Movie #121: The Sea Hawk (1940)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Alan Hale, Flora Robson

Academy Award Nominations (1941):

Best Art Direction: Anton Grot

Best Music, Scoring: Erich Wolfgang Korgold

Best Sound Recording: Warner Bros. Studio Sound Department, Nathan Levinson

Best Special Effects (Photographic Effects): Byron Haskin, Sound Effects by Nathan Levinson

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“Geoffrey Thorpe (Flynn), a buccaneer, is hired by Queen Elizabeth I (Robson) to nag the Spanish Armada. The Armada is waiting for the attack on England and Thorpe surprises them with attacks on their galleons where he shows his skills on the sword.” (from IMDB).

As a movie fan, I’m usually pretty easy to please.  In any film, even a terrible one, I try to find a redeeming and enjoyable quality.  Though I’m far more familiar with modern movies, this project (that I’ve apparently been on a very long break from) has expanded my horizons and helped me gain an appreciation for the different eras of film making.  Though I’ve seen a number of the major movies from Hollywood’s Golden Era, I would have never watched The Sea Hawk without doing this project.

The Sea Hawk is entertaining for its time.  The storytelling is good, there is a good balance of action and drama.  Dialogue is intentional and well placed.  There isn’t too much emphasis on the political elements or the action on the high seas.  The scenes in Queen Elizabeth’s court and aboard Thorpe’s ship complement each other and advance the story.  All the characters have their various charms, and the pacing worked.

Though I’m very limited on his work, it makes sense that this is probably one of Errol Flynn’s biggest roles.  He does a fine job of bringing out the various traits of his character.  He is calculated and reasonable in his action as a captain.  His character is beloved by his crew, dreaded by his enemies, and respected by his peers.  He also excels in his romantic involvement with Don Jose’s (Rains) niece Dona Maria (Marshall).  While the progression of their relationship is a bit cliché, it still works.

I came in with little expectation.  The pleasant surprise for me in this film was Flora Robson.  I’m familiar with Elizabeth I as a historical figure, and Robson’s performance was great because she demonstrates strength and reasonable judgement as a leader.  The scene where she puts the needs of her people ahead of what she personally believed was the best course of action as especially touching.  It was probably a combination of good writing, direction, and acting that made this scene stand out.

The Sea Hawk brought back Director Michael Curtiz, composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold and actors Flynn, Rains, and Alan Hale, a winning combination from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).  It’s been far too long since I’ve seen Robin Hood to make comparisons and contrasts between the two films, so all I can say is they found a formula that worked and so they kept it going.

Will I watch this one again? Probably not.

Am I glad I watched it? Yes.  The version I watched was the colorized version, so if I were to watch it again, it would be to see it in its original black and white format.

Would I recommend seeing it? Yes, as least once.

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