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The Sea Hawk (1940)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, History | 1 July 1940 (USA)
Geoffrey Thorpe, a buccaneer, is hired by Queen Elizabeth I 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.



(screen play), (screen play)

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. See more awards »



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Brian Hawke of the Royal Navy versus the pirates of Madagascar.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sir John Burleson
Lord Wolfingham
Miss Latham
Capt. Lopez
Danny Logan
Julien Mitchell ...
Oliver Scott
J.M. Kerrigan ...
Eli Matson
Martin Burke


Geoffrey Thorpe is an adventurous and dashing pirate, who feels that he should pirate the Spanish ships for the good of England. In one such battle, he overtakes a Spanish ship and when he comes aboard he finds Dona Maria, a beautiful Spanish royal. He is overwhelmed by her beauty, but she will have nothing to do with him because of his pirating ways (which include taking her prized jewels). To show his noble side, he suprises her by returning the jewels, and she begins to fall for him. When the ship reaches England, Queen Elizabeth is outraged at the actions of Thorpe and demands that he quit pirating. Because he cannot do this, Thorpe is sent on a mission and in the process becomes a prisoner of the Spaniards. Meanwhile, Dona Maria pines for Thorpe and when he escapes he returns to England to uncover some deadly secrets. Exciting duels follow as Thorpe must expose the evil and win Dona Maria's heart. Written by Julie Sherman <jsherma@hubcap.clemson.edu>

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Dashing...romantic...Errol Flynn at his thrilling best! See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 July 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Beggars of the Sea  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,700,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (re-release)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)


| (Sepiatone) (Panama Sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


By this point, Errol Flynn was the studio's top male star, bringing in more at the box office than any others on the roster, but he felt that he was not given the same deferential treatment as some of his colleagues. Flynn always felt ill-treated by the studio and was at frequent loggerheads with Jack L. Warner, who ran the West Coast operation. Warner, in turn, was tired of the constant problems he had with his star. Attempting to scare him into line, the studio tested contract player Dennis Morgan for the role, but it was never really going to be anyone else's picture but Flynn's --and he knew it. See more »


The opening sea engagement between the Albatross and the Spanish ship shows The Spanish ship using galley slaves to move the ship. The captain makes an open apology saying "The sails cannot entice the wind", and yet the Albatross closes under full sail and catches up to the Spanish ship within a few minutes. This is impossible, even if both ships were under full sail, it would take hours for one ship to close enough for combat when first sighted by the lookout. See more »


[first lines]
King Philip II: The riches of the New World are limitless, and the New World is ours - with our ships carrying the Spanish flag on seven seas, our armies sweeping over Africa, the Near East, and the Far West; invincible everywhere... but on our own doorstep. Only northern Europe holds out against us; why? Tell me, why?
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Featured in Visions of Light (1992) See more »


Strike for the Shores of Dover
(1940) (uncredited)
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Lyrics by Jack Scholl and Howard Koch
Sung by the oarsmen when they take over the ship
Played also in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Capstone to Errol Flynn's Swashbucklers!
26 August 2003 | by (Las Vegas, Nevada) – See all my reviews

THE SEA HAWK is usually listed with THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and CAPTAIN BLOOD as Errol Flynn's finest films, an honor it richly deserves. Filmed in 1940, at the peak of Flynn's popularity, before the sensational rape trial and revelations of his hedonistic lifestyle combined to tarnish his reputation and gradually make his screen persona more of a roué and less heroic, the film combined all of the classic 'Flynn' elements; spectacular battles, a chaste but passionate romance, wonderful camaraderie, a thoroughly despicable villain, and a climactic light/shadow sword fight finale to top things off, accompanied by the fabulous music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. This is a FABULOUS film adventure!

Based on the privateering adventures of Sir Francis Drake and the 'Sea Dogs' of Elizabethan times, the WB lifted the title from a Rafael Sabatini novel, and changed the 'Sea Dogs' to 'Sea Hawks' (which DOES sound more romantic!). Flynn is Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe, a brilliant commander in the 'Horatio Hornblower' mold, adored by his crew (led by the irreplaceable Alan Hale, of course!), admired by his fellow Sea Hawks, and even respected by his Spanish adversaries. As the film opens, his ship, the Albatross, having crossed the Atlantic in record time, takes on a giant Spanish galleon carrying the new Ambassador to England (Claude Rains, in a small but memorable role) and his daughter, Maria (played by the luminous Brenda Marshall, who has always been unfairly judged as a 'substitute' for Olivia de Havilland; Miss de Havilland would have been totally wrong in the role of an innocent Spanish girl!) After a breathtaking battle, featuring the kind of cutlass-swinging pandemonium director Michael Curtiz was famous for, Thorpe is victorious, and the Spaniards and their cargo are transferred to the Albatross. (Wonderful Hispanic actor Gilbert Roland has a nice bit as the Spanish captain, granted the right to be the last to leave his sinking ship).

Thorpe is immediately smitten by Maria, but, in true Hornblower fashion, is uncomfortable trying to talk to her, much to the amusement of his crew! This discomfort doesn't apply to ALL women, however; to Queen Elizabeth, wonderfully portrayed by Flora Robson (for the second time, as she'd played the Virgin Queen in the earlier FIRE OVER ENGLAND), Thorpe displays a rakish charm that she secretly adores. (This was Flynn's second film in two years dealing with the monarch; as lover/potential usurper to a more neurotic Elizabeth, played by Bette Davis, in 1939's THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, she chopped off his head...something Davis, who despised Flynn, would have liked to have done in real life, as well!)

Despite the growing love between Maria and Thorpe, he has a brilliant scheme, attacking a Spanish treasure port in Central America by land, so he's off again, with Elizabeth's secret blessings. Unfortunately, traitorous Lord Wolfingham (played to slimy perfection by Henry Daniell), figures out the plan, and warns the Spanish, who defeat Thorpe and his crew in the jungle (a wonderful, sepia-toned sequence), then subjects the survivors to a life chained to the oars of a Spanish galleon. Discovering Wolfingham's duplicity, and ultimate goal of power after the Spanish Armada crushes England, Thorpe and his crew manage to break free of their chains, capture the Spanish ship, and race back to England, culminating in a spectacular climactic duel between Thorpe and Wolfingham, and Elizabeth's rousing "We'll build an Armada" speech added to the script to inspire an audience witnessing the beginning of WWII.

A rousing adventure, THE SEA HAWK marked the pinnacle of Errol Flynn's rollercoaster career, and is a true classic of the genre!

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