The Master of Ballantrae (film)

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The Master of Ballantrae
The Master of Ballantrae (film) poster.jpg
Directed by William Keighley
Written by Herb Meadow
Harold Medford (add. dialogue)
Based on novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Starring Errol Flynn
Roger Livesey
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Jack Cardiff
Edited by Jack Harris
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) August 5, 1953 (USA)
Running time 90 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $2 million (US rentals)[1]

The Master of Ballantrae is a 1953 British Technicolor adventure film starring Errol Flynn and Roger Livesey. It is a loose and highly truncated adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of the same title. In eighteenth century Scotland, two sons of a laird clash over the family estate and a lady.


At the Durrisdeer estate in Scotland in 1745, Jamie Durie (Errol Flynn), his younger brother Henry (Anthony Steel) and their father Lord Durrisdeer (Felix Aylmer) receive news of the Jacobite Rising. Their retainer, MacKellar (Mervyn Johns), recommends that one brother join the uprising while the other remains loyal to King George II, so that whichever side wins, the family's status and estate will be preserved. Both brothers want to go. Jamie insists on tossing a coin for the privilege and wins, despite the opposition of his fiancée, Lady Alison (Beatrice Campbell).

The rising is crushed at the Battle of Culloden. Evading British soldiers, Jamie falls in with an Irish adventurer, Colonel Francis Burke (Roger Livesey). They return secretly to Durrisdeer to obtain money for passage to France.

When Jamie's commoner mistress, Jessie Brown (Yvonne Furneaux), sees him kissing Lady Alison, she betrays him to the British. Jamie is shot and falls into the sea. Henry becomes the heir to the estate on the presumption that Jamie is dead. Believing his brother betrayed him, a wounded Jamie and Burke take ship with smugglers to the West Indies, where they are captured by pirates led by French dandy Captain Arnaud (Jacques Berthier).

Jamie goes into partnership with Arnaud. When they reach the port of Tortugas Bay, they see a rich Spanish galleon captured by fellow buccaneer Captain Mendoza (Charles Goldner). Arnaud agrees to Jamie's proposal that they steal the ship. However, once they have seized the galleon, Arnaud turns on Jamie. Jamie kills Arnaud in a sword duel and takes command. They sail for Scotland.

Jamie returns to the family estate, rich with pirate treasure, to find a celebration in progress for Henry's betrothal to Alison. Unable to contain himself, Jamie confronts his brother, despite the presence of British officers. A fight breaks out, in which Henry tries to aid Jamie. The unequal fight ends with Jamie and Burke condemned to death. Jessie helps them escape, at the cost of her own life. Alison elects to go with Jamie to an uncertain future.



During filming the movie was known as The Sea Rogue. It was shot in England in 1952, with location work in Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands with the pirate sequences done in Palermo in Sicily.[2][3]


The New York Times called it Flynn's best swashbuckler since The Sea Hawk.[4] "Flynn himself hasn't been served better in years," wrote the Los Angeles Times.[5] It was the last film Flynn made under contract to Warner Bros., ending an association that had lasted for 18 years and 35 films.[6]


  1. ^ 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  2. ^ Edwin Schallert, 'Master of Ballantrae' Will Star Errol Flynn; Russell Set at Disney's, Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 Apr 1952: B9.
  3. ^ Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer & Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 194
  4. ^ Master of Ballantrae' at Paramount H. H. T.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 06 Aug 1953: 16.
  5. ^ Flynn's 'Ballantrae' Has Real Scotch Kick Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 Aug 1953: B9.
  6. ^ Thomas Pryor, 'ERROL FLYNN ENDS PACT AT WARNERS: ACTOR AND STUDIO AGREE TO PART -- STAR MADE 35 FILMS IN 20 YEARS ON LOT', New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Mar 1954: 10.

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