Sea Hawk, The (1940)

The Sea Hawk (1940), directed by Michael Curtiz.

Errol Flynn at his swashbuckling peak. He had it all: face, physique and athletic ability, intelligence and charm, and a comedic talent that was never fully exploited. He had about ten good years on the screen; too much hard living ruined his career.

Amazing what they could do in the studio in those days. Epic hand-to-hand sea battles and great sword fights. Steamy Central American jungles, trial before the Inquisition, chained to the rowing benches as a galley slave, then escape and the heroic conclusion.

We also have a romance subplot, but it is a pretty low simmer.

Rich cast: Flora Robson was born to play QE1, which she did more than once. The conspiracy of the homely queen with her dashing privateer is fun to watch. The plot is already heavy with 1940 political significance; her rousing speech tacked on at the end just drives it home.

Claude Rains and Henry Daniell provide their reliable villainy. For comic asides we have Alan Hale and Una O'Connor.

Brenda Marshall is the romantic lead. I have nothing against her, but was Olivia de Havilland unavailable, or had she had enough of Michael Curtiz by this time? I know she also got fed up with Flynn although they did work together again. Asked if she was ever a Flynn conquest she said, "I was tempted, but never succumbed."

Famously lush and rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

As I recall, Warner owned the film rights to Rafael Sabatini's book, but in this case they used just the title and not his plot.

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