Captain Blood (1935 film)

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Captain Blood
Captain Blood.jpeg
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by
Screenplay by Casey Robinson
Based on Captain Blood
1922 novel 
by Rafael Sabatini
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Edited by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release dates
  • December 28, 1935 (1935-12-28) (USA)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $2,475,000

Captain Blood is a 1935 American black-and-white swashbuckling 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.[1] An earlier 1924 silent film version of Captain Blood starred J. Warren Kerrigan as Peter Blood, the physician-turned-pirate in this Vitagraph production.[2]

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.[1][3] 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.


In 17th century England, an Irish doctor named Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is summoned to aid Lord Gildoy, a wounded patron who had participated in the Monmouth Rebellion. Arrested while performing his duties as a physician, he is convicted of treason against the King and sentenced to death by the infamous Judge Jeffreys. By the whim of King James II, who sees an opportunity for profit, Blood and the surviving rebels are transported to the West Indies to be sold into slavery.

In the far away English colony of Port Royal, Blood is purchased by Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland), the beautiful niece of the local military commander Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill). 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 nevertheless continues to hatch an escape plan for himself and his fellow slaves. The plan is almost uncovered when Bishop gets suspicious and has one of Blood's men flogged to make him talk. Later, Blood is spared a similar fate when a Spanish squadron attacks Port Royal. During the raid, Blood and his fellow slaves seize the Spanish ship from its drunken night watch, and then sail away to begin lives of piracy in the West Indies.

Blood and his men quickly achieve success and fame. When the old governor is unable to contain the pirate menace, Colonel Bishop becomes govenor, and Arabella is sent to England on a sojourn. Three years later, while sailing back to the Caribbean, the ship upon which Arabella and royal emissary Lord Willoughby (Henry Stephenson) are traveling is captured by Blood's treacherous partner, Captain Levasseur (Basil Rathbone). He plans to hold them for ransom, but then Blood purchases them, relishing the opportunity to turn the tables on his former owner. Levasseur objects vehemently, and Blood kills him in the ensuing duel.

At sea, Blood offers Arabella valuable jewelry from his conquests as a sign of his love for her. Rather than showing gratitude for being rescued, Arabella is indignant at having been purchased by Blood, calling him "thief and a pirate". Despite his anger at being rejected, in an act of defiant gallantry he orders his men to set sail for Port Royal in order to deliver Arabella and Lord Willoughby, despite the presence of Colonel Bishop and his naval forces.

As they approach Port Royal, they sight two French warships attacking the colony. Bishop has left it undefended in his single-minded pursuit of capturing 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. Then Willoughby reveals that James II has since been deposed in the Glorious Revolution and that he has been sent by England's new king, William of Orange, to offer Blood and his men full pardons and commissions in the Royal Navy; they change their minds and quickly prepare for battle.

After setting Arabella and Lord Willoughby ashore, Blood and his men approach the harbor flying French colors, but soon that false ensign is replaced by the British Union Jack. In the ensuing ship-to-ship pitched cannon battle, followed by fevered hand-to-hand deck combat, Blood and his men defeat the two French frigates, saving the colony. As a reward, Blood is appointed the new governor of Port Royal by Lord Willoughby. He then has the pleasure of dealing with his hostile predecessor, Colonel Bishop, now returned from his Blood hunt and under arrest for dereliction of duty in a time of war. As Arabella playfully "pleads" to the new governor for her Uncle's life, Peter Blood reveals his covered face and greets the astonished Bishop with a bemused smile of triumph and a sly "Good morning, Uncle", having now won the hand and heart of Arabella.


De Havilland and Flynn in Captain Blood


Warner Bros. were inspired to remake the film, which they had first made as a silent in 1923,[5] 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 received positive reviews and was a success at the box office.[6] The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Sound Editing.[7]

Music score[edit]

Captain Blood features a stirring musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.


The production budget for the film was nearly $1,000,000.[1]


The lead role was originally offered to Robert Donat, who had starred in the successful 1934 film The Count of Monte Cristo.[3] The asthmatic Donat turned down the role, concerned that the action sequences would be too strenuous for him.[8] 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.[8] For the female lead role, Jean Muir was originally picked to play opposite Donat, but after the actor 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.[8]

Filming locations[edit]

Filming Location of Three Arch Bay in January of 2015

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.[1] For sea-battle footage, Curtiz used a combination of process shots, miniatures, and footage taken from The Sea Hawk (1924).[9]

During filming Flynn collapsed from a bout of Malaria, which he had first contracted in New Guinea.


Critical response[edit]

Captain Blood had its opening premiere on December 26, 1935 at the Mark Strand Theatre in New York City[10] and was released in the United States on December 28, 1935. The film received positive reviews and notices and wide public approval.[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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 votes for their work on this film than most of the official nominees.

The film was also nominated in the categories Music (Scoring), Sound Recording (Nathan Levinson) and Writing (Screenplay).[7]

Radio adaptation[edit]

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.[11] This radio version is included in the Special Features of the DVD version compiled in 2005.




  1. ^ a b c d "Captain Blood (1935)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Schager, Nick (April 20, 2005). "Captain Blood". Slant Magazine. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ Full cast and crew at Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer * Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 31
  6. ^ a b Thomas 1983, pp. 71–72.
  7. ^ a b "The 8th Academy Awards (1936) Nominees and Winners". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Thomas 1983, p. 67.
  9. ^ "Captain Blood Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest 39 (2): 32–39. Spring 2013. 


  • Thomas, Tony (1969). The Complete Films of Errol Flynn. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0806502373. 
  • Thomas, Tony (1983). The Films of Olivia de Havilland. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0806509884. 

External links[edit]