Captains Courageous (1937 film)
|Directed by||Victor Fleming|
|Produced by||Louis D. Lighton|
|Written by||John Lee Mahin|
Dale Van Every
|Based on||Captains Courageous|
by Rudyard Kipling
|Music by||Franz Waxman|
|Edited by||Elmo Veron|
Captains Courageous is a 1937 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adventure film. Based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling, "Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks", it had its world premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. The movie was produced by Louis D. Lighton and directed by Victor Fleming. Filmed in black-and-white, Captains Courageous was advertised by MGM as a coming-of-age classic with exciting action sequences.
Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew) is the spoiled son of American business tycoon Frank Burton Cheyne (Melvyn Douglas). Harvey is shunned by his classmates at a private boarding school, and eventually suspended for bad behavior. His father therefore takes him on a business trip to Europe, travelling there by trans-Atlantic steamship. Mid passage, Harvey falls overboard in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. He is rescued by a Portuguese-American fisherman, Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy), and taken aboard the fishing schooner "We're Here", from Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Harvey is shocked the schooner's captain, Disko Troop (Lionel Barrymore), intends fishing in the Atlantic for three more months. He fails to persuade the captain to take him back to New York nor can he convince him of his wealth; but Captain Disko offers Harvey temporary crew membership until they return to port. Harvey is reluctant to do real work but eventually accepts. Befriended by Captain Troop's son, Dan (Mickey Rooney), he becomes acclimated to the demanding fishing lifestyle. The We're Here fills with fish they catch. When a prank of Harvey's causes a fish hook to lodge in a crewman's arm, Manuel defends the boy.
In the climactic race back to the Gloucester, Massachusetts port against a rival schooner, the Jennie Cushman, Manuel climbs to the top of the mast to furl the sail. However, the mast cracks and he is plunged into the icy sea. Manuel realizes that he is fatally injured because some of the rigging is entangled around his legs underwater; he tells the captain to cut him free from the boat, knowing this will kill him. As Manuel says goodbye to Harvey, who is crying and distraught, the captain cuts the rigging around Manuel, who sinks below the water. Eventually, the schooner returns to port and Harvey is reunited with his father, who is impressed by his son's greater maturity. The film closes with Harvey and his father commemorating Manuel at a church ceremony, before starting a sailing adventure together.
- Freddie Bartholomew as Harvey Cheyne
- Spencer Tracy as Manuel Fidello
- Lionel Barrymore as Captain Disko Troop
- Melvyn Douglas as Frank Burton Cheyne
- Charley Grapewin as Uncle Salters
- Mickey Rooney as Dan Troop
- John Carradine as "Long Jack"
- Oscar O'Shea as Captain Walt Cushman
- Jack La Rue as Priest (credited as Jack LaRue)
- Walter Kingsford as Dr. Finley
- Donald Briggs as Bob Tyler
- Sam McDaniel as "Doc" (credited as Sam McDaniels)
- Bill Burrud as Charles Jamison (credited as Billy Burrud)
- Gladden James as Secretary Cobb (uncredited)
- Frank Sully as taxi driver (uncredited)
- Billy Gilbert as soda steward (uncredited)
- Charles Coleman as Burns, the butler (uncredited)
- Lester Dorr as corridor steward (uncredited)
Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times called the film "another of those grand jobs of moviemaking we have come to expect of Hollywood's most prodigal studio. With its rich production, magnificent marine photography, admirable direction and performances, the film brings vividly to life every page of Kipling's novel and even adds an exciting chapter or two of its own." Variety reported that the Kipling story had "been given splendid production, performance, photography and dramatic composition." Harrison's Reports wrote, "Excellent! It is the type of entertainment that audiences will not forget soon, for its spiritual beauty makes a deep impression on one." John Mosher of The New Yorker called it "as rich a film as you will see this spring ... The picture is magnificent as a sketch of storm and struggle on the ocean."
According to MGM records the film earned $1,688,000 in the US and Canada and $1,445,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $1,488,000.
- Best Picture – Louis D. Lighton, producer
- Best Film Editing – Elmo Veron
- Best Writing, Screenplay – Marc Connelly, John Lee Mahin and Dale Van Every
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- Manuel Fidello – Nominated Hero
- 2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – #94
In popular culture
Holden Caulfield, protagonist of the 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, is thought to look like Harvey Cheyne, as in the book a prostitute tells Caulfield that he looks like the boy who falls off a boat in a film costarring Melvyn Douglas, though the film is not mentioned by name.
The film is considered a classic semi documentary record of Grand Banks Schooners fishing under sail. The back projection shots of the period fishing schooners under sail are frequently watched by members of the American Sail Training Community for the sailing shots - rather than for the human plot.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Nugent, Frank S. (May 12, 1937). "Movie Review: Captains Courageous". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
- "Film reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. May 19, 1937. p. 22.
- "Captains Courageous". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 71 May 1, 1937.
- Mosher, John (May 15, 1937). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 105.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-14.