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The Buccaneer
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The Buccaneer More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

surprisingly terrific

9/10
Author: asinyne from United States
12 April 2008

I caught this movie on TCM today and found myself throughly entertained. To my knowledge this was my first ever viewing. The cast was simply superb.....practically everyone. Fredric March was so dashing and effective, I had never realized what a talent this guy was. He even pulled off a French accent flawlessly....whoa! This version of The Buccaneer is simply far superior to the 1958 film which I've seen a couple of times. There was real magic in Hollywood during the 1930s, I'm not sure that town has ever totally recaptured what they had back then. This movie definitely belongs in there with the A list that includes Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Captain Blood, Beau Geste, Tarzan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, King Kong and all the rest. The script was by a GREAT historical novelist named Harold Lamb. This was a huge bonus for this movie. The story sticks fairly close to history and has a terrific pace. My only complaints are relatively minor....the battle at the end didn't quite live up to my expectations(though it probably did realistically portray the excitement and confusion of the participants) and Lafitte could have simply told the truth about the ship Corinthian which was sunk on the orders of another Pirate, not Lafitte. This was the reason Lafitte got chased away from New Orleans (according to the movie at least) Great movie, great leading man, great writing, great cast, great direction, great sets.....a classic. Oh yes, the actor portraying Andrew Jackson was dead on.....not that I have actually met Old Hickory mind you!

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

We Fought the Bloody British for the Town of New Orleans

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
8 April 2006

Cecil B. DeMille in 1938 turned his talent for spectacle to the legend of pirate Jean Lafitte and his contribution for saving New Orleans from British occupation in 1815 at the battle that bears the city's name.

The ironic part is that the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812 had been signed a few weeks earlier, but news had neither reached the invading army commanded by General Edward Pakenham, brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington; nor the Americans either in Washington, DC or the civil and military authorities in New Orleans. Had the British won they probably would have stayed for several years, I'm sure they wouldn't have given up so valuable a possession as the city that controlled the mouth of the Mississippi river.

Jean Lafitte is one of those characters not from antiquity about whom we know neither the date of his birth or death. He was born either in France or Haiti around 1780 and probably died sometime in the 1840s. As soon as the Louisiana territory was purchased from France, he set himself up in business nearby New Orleans in the swamps of Barataria and did a flourishing business in the smuggling trade. He may have had as many as a thousand men under his command.

Even after the fledgling American Navy attacked his stronghold, Lafitte for reasons of his own sided with the Americans in the fight for New Orleans that had nothing to do with the fictional romance portrayed in The Buccaneer. He did however provide men and supplies to Andrew Jackson's army and may have tipped the balance of the fight. Though he got a pardon as shown in the film, he resumed his pirate ways and eventually left New Orleans for Galveston Island. Eventually he was driven out of there in the next decade and after that we have no idea what really happened to him, though there is speculation.

Fredric March makes a dashing Jean Lafitte and DeMille staged the battle up to his usual high standards of spectacle. In addition to the fictitious romance between Lafitte and the Governor of Louisiana's daughter played by Margot Grahame, the other part of the film that is wholly fictional is that involving the traitorous United States Senator played by Ian Keith. No such a person was around New Orleans, though there was an anti-war movement breaking out here, but in New England which saw its commercial trade ruined by both Jefferson's Embargo and the War of 1812.

One thing that DeMille didn't do either in this film or the remake in 1958 was focus on Pakenham. The army that went to its slaughter in the swamps near New Orleans in a headlong assault were a veteran bunch of troops who had fought in the Peninsular War against Bonaparte. The commander was a much beloved brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington and he fell gallantly leading his men. Wellington thought of Ned Pakenham more like a kid brother of his own than his wife's brother. He took the news of the defeat pretty badly. In fact the news cast a pall over Great Britain so recently celebrating Napoleon's exile to Elba. Fortunately they and Wellington recovered to route Bonaparte in his comeback attempt at Waterloo.

Walter Brennan has a nice role as Andy Jackson's personal aide and Hugh Sothern is an impressive Jackson. DeMille introduced actress Franciska Gaal from Hungary in the role of castaway passenger from a ship that was plundered by one of Lafitte's ships. She didn't make much of an impression on the American public, perhaps it was her thick Magyar accent. After a film with Bing Crosby the following year, Paris Honeymoon, Gaal returned to Europe just in time for World War II and to a country allied with the Axis at that point. She was not heard from again on film.

When the remake came out in 1958, Paramount shelved this version of The Buccaneer and was rarely shown for the rest of the century. I got to see it during a TCM retrospective of Cecil B. DeMille. It's good DeMille, but far from good history.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Action Movie With A Touch Of History

8/10
Author: Craig Smith (csmith13@woh.rr.com) from Toledo, Ohio
13 December 2001

An excellent action movie with good pacing and development. There is never a dull moment. The movie shows more of Laffite's business dealings than with his pirate actions. In actual fact Laffite was quite a businessman that the governor did want captured and did put a price on his head of $500. Laffite did respond to that but not for the $10,000 the movie stated. One must never accept a movie's version of history but "The Buccaneer" does a quite credible job of drawing you into life in 1814 in New Orleans. Laffite was offered $30,000 and other inducements by the British and the Americans did not believe him (this was very accurate). His base in Barataria was destroyed though at a later time. When the battle was over he did go back to sea as a pirate. His days in New Orleans were indeed over. So, sit back and enjoy a movie that is good entertainment and is also pretty good history. This movie is proof that you can learn history from the movies.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Cecil B. DeMille's The Buccaneer is a rousing historical epic

7/10
Author: tavm from Baton Rouge, La.
21 July 2007

Having just moved back to Baton Rouge, La. in 2003 after living in Jacksonville, Fla. for the previous 16 years, I started getting reacquainted with the history of the state I had first lived much of my life from age 7 to 19. One of those sources was from this Cecil B. DeMille account of Louisiana's pirate-hero Jean Lafitte. It was he and his men who helped General Andrew Jackson with his troops defeat the British at The Battle of New Orleans. This was in exchange for a full pardon for him and his men after originally getting a price on his head from the Governor of The Pelican State. Fredric March makes a dashing Lafitte with Akim Tamiroff splendid as his sidekick Dominique. Margot Grahame is Lafitte's fiancée while Franciska Gaal is the Dutch girl Gretchen who falls for Jean after walking the plank from another ship that was lead by a man who betrayed Lafitte. Walter Brennan is funny here as Peavey, a sidekick to General Jackson (Hugh Sothern). Watch what happens when he and Tamiroff have a scene together! Because of some of the accents and the speed of some of the dialogue, I couldn't understand everything that was said but most of the time it was the action that got to me, especially when the American military men initially were attacking Lafitte's men as they were about to welcome them. Grahame and Gaal had their own feminine charms that made either one good chemistry with March so whichever one ended up with him would have been fine. I think I've said enough so I'll just say for anyone who loves a good old-fashioned story with some history thrown in, I highly recommend Cecil B. DeMille's The Buccaneer.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A pirate's life without a home country

10/10
Author: lora64 from Canada
26 August 2001

Plenty of action! Not a movie anyone will ever sleep through! The highs and lows of pirate life well depicted, even a "walking the plank" episode.

When Lafitte the notorious pirate (Fredric March) comes a-courtin' to the home of his lady-love, Annette (Margot Grahame), a matron cries out in alarm to hide the silver as he might steal it. Here was an instant recall of similar words uttered in the film "Les Miserables," an earlier role March played so well, where as Jean Valjean he was looked on with suspicion by the housekeeper after seeking shelter in a priest's home. But as the pirate Lafitte he has plenty of stolen goods to pass on.

Gretchen (Franciska Gaal) as a young Dutchwoman has a little terrier in tow at the beginning, and both are spunky! She soon encounters and falls in love with Lafitte and lets him know about it but sadly, his heart is elsewhere.

I really enjoyed seeing Akim Tamiroff portray Dominique with such flair. As a supporting actor his fine style has always been colorful and convincing in serious or lighter roles. He's fun to watch in this one.

Andrew Jackson (Hugh Sothern) gives us a glimpse of what war and fighting was really like in those early frontier days when militiamen were more often local recruits ill-prepared and ill-equipped.

One can only wonder what would have been the course of American history if Lafitte had lived elsewhere.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

One of a great director's best

8/10
Author: mclarenracer from United States
15 August 2007

NEWS! This title has just been released in a shoddy copy on DVD. Wait until TCM shows it instead. I watched this film a couple of times while working on my own script. The War of 1812 is pretty much forgotten, except in Canada where it is part of the national identity. This is one of only three films that I know of in that setting.

Jeanie Macpherson writes well. From the Burning of Washington to the treachery of people in high places (Senator Crawford may be fictional, but cowardly generals, smugglers and spies plagued the Northern Frontier earlier in the War--aka TREASON), the plot twists result in scenes of true emotional power. The ending is brilliantly foreshadowed so that the audience sees it coming like a runaway train. And the dialogue? Pay attention to the scene in which the pirates do not want to fight with the U.S. but with the British: March is given electric lines to speak. The only thing that I did not like was Dominique You's character. He is a bit too cartoonish.

Fredric March gives a very good performance as Lafitte, but Franciska Gaal is wonderful as the dutch girl who loves him.

The battle scenes hold up quite well today. This is obviously made by the same director as the magnificent The Crusades and Cleopatra. Its pace is also quicker than the first half of The Ten Commandments (1956).

DeMille was at his peak in the 1930s.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Classic.

8/10
Author: (ungrcanc) from Mexico
8 December 2007

This a classic swashbuckling film....seemingly a film very typical for Cecil B. De Mille. Fredric March is superb in his role as Jean Lafite....also interesting to see Anthony Quinn as early as 1938. Do enjoy this piece of cinematic artwork. One must also remember that historically Andrew " Old Hickory " Jackson was eventually a U. S. President. Personally...I feel that March, Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster (The Crimson Pirate) are the actors that best typified " Pirates " in classic Hollywood. Although today credit must be given to Johnny Depp in both of the Pirates of the Caribbean pictures which I thoroughly enjoyed and which of course reminded me of the above-mentioned actors and their films

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THE BUCCANEER (Cecil B. De Mille, 1938) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
18 March 2014

This was the third version I watched of the exploits of French pirate Jean Lafitte, but the first that was made; the others were LAST OF THE BUCCANEERS (1950) and the 1958 remake of the film under review. Interestingly, while De Mille himself produced the latter, he relinquished the directorial reins – presumably because he was too ill for the task – to his son-in-law, actor Anthony Quinn (who had a supporting role in the original!), whose only effort in this capacity it proved to be. For the record, two other cast members were similarly featured in both i.e. Douglass Dumbrille and Jack Pennick.

Anyway, this was also the third in my Fredric March epic viewings (with one more to go): it is telling that the star's tendency towards ham (not helped by his adopting a foreign accent – which did not really come into play when he interpreted an Italian in THE AFFAIRS OF CELLINI or a Russian in WE LIVE AGAIN {both 1934}!) was brought out by the director's idiosyncrasies (including a frequent resort to collective singing – albeit of patriotic American songs rather than the usual salty ditties!) that, evidently, were not restricted to his frequent religious ventures. While fine in itself, then, the movie emerges as perhaps the least of De Mille's 1930s spectacles. Incidentally, it had been planned for a local TV broadcast in the mid-1980s which never materialized!

As expected, the settings, crowd scenes and action highlights are elaborate as can be; the cast list, too, is extensive – peppered with familiar faces and even a few award-winning actors (a delightful Akim Tamiroff as March's sidekick and a grumpy Walter Brennan, who enters late into the proceedings as his counterpart to General and future American President Andrew Jackson). The latter is effectively played by one Hugh Sothern, who reprised the role a year later for the two-reel short OLD HICKORY. On the other hand, the major female presences (one spunky and the other stately) are decorative more than anything else – the former, Hungarian Franciska Gaal (here being groomed for U.S. stardom but which did not happen), is rather overbearing under the circumstances.

The narrative sees privateer Lafitte side with the Americans against the British in the war of 1812; traitorous Senator Ian Keith does his best to make him look bad in the eyes of the people of Louisiana, even having the Navy massacre the pirate band intending to support them!; ultimately, they face-off in a swordfight inside a jail. Eventually, the "boss" reaches an agreement with Jackson, and his contribution (led by former Napoleonic cannoneer Tamiroff's expertise) is vital in repelling the much larger enemy forces. However, when all differences seem to have been settled, an old crime – which a rogue section of Lafitte's men were responsible for but not he personally – resurfaces, so the buccaneer is forced to go into exile, forever roaming the seas…

Despite its historical pedigree, the film stands as an example of what used to be branded "enjoyable hokum", of which De Mille was a prime exponent; that said, its professionalism is undisputed and, in fact, Victor Milner's cinematography (which, for one night-time rallying sequence, turns sepia) garnered the movie its sole Oscar nomination. By the way, the "Leslie Halliwell Film Guide" erroneously lists this as having a mere 90-minute duration – when, in fact, the TCM-sourced print I watched (exhibiting some picture instability halfway through which, however, were smoothed over upon being replayed!) lasted a good deal more at 126!!

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3 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

pretty much what you'd expect from DeMille

5/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
6 March 2008

This film was pretty much what I expected from Cecil B. DeMille. In almost all of his films, you have a huge cast (this time in the thousands), elaborate sets and props, a rather silly romance and a desire for action and expense over realism and historical accuracy. Many love his films, but I find most of them time-passers.

As for the romance, this film features two for Jean Lafitte (Frederic March), though the dominant one involves Franciska Gaal. She's rather a comic book-like figure--more a caricature than a believable person and this is pure DeMille, as is the romantic dialog. At least it was much better than the lines uttered in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS by the Princess, but this isn't saying much. DeMille just had no ability to convey real people and real romance--he was more the epic action and spectacle sort of director.

Action-wise, there are some very long and well made scenes, though oddly, the naval sequences were awfully tepid. The battle scenes on land were handled much better and the costumes looked very nice.

Historically speaking, this isn't a bad film but it does contain many inaccuracies. Apart from glamorizing Jean Lafitte (who was a smuggler and total jerk), it seemed to exaggerate his importance to the Battle of New Orleans. While he did "rat" on the English by telling the Americans of their invasion plans, most accounts place the number of troops he sent to fight to be just a few dozen at most (though they were gunners--a welcome addition). Also, the fact that this battle actually took place a month AFTER the peace treaty was signed wasn't mentioned--as communication was such in 1815 that the British and Americans could not let the troops know that the war had ended for several more weeks. This made the outcome of the battle unimportant (but certainly not to the soldiers involved) and would have taken away from the excitement of the film, so it was simply omitted.

While I am complaining, I should also point out that the film never seemed to end. While it logically should have ended when this battle concluded, it continued and greatly lessened the film's impact and made me fidgety.

Overall, there's a lot of action (I'd give this an 8), some dopey romance and dialog (I'd give them a 3), some good and bad historically speaking (I'd give it a 5) and the movie was overly long. Overall, I think a score of 5 is merited. A decent time-passer but that's about all.

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