By Philip Schweier
Captain Blood, and keeping Errol Flynn in mind, I also added The Sea Hawk, both books by Raphael Sabatini.
However, I recently got a copy of The Sea Hawk (1940) on DVD, and was surprised to learn the story is nothing like the novel. The movie is instead based on Beggars of the Sea by Seton I. Miller. Sabatini or not, it still makes for an interesting film.
In the aftermath of the success of 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk attempted to reunite many of the principals. Michael Curtiz returned to direct, as well as actors Flynn and Claude Rains. Erich Wolfgang Korngold provided music once more. Olivia de Havilland and Basil Rathbone, having been featured opposite Flynn in Captain Blood (1935), chose to pass.
In a private audience with the queen, Queen Elizabeth and Captain Thorpe hatch a plan to send the Albatross to Panama, the source of Spanish gold, and hijack as much gold as the ship can manage. All this wealth is intended to finance the development of the British Navy, as a means of defense. But Don Jose and Wolfingham have eyes on Thorpe, and are able to suss out from Thorpe’s chart maker his next objective. They manage to lay a trap for Thorpe and his men, which results in them being chained to oars of a Spanish galleon.
By 1940, some of these adventures had become old hat, especially when starring so many of the same actors. Other veterans from Robin Hood included Alan Hale and Una O’Connor, repeating the same types of roles as before.
The DVD I watched featured a “Warner Bros. Night at the Movies,” which included an intro by Leonard Maltin. I have never cared for Maltin, not since he did movie reviews for Entertainment Tonight back in the late 1970s. He’s always come across as a bit pompous to me, so I skipped the intro.
Nothing comes of her screen test, and on the verge of going home, she opens a letter given her by her grandmother (Clara Blandick). “Open it only when you feel you have to come home,” Gramma said. Instead of a train ticket home, Alice finds a letter, encouraging Alice to stick it out despite her frustration. It finishes with the line, “…and if you come home without making it as a star, I’ll wring your neck.” Whoa! Grandma’s showing some tough love.
Yes, kids, like most Hollywood fables, it’s all been a dream, but not without its truth. Hopefully, it made one starry-eyed teenager think twice before journeying to Hollywood, only to become another Elizabeth Short (look her up). As for the star of the short, Joan Leslie, she enjoyed steady work in Hollywood, being featured in such films as Sergeant York and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Eventually she moved into television in the 1950s before leaving the business. In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s she returned to small roles on television shows such as The Incredible Hulk and Murder, She Wrote.
Anyone hoping for the same thrill from The Sea Hawk completes the Errol Flynn hat-trick, but anyone hoping for the same thrills as the Adventures of Robin Hood may be disappointed.