The Golden Hawk (1952) Poster

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Rhonda was hot and feisty
tonopah623 August 2009
Kit Gerardo (Hayden) has a strong motive to get revenge over his mother's death, carrying the quest for twenty years against Captain Luis Del Toro; but when an opportunity arises, instead of killing the man, he collects a ransom from a prisoner he holds, which happens to be Del Toro's fiancée. He also battles other foes, some of which were on land while riding horses after getting commissioned by a French leader to destroy the Spanish settlements - in return he and his men can be rewarded with land to settle on.

Rhonda Fleming was Captain Rouge, and she was a pirate; but this was not discovered until after the first 30 minutes. Now that delay had some circumstances for her, and would have been okay if she still would have maintained her Captain's status, giving off vibrations that definitely could put a man in erection city; but she soon ends up back on her plantation, becoming a victim to Kit Gerardo's men who are on that mission to destroy settlements … stoking her hatred of men.

Part of Hayden's character was to be a lover, and he passes the test since he does not overdo any charming routine. His success with women sure does take a nose dive, though; he finds that the fiancée and Captain Rouge are women who sure are fickle: one minute they want Kit Gerardo dead, and the next minute they want his loins … all this in the midst of a twist in the story.

There were believable characters, authentic clothes, villages … good fighting scenes, and beautiful mature women - a pretty good swashbuckler for only half of the movie being filmed at sea. The reason I gave it a 7 instead of an 8 was because of Rhonda's character not staying in her pirate's mode.
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Medium-budget pirate film with above-average script
Brian Camp28 September 2014
When I saw that Sam Katzman was the producer of THE GOLDEN HAWK, I really wasn't expecting much, given his reputation for turning out dozens of low-budget potboilers during his long career. In 1952 alone, the year of this film's release, he produced nine features (five of them in color) and three 15-chapter serials. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by THE GOLDEN HAWK. It had a much more intricate story than usual for Katzman's pirate "epics," boasted much better production values, and offered a more high-powered pair of leads—Sterling Hayden and Rhonda Fleming--than we usually got from him. I'm guessing that Katzman lavished more care on this because the source material—a best-seller by prominent historical novelist Frank Yerby—was more prestigious than anything he usually had to work with. Only one previous Yerby novel had resulted in a screen adaptation—THE FOXES OF HARROW, a lavish 1948 historical drama from 20th Century Fox which starred Rex Harrison and Maureen O'Hara—and only one subsequent work was adapted—THE SARACEN BLADE (1954), also produced by Katzman.

I was especially taken with Rhonda Fleming's character, who has more than one name in the course of the film, given the multiple identities she takes on. We see her most often as "Rouge," a notorious English pirate queen who is frequently at odds with the hero of the piece, French privateer Kit Gerardo (Hayden), despite the fact that they're in love with each other. She even shoots him at one point when he enters her bedroom and looms over her in her sleep. (It isn't what she thinks it is, but how was she supposed to know that?) Fleming has a dramatic scene where she lambastes Gerardo and his pirate crew for pillaging the land she'd successfully developed into a Caribbean plantation under a new identity during a long absence from the narrative. A bigger-budget Hollywood historical drama might have focused more on her character and the turn of events that created the plantation.

Helena Carter (INVADERS FROM MARS) is quite good as Bianca de Valdiva, a Spanish lady who falls for Gerardo but winds up marrying his chief nemesis, Captain Luis del Toro (John Sutton), a Spanish officer charged with ridding the region of French pirates and privateers. Carter has a regal quality about her as she deals with each of the characters in turn and sizes them up properly before deciding what course of action is best for her. She and Fleming have a heart-to-heart talk late in the film that's actually quite moving. It's the kind of thing we don't see often from women characters in these types of genre films. John Sutton as the Spanish captain is not the cardboard villain he was in so many of these films (e.g. CAPTAIN PIRATE, SANGAREE), but a fair-minded man with secret knowledge about Gerardo that invokes a compassionate response.

Hayden's pirate team consists of Paul Cavanaugh, Michael Ansara, and Raymond Hatton, and all three actors are in the film from beginning to end and seem to be having the time of their lives. Cavanaugh was 63 when he made this and Hatton was 64 (and usually playing old coots in westerns by this point), yet the characters are quite vigorous and the two performers engage in a lot of physical action. Speaking of which, Fleming and Hayden perform a lot of action as well. Hayden seems to do all of his own swordfighting in a duel early on with Cavanaugh (who's doubled in much of the scene), while Fleming does a swimming scene that looks pretty rigorous.

There is a climactic battle between the French fleet at sea and the Spanish fortress at Cartagena which is pretty spectacular for a sequence chiefly involving miniatures and studio sets.

I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of the film, only for its entertainment value as a mid-range studio genre film with colorful sets and costumes, plenty of action, a fast pace, intriguing characters and lively, energetic performers. If there is one false note, it's the sequence set on a South Seas Island with Polynesian dancers and natives, including one veteran Hawaiian actor on hand, Al Kikume (Chief Mehevi in John Ford's THE HURRICANE, 1937). I thought this movie was set in the Caribbean, halfway around the world from Polynesia. Unless Hayden and his crew took a trip there on some business and just didn't tell the movie audience where they were going.
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A Sam Katzman Special
boblipton23 August 2009
This Sam Katzman production is actually pretty good, considering the talent in front of the camera and the botched story. Sterling Hayden shows some life as a French privateer and, considering the by-the-numbers acting -- which seems to concentrate more on the clarity of the words than the subtlety of the emotions -- even Rhonda Fleming as another pirate captain with whom he is in love, is pretty good.

The best part of the movie, however, is provided by William Skall's cinematography. A Technicolor specialist, he keeps the camera moving in a lively fashion throughout and seems to have settled on 17th Century Dutch painting, with frequent Rembrandt-like dark backgrounds and muted tones for a lot of shots. This was something you could do with Technicolor, playing around with the chroma of the prints, that was lost when Technicolor fell out of fashion, that has only recently been restored to modern movies by computer techniques.

There isn't much that will surprise anyone familiar with pirate movies, but the overall effect is worthwhile.
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Peyton Place On The High Seas!
William Giesin23 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Actor Sterling Hayden made his screen debut in 1941 in two adventure type of films "Virginia" and "Bahama Passage" and became the heart throb of many teenage girls. He soon became disgusted with the movie industry and joined the United States Marines and became a member of the OSS. Hayden may well have been a real life adventurer but was poorly miscast as a vengeful pirate in this Peyton Place On The High Seas "B" Movie wannabe epic. What this movie has going for it is; 1) Glorious Technicolor 2) The gorgeous Rhonda Flemming 3) a solid veteran character cast 4) beautiful sets and scenery. Having said that, the plot is so horrid that it is almost laughable. I don't know whether to blame Frank Yerby, the author of "The Golden Hawk" or the director Sidney Salkow for the terribly miscast lead. Kit Gerardo aka The Hawk (Sterling Hayden) is a French Pirate that sets out to revenge the death of his mother. He believes the culprit is none other than the Spanish Captain Luis del Toro (John Sutton). During The Hawk's pursuit of the evil Luis del Toro he winds up capturing i.e., rescuing two beautiful women. One is a lady turned pirate named Captain Rouge (Rhonda Fleming) and the other is Blanca de Valdiva (Helen Carter). Complications arise when Blanca de Valdiva finds herself in a situation where she is engaged to Luis del Toro, and at the same time hopelessly in love with his arch rival, The Hawk. Blanca's love for The Hawk is not reciprocated for The Hawk has become smitten with Captain Rouge (Fleming). More complications follow as The Hawk unknowingly burns down Captain Rouge's Plantation in an effort to destroy his nemeses Luis del Toro supply line. Now Captain Rouge finds herself in a position of hating the man she really loves. Apparently, Captain Rouge was a lady that had lost her family's Plantation many years ago and has turned pirate to get it back. Confusing? You bet! It gets even more confusing with a twist that will end all twist in the closing scenes. Unfortunately, the ironic twist that is to come is almost like a "we'e running out of film...we better wrap things up" type of thing. Near the end of the film Captain Rouge (Fleming) rescues The Hawk and Bernardo Diaz (Michael Ansara) from prison. Upon his release The Hawk orders Captain Rouge to have his men fire on the fortress. The lady pirate confirms the fact that she now realizes that she loves The Hawk with a submissive, "I never thought I would be taking orders from a man!" Pirate ships now surround the fortress and blow down it's impregnable walls. The audience is soon hit with the zinger to end all zingers when Luis del Toro (Sutton) now a captive of The Hawk says, "You show great concern for your prisoner, Captain." The Hawk responds, "I should show great concern for my father." Ah, now the audience realizes why Sutton has been so reluctant to punish his son, Hayden. As they explain away the death of The Hawk's mother as an accident, I am left wondering why did they kill so many people over such a big misunderstanding or more importantly "Why does the son look as old as the father?"
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Lady Pirate Gets Her Men
bkoganbing12 October 2009
Although Rhonda Fleming and Maureen O'Hara were both Titian-tressed beauties whom technicolor was seemingly invented, O'Hara was known for playing the kind of parts that she would have been playing in The Golden Hawk, that of a lady pirate. I wonder if Sam Katzman sent this script to the wrong redhead or he couldn't get O'Hara and settled for Rhonda Fleming.

As history I really couldn't quite figure out just when The Golden Hawk is taking place. We've got Spanish pirate John Sutton, French pirate Sterling Hayden, and English lady pirate Fleming. Add to that Helena Carter who is the promised bride of Sutton who Hayden holds for a ransom at one point. So we've got the nationalities straight, but I couldn't figure out the time and place historically for how these alliances seem to shift and change.

As for the casting these are all competent players, but Sterling Hayden is as French as Anna May Wong. As for Sutton, fine actor that he is why didn't Sam Katzman go get Gilbert Roland who would have been believable. Maybe he did and Roland turned him down.

The hidden plot gimmick is that there's something going on between Sutton and Hayden which I can't reveal. There are some nice battle sequences, but that's the best thing The Golden Hawk has to recommend it.

Maureen and Gilbert dodged a bullet with this one.
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And now a message from a frustrated history teacher....
MartinHafer2 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Despite the likes of Maureen O'Hara and Rhonda Fleming playing pirate captains in movies, there never, ever was a pirate captain that was a female except in Hollywood! There are only two European women who are readily accepted as being pirates (Mary Read and Anne Bonny), they were NOT in charge and both were crew members and lovers of Calico Jack Rackham-a very, very minor pirate indeed aside from the novelty of these two female pirates among his small crew. And, I doubt if either Bonny or Read were smokin'-hot redheads like the female pirates brought to us in films! Now there was the wife of a famous Chinese pirate who gained a lot of fame and power (Cheng I Sao) but she bore no similarity to this Hollywood cliché In addition, many pirates in films are so perfect and kind and sweet you wonder if any pirate was like this. Well, a few were (such as Bartholmew Roberts--who insisted on conducting prayer meetings for his men), but most were NOTHING like the film versions. They were neither the autocratic toughies nor the noble gentlemen--and most often just some thug who was more likely to be an alcoholic and rapist than the gentile guy you see in films!

So, as a world history teacher, I must say up front that this film and many like it DO irritate me. It featured a female pirate (Fleming) and a swell pirate captain (Sterling Hayden) who was the epitome of everything a pirate could not have been! So please enjoy this film...but also understand this is nothing like real least not on this planet!! Hayden plays the Hawk, a French pirate (with a strong American accent) who has been trying to even the score between him and an evil Spanish pirate (why do the baddies always have to be Spanish in these films?!). However, when he has the chance to do so, he doesn't--making him a bit of a loser among any self-respecting pirate! In addition, when he captures a comely woman, he always is sure to let them know that he will NEVER force himself on them--even giving them a loaded gun to use if they feel he is not accepting 'NO' as answer!! Eventually, though, this pro-social attitude towards date rape comes to haunt him, as one of the women (Fleming) turns out to be a pirate herself in disguise as a lady--and she shoots him and escapes!! So much for the gun routine! Well, frankly, there is more to the film (such as an attack on a Spanish stronghold) but I found my attention waning badly...because the film was so ordinary and uninteresting. Even for a totally clichéd Hollywood film, this one was poor! Uninteresting and, at best, routine.
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