers who are cleanly tailored for the various parts. Led by Tyrone Power, who’s rarely been shown to better advantage, the roster is buttressed by Cesar Romero, in a stirringly virile protrait of Cortez; Lee J Cobb, as a fortune hunter; John Sutton, as a velvety villain, and newcomer Jean Peters, a buxom, appealing wench for the romantic byplay.
From one viewpoint, this picture is constructed like a self-contained double feature. In the first half, the locale is Spain during the Inquisition, with Power and his family unjustly persecuted for heresy. Escaping from Spain, Power finds himself during the second half in Mexico as a recruit in Cortez’s expedition of plunder against the Aztec empire ruled by Montezuma.
There are, however several soft spots in the story that interfere with credibility. There is, for instance, the fact that Power narrowly escapes death no less than three times under the most extreme circumstances. Sutton, likewise, cheats death two times despite his being stabbed through the heart with a foot of steel one time and near-strangled the next.
1947: Nomination: Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture