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I don't know that much about the story of Captain Horatio Hornblower, so I
can't vouch for the accuracy of this version. I saw it because I was
interested in its director Raoul Walsh, who creates another of his roaring
and high-spirited masterworks with this serene, honest, swiftly-paced
adventure of the 19th-century British Fleet Captain, from the celebrated
three novels by C. F. Forester. Walsh depicts Hornblower, fantastically
incarnated by Gregory Peck, as a modest man characterized by a sense of duty
and honor. Peck is perfect for the role. Aided by stunning Technicolor
scenery and marvellous score, this simple epic on the high seas navigates
through several battles in Spain, France, and South America. Walsh's staging
of the battle scenes is flawless. But I was really impressed by the romantic
moments by Hornblower and Virginia Mayo's Lady Barbara Wellesley. Their love
scenes are wonderfully gentle and moving without being forcefully
"Captain Horatio Hornblower" is a great timeless classic from a master director.
Raoul Walsh has many great films to his credit and once you see his name as director, you know the man has imbued his work with all the panache of a great artist. To his credit and well placed among his best work is the sea epic " Captain Horatio Hornblower." This story comes from the fertile and imaginative mind of novelist C. S. Forester who's famed hero has spawned a dozen books, films and T.V. specials. In this particular movie, we have legendary actor Gregory Peck playing the gallant and dashing swashbuckler aboard His Majestys' ship Lydia, Her secret mission is placed in the mists of the Napoleonic wars, charged to deliver guns and ammunition to a pint-size delusional dictator Don Julian Alvarado (Alec Mango) who greets him as a ally but later becomes a belligerent adversary. To help him in his quest is, Lt. William Bush (Robert Beatty) an admirable and courageous second in command. Lt. Crystal (Moultrie Kelsall) an excellent navigator. 2nd Lt. Gerard, Gunnery Officer (Terence Morgan) and Mr. Longley, (James Kenny) Midshipman and junior ensign. Together, with James Justice as 'Seaman Quist' they spend five years on the high seas, braving hunger, thirst and war time experiences, including saving beautiful Lady Barbara Wellesley (Virginia Mayo). A fine story fit for re-telling to any generation ****
It's unfair that Raoul Walsh's name is labeled by the books as a
second-level filmmaker in relation with, say, a Ford or a Hawks. He was an
extraordinary crafted and prolific director, capable of incorporating
standard studio material into his own personal worldview. `Captain Horatio
Hornblower' is full of little moments that exceed any genre limitation.
These `sparkles of Truth' may be the tracking shot along the empty room
while Peck reads the letter of his deceased wife, or when Virginia Mayo
kisses the youngster the way his mother used to did. So the adventure film
becomes something bigger than life, just as `White Heat' used of the
conventions of the gangster film to turn into metaphysics, or `Colorado
Territory' departed the western into the depths of existentialism. This film
is enjoyable from beginning to end, and it's a clear predecessor of Peter
Weir's `Master and Commander', with which it shares a few tone, character
and plot elements.
This film has a great story (C.S.Forester wrote the script from his novels), solid lead acting from Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo as the romantic interest, super supporting cast, and that beautiful '50s technicolor! Push the pause button on this film anywhere; the cinematography is lush, gaudy and gorgeous! I don't know how historically accurate the battle scenes are, but they kept me glued. (Questions I had during the battle scene: doesn't it hurt when a mast falls on you? How do they clean up after the battle?) I don't know a yardarm from a topsail, but Gregory Peck convinced me he knew every time he'd squint up at the top of the mast, or yell out "clear for action!" I was a sucker for Midshipman Langley and Lady Wellsely's exchange after the battle but El Supremo's makeup man should have been whipped with the cat'o'nine tails! The ending was "way too" convenient: Let's hope A & E's rendition is a winner!
Adapted from C.S. Forester's saga, this movie condenses three of his novels from the Napoleonic era into a fine movie well worth watching. From the first few minutes of music and opening narrative where we first meet Hornblower (a captain of steel who uses his brains to defeat his enemies), the audience is hooked. Peck, in one of his best performances, plays the lead role to perfection in every way, right down to Hornblower's trademark "Ha - h'm." Mayo is well cast as Lady Barbara (the Duke of Wellington's sister) who manages to get under Hornblower's skin with the help of Cupid's arrows. This film deftly blends an array of fine performances, excellent camerawork, beautiful scenery, Robert Farnon's spirited musical score, and well- choreographed ship battle sequences into a brilliant work of art that will leave audiences - and fans of Forester's series - wanting to see it again. An excellent choice!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
C. S. Forester was the Patrick O'Brian of his day. Like O'Brian, he was
the author of a series of novels which had as their hero a British
naval commander of the Napoleonic Wars and, like O'Brian, he was highly
popular with the reading public. Although the exploits of Forester's
hero, Horatio Hornblower, have recently been made into a television
series, they have only served as the basis for one feature film.
I have not read all the Hornblower novels, and it is a long time since I read any of them. It is, however, quite clear that the film was based upon episodes cobbled together from at least two different novels. During the first half of the film, Captain Hornblower is commanding a British ship off the coast of Central America, where he tangles with a local ruler who has declared independence from Spain and made himself dictator. In the second half, Hornblower leads a daring raid on a French naval base and is taken prisoner by the enemy, but manages to escape back to Britain. The lack of any real connection between the two halves of the film means that it is not completely satisfactory in terms of structure; it might have worked better as two separate films.
There is one thread that links the two halves; the love affair between Hornblower and Lady Barbara Wellesley, the sister of the Duke of Wellington. The two fall in love after the unhappily married Hornblower rescues Lady Barbara, the fiancée of his superior officer Admiral Leighton, during his Latin American adventure. Following their return to Britain, Lady Barbara and Leighton are married, but Hornblower's wife and the Admiral both conveniently die before the end, leaving the lovers free to marry. Hornblower's wife does not appear in the film, so there is nothing to suggest what sort of a woman she was and why he was so unhappy with her. Again, I found this ending unsatisfactory for two reasons, both because it was too neat and because it seemed heartless to kill off two people to provide a "happy" ending for two others. The scriptwriters seem to have been following the plot of the novels too slavishly; it might have made for a better film if they had felt free to depart from Forester's text and make one, or both, of the lovers single.
This was the first of two successive films in which Gregory Peck played an officer in the armed forces; the other was Captain Richard Lance in "Only the Valiant". The two characters, however, are quite different, with very different styles of leadership. Whereas Lance is a strict disciplinarian, Hornblower is more liberal. We do see one seaman being flogged, but the order for this punishment is given by a junior officer. Hornblower reluctantly allows the flogging to go ahead on the grounds that to countermand an order given by a subordinate would undermine discipline, and in the hope that the barbarity of the procedure will persuade the young man to be more humane in future. Although there were exceptions such as his excellent Ahab in "Moby Dick", Peck was often at his best playing rational, liberal men of integrity, and I found this a better performance than the one he gave in "Only the Valiant".
Most people will not, however, watch this film either as a love story or as a study in leadership, but as a swashbuckling historical adventure, and on this level it works well. Although they are not quite as realistic as those in a modern film such as "Master and Commander", the battle scenes are well done. Forester was capable of writing stirring tales of adventure, and, at its best, this film succeeds in capturing his spirit of excitement. 6/10
Raul Walsh directs this action packed adventure, based on three novels by C.S. Forester. Captain Horatio Hornblower(Gregory Peck) is a stern 19th-century seafarer during the Napoleonic wars. He sometimes hides the truth from the hands on the ship Lydia in order to survive battles with Spain and France in Central American waters. Eight months into his mission he takes on board Lady Barbara Wellesley(Virgina Mayo) and her hand-maid for the return trip to England. Their love is professed, but will not continue for she is promised to a Rear Admiral soon to be Hornblower's commander. Along the way back to British shores Lady Barbara comes down ill and Hornblower nurses her back to health. This is a prelude to a serious situation in his own home. He arrives and finds that his wife has died in childbirth. His thoughts return to Lady Barbara, but she has already married. Plenty of action with cannon laden majestic ships in battle. The supporting cast features: Robert Beatty, James Kenney, Alec Mango, Denis O'Dea and Christopher Lee. Almost two hours of sea-going adventure in beautiful Technicolor.
This film is not frequently shown in Spanish television,but even with a clumsy Spanish dubbing-in which our heroic Hornblower changes his voice two times!one can see why it must be considered a classic of entertainment-Gregory Peck in his best years,ships, troubled romance,heroic sacrifice, the very Forester behind, and even a baby!And for me,its an extra pleasure checking a very young Christopher Lee trying to speak Spanish. This film is the perfect introduction for the still better, if possible, series starring Ioan Gruffudd which came so many years later.
I've seen this splendid movie many times and it just gets better. There's
such a good balance between the spectacles of graceful tall ships at sea,
then moments of battle, cannon roars exploding, crashing masts when all h...
breaks loose onboard, shipwrecks -- so many exciting exploits of war in the
Napoleonic era. Interspersed in all this are the tender interludes of
romance, anguished moments of caring for dying crew members, homecomings
that are too late, and it goes on.
Gregory Peck as Capt. Horatio Hornblower fills the role superbly, and Virginia Mayo as Lady Barbara is exquisite, tender and sincere. I almost wished those two had really married after the film was completed, but I'm dreaming of course. Denis O'Dea, as Rear Admiral Leighton, is a substantial supporting actor and a favorite of mine. As a rugged seaman, there's a young James Robertson Justice who is also destined for greater roles to come. I particularly liked him in The Sword and the Rose (1953), as King Henry VIII, a lighthearted adventure.
Enjoy this Capt. Horatio action-filled movie. Ah, the days of seafaring adventures!
This is a superior technicolor sea epic with Gregory Peck as a British Fleet captain during the Napoleonic Wars. Fine sea battle sequences top off this entertaining story of this Captain away from his wife at sea who also meets a beautiful British lady (Virginia Mayo) whom he must return to England in safety.
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