Pirates of Tortuga

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Pirates of Tortuga
"Pirates of Tortuga" (1961).jpg
Directed byRobert D. Webb
Written byJesse Lasky Jr.(as Jesse L. Lasky Jr.)
Pat Silver
Melvin Levy
Based onstory by Mel Levy
Produced bySam Katzman
StarringKen Scott
Letícia Román
Dave King
John Richardson
Rafer Johnson
Robert Stephens
CinematographyEllis W. Carter
Edited byHugh S. Fowler
Music byPaul Sawtell
Bert Shefter
Clover Productions
Distributed byTwentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (USA)
Release date
October 1961 (USA)
Running time
97 min.
CountryUnited States

Pirates of Tortuga is a 1961 DeLuxe Color American swashbuckler film which invented an alternate history for the actual Welsh privateer Henry Morgan. It was released in October 1961 in the United States in CinemaScope.[2]


In the 17th century, a Welsh captain (Ken Scott) and his crew are dispatched to the Spanish-controlled island of Tortuga, where famed privateer Henry Morgan (Robert Stephens) has defected from his support of the English empire and is running a strictly piratical venture, stopping any and all vessels, including British carriers. Since the captain cannot attack the island without incurring the wrath of the Spanish government, he must go one-on-one with Morgan himself.

A comely female (Leticia Roman) inadvertently stows away on the captain's vessel and becomes the de facto central focus of the story (Morgan doesn't appear until the latter half of the film). She is initially deposited on the nearby island of Jamaica, where she makes a halfhearted play for the colonial governor, but eventually readjusts her sights on the captain himself. In the meantime, the captain fully engages in pursuing the pirate Morgan.



The film was made by Sam Katzman's unit at 20th Century Fox. Their first film had been The Wizard of Baghdad. He did this under a verbal agreement with Buddy Adler then in September 1960 Robert Goldstein signed him to a three picture contract. These were to be Gentlemen Pirates written by Mel Levy, a film about Mississippi gamblers written by Jesse Lasky Jr. and Pat Silver, and Cypress Gardens by Lou Morheim.[3] In the end he wound up making only one movie at Fox, Pirates of Tortuga (1961).

Robert Webb signed to direct in December 1960.[4] The same month, singer Dave King was signed to play a support role.[5] Robert Stephens was then also under contract to Fox and was put in the cast. So too was Rafer Johnson.[6] It was the first lead for Ken Scott who had been under contract to Fox for five years.[7]

Filming started 11 January 1961. The film was shot entirely on the Fox backlot in Los Angeles, using the water tank that have been created for the TV series Adventures in Paradise. Johnson later recalled filming scenes of steering the boat "as a lot of fun, as were the scenes of fencing and hand to hand combat."[8]


The Los Angeles Times called the film "pure costume".[9]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p253
  2. ^ PIRATES OF TORTUGA Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 29, Iss. 336, (Jan 1, 1962): 24.
  3. ^ "Sam Katzman on Exhib Vagaries". Variety. 28 September 1960. p. 3.
  4. ^ Family-Type Film Seen on Increase: TOA Notes 'Tot Plot' Trend; Bregman to Film 'Evil Weak' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 7 Dec 1960: C11.
  5. ^ Jean Negulesco to Film 'Angela' in Sicily, Rome Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 17 Dec 1960: e4.
  6. ^ VOTE JOHNSON BEST FOR 1960: Rafer Thrilled by Olympic Victory Johnson Is World's Top '60 Athlete Chicago Daily Tribune 28 Jan 1961: 1.
  7. ^ Hopper, Hedda (2 April 1961). "Heavies Hang Heavy, So He Turns Hero". Los Angeles Times. p. m9.
  8. ^ Johnson, Rafer (1998). The best that I can be. Doubleday. p. 165.
  9. ^ 'Explosive Generation' Overly Superficial Stinson, Charles. Los Angeles Times 28 Oct 1961: 13.

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