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John Paul Jones (1959) Poster

Goofs

Jump to: Anachronisms (5) | Character error (2) | Continuity (1) | Factual errors (5) | Revealing mistakes (1) | Spoilers (2)

Anachronisms 

The song played on the bagpipes early in the file, "Scotland the Brave", was not written until the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
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Commodore Hopkins expresses surprise at the idea of sending marines ashore to attack Fort Montegue. Such operations were actually quite common.
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At the beginning of the battle with HMS Serapis, Serapis is shown to resemble a frigate. Actually Serapis was a two deck, 44-gun ship, not a frigate. This is a common mistake.
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The narrator introduces a scene beginning "Three years before the Declaration of Independence...," which would make the year 1773. Immediately following this scene, Captain Jones arrives at his brother's shop in Virginia and is given his brother's books, which include "Common Sense" (1776), "American Crisis" (late 1776) and the text of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech, which was not in print until 1815. These publications could not possibly have been in his brother's possession in 1773 or 1774.
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Upon Captain Jones' return to Paris, he is taken in by Benjamin Franklin. This was not possible, as Jones did not return until May 1790 and Franklin had already been back in America for five years, since 1785. In fact, Franklin died a month earlier in Philadelphia, so he could not be in Paris to greet Jones as depicted.
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Character error 

Captain Jones tells Lieutenant Dale that the other two ships in his squadron are privateers, and so are not required to obey his orders. His squadron actually consisted of the Bonnehomme Richard and three other vessels, not two. The Alliance under Captain Landais was a Continental frigate and as such was actually directly subject to Jones' orders; however, Captain Landais felt he should be in command of the squadron, and regularly ignored Jones' orders. The other two ships (not mentioned in the movie) were the frigate-armed merchant ship Pallas and the Vengeance a small brigantine (which took no part in the battle). These two ships were privateers, although both did a generally tolerable job of supporting Jones throughout the cruise.
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Jones was born and raised in Scotland, and did not speak English with Robert Stack's undisguised American accent.
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Continuity 

When Captain Jones visits George Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge, an empty desk can be seen in the background behind Jones. The camera angle changes to another view, and a man suddenly appears sitting at the desk. The view then switches back to the first camera, and the sitting man disappears.
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Factual errors 

Prior to the battle between Serapis and Bonhomme Richard, Captain Pearson of the Serapis states that it is probably John Paul Jones' squadron. Although Pearson knew there was an American raiding force in the area, he actually thought that Jones' force was a Royal Navy squadron also in the area. It was this confusion which allowed Jones to get close to Serapis before the action began.
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When Captain Pearson of the Serapis surrenders his sword, John Paul Jones refuses to accept it. After the battle Jones did accept the sword, although it was returned to Pearson a few days later.
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Contrary to what is shown, Commodore Hopkins was not ordered to to to Abaco in the Bahamas, but rather to the Virginia coast. He exceeded his orders in attacking the Bahamas seeking military supplies, and was later court martialed for this and other questions regarding his command.
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The Bonhomme Richard is shown sinking immediately after the battle with Serapis, with pumping operations going on during the battle. She actually sank late the next day after efforts to repair her (begun after the surrender, as men could not be spared during the fight and the extent of the damage could not be fully judged during the chaos) failed.
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In the film it is stated that the name of Jones' ship, the Bonhomme Richard, was the French for "Poor Richard," in honor of Benjamin Franklin, author of "Poor Richard's Almanack" who was then the American ambassador to the French, who had provided Jones with his ship. While the ship was named in honor of Franklin, "Bonhomme Richard" is actually the French for "good man Richard." "Poor Richard" would have been "Pauvre Richard."
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Revealing mistakes 

Most of the scenes of ships at close quarters firing on each other were reused film footage from other movies, as the ships shown are two and three deck ships of the line, far larger and more powerful than the Serapis or Bonhomme Richard.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Anachronisms 

In the burning of Whitehaven, Jones' crew is shown ashore with only pistols and muskets as weapons. Given the low reliability of such weapons, every man would have also carried a cutlass.
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Factual errors 

The attack on Whitehaven was far from the smooth operation shown. The second boat sent as part of the attack did very little, and its crew may have spent most of the attack in a pub on the waterfront of Whitehaven. There were no troops in the fortification (the town was too cheap to pay for them and only had a couple of caretakers). The confrontation with the townspeople is a fabrication (apparently to allow Jones to explain the reason for the attack). Only one of the nearly 200 vessels docked were burned, as the attackers hadn't sufficient oil to set the rest alight.
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Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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