Captain Blood (1935 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Curtiz|
|Screenplay by||Casey Robinson|
|Based on||Captain Blood|
by Rafael Sabatini
|Music by||Erich Wolfgang Korngold|
|Edited by||George Amy|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Budget||$1,242,000 or $995,000|
|Box office||$2,475,000 (worldwide rentals)|
Captain Blood is a 1935 American black-and-white swashbuckling pirate film from First National Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, produced by Harry Joe Brown and Gordon Hollingshead (with Hal B. Wallis as executive producer), directed by Michael Curtiz, that stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Ross Alexander.
The film is based on the 1922 novel Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini, with a screenplay by Casey Robinson, and concerns an enslaved doctor and his fellow prisoners who escape their cruel island imprisonment and become pirates in the West Indies. An earlier 1924 silent film version of Captain Blood starred J. Warren Kerrigan as Peter Blood, the physician-turned-pirate in this Vitagraph production.
Warner Bros. Pictures took a serious risk in pairing two relatively unknown performers in the lead roles. Flynn's performance made him a major Hollywood star and established him as the natural successor to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and a "symbol of an unvanquished man" during the Depression. Captain Blood also established de Havilland, in just her fourth screen appearance, as a major star and was the first of eight films co-starring Flynn and de Havilland; in 1938 the two would be re-united with Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The same year, Basil Rathbone also starred with Flynn in The Dawn Patrol.
In 17th-century England, Irish doctor Peter Blood is summoned to aid Lord Gildoy, a wounded patron who participated in the Monmouth Rebellion. Arrested while performing his duties as a physician, he is convicted of treason against King James II and sentenced to death by the infamous Judge Jeffreys. By the whim of the king, who sees an opportunity for profit, Blood and the surviving rebels are transported to the West Indies to be sold into slavery.
In Port Royal, Blood is purchased by Arabella Bishop, the beautiful niece of local military commander Colonel Bishop. Attracted by Blood's rebellious nature, Arabella does her best to improve his situation by recommending him as the personal physician of the colony's governor, who suffers from painful gout. Outwardly resentful towards Arabella, yet silently appreciative for her efforts on his behalf, Blood develops an escape plan for himself and his fellow slaves. The plan is almost uncovered by the suspicious Colonel Bishop, who has one of Blood's men flogged and interrogated. Blood is spared a similar fate when a Spanish man-o-war attacks Port Royal. During the raid, Blood and his fellow slaves seize the Spanish ship from its drunken night watch, and sail away to begin lives of piracy.
Blood and his men quickly achieve great fame among the brotherhood of buccaneers. When the old governor is unable to contain the pirate menace, Colonel Bishop is appointed governor. He sends Arabella to England on an extended holiday, but three years later she returns to the Caribbean. Her ship, also carrying royal emissary Lord Willoughby, is captured by Blood's treacherous partner, the French buccaneer Captain Levasseur, who plans to hold them for ransom. Blood forces Levasseur to sell them to him, while relishing the opportunity to turn the tables on Arabella. When Levasseur vehemently objects, Blood is forced to kill him in a duel.
Blood offers Arabella valuable jewelry from his conquests as a sign of his love for her. Ungrateful for her "rescue", Arabella is indignant at having been purchased by Blood, and calls him thief and pirate. Although angered by her rejection, he orders his men to set sail for Port Royal where he will deliver Arabella and Lord Willoughby, despite the danger to himself and his crew.
As they approach Port Royal, they sight two French warships attacking the city; Bishop has left it undefended in his single-minded pursuit of Blood. With England now at war with France, Lord Willoughby pleads with Blood to save the colony, but the captain and his crew refuse to fight for the corrupt king. Willoughby reveals that James II has been deposed in the Glorious Revolution; England's new king, William III, has sent Willoughby to offer Blood and his men full pardons and commissions in the Royal Navy. This startling news quickly changes the pirates' minds, and they prepare for battle with the French.
After ferrying Arabella ashore, Blood and his men approach Port Royal flying French colors, but soon that ensign is replaced with the British Union Jack. A pitched ship-to-ship battle ensues, leading to frenzied hand-to-hand deck combat. Blood and his men defeat the French frigates, saving the colony, but not before losing their ship in the battle. As a reward, Blood is appointed the new governor of Port Royal by Lord Willoughby and has Arabella confess that she loves him. He also has the pleasure of dealing with his hostile predecessor, now returned from his pirate hunt and under arrest for dereliction of duty in a time of war. As Arabella playfully pleads with the new governor to spare her uncle's life, Blood reveals his face to the astonished Bishop, greeting him with the words, "Good morning, Uncle."
- Errol Flynn as Peter Blood
- Olivia de Havilland as Arabella Bishop
- Lionel Atwill as Colonel Bishop
- Basil Rathbone as Levasseur
- Ross Alexander as Jeremy Pitt, Blood's friend and navigator
- Guy Kibbee as Henry Hagthorpe, Master Gunner
- Henry Stephenson as Lord Willoughby
- Robert Barrat as John Wolverstone
- Hobart Cavanaugh as Dr. Bronson
- Donald Meek as Dr. Whacker
- Jessie Ralph as Mrs. Barlow
- Forrester Harvey as Honesty Nuttall
- Frank McGlynn Sr. as Rev. Uriah Ogle
- Holmes Herbert as Capt. Gardner
- David Torrence as Andrew Baynes
- J. Carrol Naish as Cahusac
- Pedro de Cordoba as Don Diego
- George Hassell as Governor Steed
- Harry Cording as Kent
- Leonard Mudie as Baron Jeffreys
- Ivan F. Simpson as The Prosecutor
- Mary Forbes as Mrs. Steed
- E.E. Clive as Clerk of the Court
- Colin Kenny as Lord Chester Dyke
- Vernon Steele as James II
- Gardner James as Slave
- Halliwell Hobbes as Lord Sunderland (uncredited)
Warner Bros. were inspired to remake the film, which they had first made as a silent in 1923, after the popularity of Treasure Island (1934) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) revived the swashbuckler genre in Hollywood. Some of the impressive sea-battle footage was taken from the silent The Sea Hawk (1924).
Captain Blood features a stirring and romantic musical score, the first of its type for a sound film, by Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. In 1935 Warner Bros. asked Korngold if he was interested in writing an original dramatic score for Captain Blood. He at first declined, feeling that a story about pirates was outside his range of interest. However, after watching the filming, with a dynamic new star, Errol Flynn in a heroic role, alongside Olivia de Havilland, who had her debut in A Midsummer Night's Dream, he changed his mind.
After he accepted, however, he learned that he needed to compose more than an hour of symphonic music in only three weeks. The short time frame forced him to include about ten percent of the score using portions of symphonic poems by Franz Liszt. As such, he was unwilling to take credit for the entire film score, insisting instead that his credit be for "musical arrangement" only.:8
Captain Blood became an immediate hit, with an Oscar nomination for the score. As Korngold's first fully symphonic film score, it marked a milestone in his career, as he became the first composer of international stature to sign a contract with a film studio.:10 It also launched the career of Flynn and gave a major boost to de Havilland's, who would do another seven movies with Flynn. Korngold would score six more films starring Flynn.:21 In addition, it opened the way for other costumed, romantic adventures, which hadn't been seen since the silent era.:9
The production budget for the film was $1,242,000.
The lead role was originally offered to Robert Donat, who had starred in the successful 1934 film The Count of Monte Cristo. The asthmatic Donat turned down the role, concerned that the action sequences would be too strenuous for him. A series of screen tests with various actors led to an unknown Australian actor named Errol Flynn. In January 1935, Warner Bros. signed the young actor and brought him to Hollywood after seeing him in a British B picture Murder at Monte Carlo. For the female lead role, Jean Muir was originally picked to play opposite Donat, but after the actress turned down the offer, the studio focused on 19-year-old Olivia de Havilland, who had starred in three previous films that same year, including A Midsummer Night's Dream for director Max Reinhardt.
Most of the film was shot on a sound stage in the summer of 1935. Some exterior scenes, such as the sword fight between Rathbone and Flynn, were shot on location at Laguna Beach, California standing in for a Caribbean shore (specifically, the fictional island of Virgen Magra, which translates from Spanish as "lean [as in meat] virgin"). The final battle sequence between Blood's pirate crew and the French ships used one of the largest technical crews assembled for a film, requiring 2500 extras. For sea-battle footage, Curtiz used a combination of process shots, miniatures, and footage taken from The Sea Hawk (1924).
The film was a big hit, making Warner Bros a profit of $1.462 million.
According to Warner Bros it earned $1,087,000 domestically and $1,388,000 overseas.
Captain Blood had its premiere on December 26, 1935 at the Mark Strand Theatre in New York City and was released in the United States on December 28, 1935. The film received positive reviews and notices and wide public approval. Variety, one of the entertainment industry's leading trade publications of the period, also praised many aspects of Captain Blood. In its review of the film on New Year's Day in 1936, Variety does, however, cite weaknesses in the production, especially in its storyline:
'Blood' is a spectacular cinematic entry, which, while not flawless, is quite compelling. Its sundry little discrepancies, however, count against a more satisfying final tally. The inconsistencies, while not frequent, are rather prominent and at times irritating.
As, for instance, the climatic sea battle of the lone pirate ship (Blood's), now a volunteer in the cause of England, against the two French vessels. One French frigate stands idly by until Blood's corsair conquers one and then directs his attack on the other. The finale with the discomfited governor, in whose place Blood is appointed, is rather tent-twent-thirt [excessively melodramatic].
And underlying it all, as a productionary shortcoming, is the false premise of the titular Capt. Blood. Here is a gallant, engaging young blade who, under pirate's colors, repels the very aspects which first cement his brave appeal.
Despite finding some flaws in the "scripting" of Captain Blood and in the presentation of some battle sequencies in the film, Variety called Flynn's performance "impressive" and predicted that his work in the production would provide the young actor with "future big marquee values".
Writing for The Spectator in 1936, Graham Greene gave the film a tepid review, describing it on the one hand as his favorite of the films he reviewed that week, but describing it as "a fine spirited mix-up" and making pointed note of the "magnificently wrong characterization" of bad King James. Greene also pointed out that much of the film included anachronistic details related to clothing and setting.
Filmink magazine later wrote: "Flynn was lucky – not just in being at the right place at the right time with the right lack of competition, but with his collaborators on Captain Blood."
Awards and honors
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and, despite not being nominated, Michael Curtiz received the second-greatest number of votes for Best Director, solely as a write-in candidate. Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Casey Robinson also failed to be nominated and also received substantially more write-in votes for their work on this film than most of the official nominees.
Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 2001: AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – Nominated
- 2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- Peter Blood – Nominated Hero
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
Captain Blood was adapted as a radio play on the February 22, 1937, broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Flynn, de Havilland, and Rathbone all reprising their film parts. This radio version is included in the Special Features of the DVD version compiled in 2005.
- John Sedgwick, Mike Pokorny, "Hollywood’s foreign earnings during the 1930s", 83 TRAC 1 (1) pp. 83–97 Intellect Limited 2010 p92
- 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 15 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
- Glancy, H Mark (1995). "Warner Bros Film Grosses, 1921–51: the William Schaefer ledger". Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television. 15.
- "Captain Blood (1935)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
- Janiss Garza. "Captain Blood (1924) - David Smith - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- Schager, Nick (April 20, 2005). "Captain Blood". Slant Magazine. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
- Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer * Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 31
- Thomas 1983, pp. 71–72.
- "The 8th Academy Awards (1936) Nominees and Winners". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- Thomas, Tony. Korngold: Vienna to Hollywood, Turner Entertainment (1996)
- Captain Blood trailer segment
- Oscar nominees for 1936
- Woodstra, Chris, Brennan, Gerald, Schrott, Allen, editors. All Music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music, Hal Leonard Corp. (2005) p. 701
- Thomas 1983, p. 67.
- "Captain Blood Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2013.
- Errol & Olivia: Ego & Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood by Robert Matzen, 2010
- Brown, Gene (1995). Movie Time: A Chronology of Hollywood and the Movie Industry from its Beginnings to the Present. New York: MacMillan. p. 125. ISBN 0-02-860429-6.
- "CAPTAIN BLOOD", film review, Variety, New York, N.Y., January 1, 1936, page 44; retrieved December 22, 2017. The compound adjective "tent-twent-thirt" in Variety's review derives from theatrical slang for "ten-twenty-thirty", which was once used to describe the early vaudevillian shows and other staged productions that were distinguished by their cheap admission prices (ten, twenty, or thirty cents) and by their highly melodramatic storylines or by characters displaying exaggerated emotions and actions.
- Greene, Graham (February 21, 1936). "I Dream Too Much/Anything Goes/Faust/Hohe Schule/Captain Blood". The Spectator. (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. p. 54. ISBN 0192812866.)
- Vagg, Stephen (November 10, 2019). "The Films of Errol Flynn: Part 2 The Golden Years". Filmink.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (2): 32–39. Spring 2013.
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