Captains Courageous (1937)

Passed  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Family  |  25 June 1937 (USA)
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Reviews: 71 user | 34 critic

Harvey Cheyne is a spoiled brat used to having his own way. When a prank goes wrong onboard an ocean liner Harvey ends up overboard and nearly drowns. Fortunately he's picked up by a ... See full summary »



(novel), (screen play), 3 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Oscar O'Shea ...
Priest (as Jack LaRue)
Walter Kingsford ...
Donald Briggs ...
Sam McDaniel ...
'Doc' (as Sam McDaniels)
Bill Burrud ...
Charles (as Billy Burrud)


Harvey Cheyne is a spoiled brat used to having his own way. When a prank goes wrong onboard an ocean liner Harvey ends up overboard and nearly drowns. Fortunately he's picked up by a fishing boat just heading out for the season. He tries to bribe the crew into returning early to collect a reward but none of them believe him. Stranded on the boat he must adapt to the ways of the fishermen and learn more about the real world. Written by Col Needham <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Most Exciting Picture Since "Mutiny On The Bounty" See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

25 June 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous  »

Box Office


$1,645,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Production was delayed for several days due to the death of Irving Thalberg. See more »


(at around 40 mins) Manuel holds a struggling Harvey from behind with the neck of Harvey's shirt in his left hand and the back of Harvey's pants in his right hand. Manuel says a line in close-up, then a close-up of Harvey shows Manuel holding the shirt with his right hand (at around 48 mins). See more »


Frank Burton Cheyne: Elliot, I'm going to be a father again.
Elliott: Good Heavens, Mr. Cheyne.
Elliott: No, no no Elliot... just that it seems that smart little boys from so-called wealthy well-bred parents don't grow up very successfully by themselves.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits are letters on planks, like the lettering on the side of ships, and between screen-fulls, a foaming wave of water splashes over it and then runs off. In the initial sets of credits, these appear to be actually letter-forms attached to the wood, as the water gets deflected by some of the letters; in later sets of credits, this effect is harder to see and the sets may be credits superimposed upon wood. See more »


Spoofed in Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938) See more »


Ooh What a Terrible Man
(1937) (uncredited)
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Music by Franz Waxman
See more »

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User Reviews

Guaranteed to reduce you to sobbing wreck
28 February 2005 | by (Copenhagen, Denmark) – See all my reviews

I dare anyone to sit through this film with dry eyes! Especially people of the male persuasion. There is simply no way it can be done.

Young teen Freddie Bartholomew is a snotty, spoilt brat, and on a cruise with his dad he falls overboard and is rescued by Portuguese fisherman Spencer Tracy who takes him to Captain Lionel Barrymore's commercial fishing ship. They can't afford to go give up their fishing to take the arrogant kid back to land, and so Freddie is forced to spend three months with the crew, gradually mellowing into a nice boy and evolving into a rugged, no-nonsense kid who dotes on Tracy's rough and ready Manuel.

Victor Fleming was never the most subtle of directors, and this adaptation of Kipling's story does not thrive on its wealth of detail or the ambiguity of emotion, but its sweep is epic and its heart so real that you feel you have been on a roller-coaster-ride. I loved the reels of the men fishing and preparing the fish, it had a nice documentary feel to it, akin to the silent 'Down to the Sea in Ships' that 'Captains Courageous' resembles a lot at times. The cinematography is beautiful, the mist and fog captured with finesse.

But this film is all about acting. Spencer Tracy got an Oscar for his acting as Manuel, cast against type. And although his performance verges on the sentimental, it never actually tips over. But the film belongs to Freddie Bartholomew who surely must have been tempted to overboard with emotion, but, miraculously, never does. This boy was an astute and intuitive actor, and he never sets a foot wrong. Mickey Rooney shines in an itsy bitsy part as the captain's son. He never tries to steal any scenes from Bartholomew (as one suspects he might, and could!), but concentrates on a brisk, matter-of-fact performance of this young pro of the sea, every movement he makes seems exactly right, again almost documentary-like.

Watch this film if you get the chance. They don't come much better, and yes, it will make you bawl and sob. Be warned.

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