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The Sea Hawk (1940)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, History | 31 August 1940 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writers:

Howard Koch (screen play), Seton I. Miller (screen play)
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Errol Flynn ... Geoffrey Thorpe
Brenda Marshall ... Doña Maria
Claude Rains ... Don José Alvarez de Cordoba
Donald Crisp ... Sir John Burleson
Flora Robson ... Queen Elizabeth
Alan Hale ... Carl Pitt
Henry Daniell ... Lord Wolfingham
Una O'Connor ... Miss Latham
James Stephenson ... Abbott
Gilbert Roland ... Capt. Lopez
William Lundigan ... Danny Logan
Julien Mitchell Julien Mitchell ... Oliver Scott
Montagu Love ... King Phillip II
J.M. Kerrigan ... Eli Matson
David Bruce ... Martin Burke
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Storyline

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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Never before so many thrills! Never such adventure, such romance! Sail to high adventure with 'The Robin Hood of the Sea.' See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 August 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Beggars of the Sea See more »

Filming Locations:

Laguna Beach, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,700,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,000,000, 31 December 1940
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Black and White | Black and White (Sepiatone) (Panama Sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Due to the lack of a sound stage large enough to accommodate the full scale ships used in the production, the studio built a new sound stage that covered a specially constructed artificial lake-water tank. The ships were 165' and 135' and surrounded by water twelve feet deep. See more »

Goofs

During the initial fight, stock footage is used showing two Napoleonic era ships of the line at close quarters. There is only a minor similarity between the galleys of the 16th century and the ships of the line of the late 18th century. See more »

Quotes

[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?
See more »

Alternate Versions

The British version, available on video, includes an additional scene at the very end of the film, featuring an uplifting wartime speech from Queen Elizabeth. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood's Magical Island: Catalina (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
"To prepare for a war which none of us wants"
22 April 2007 | by Steffi_PSee all my reviews

The Sea Hawk was the eleventh of twelve collaborations between actor Errol Flynn and director Michael Curtiz, and one of the best. It's a return to the sure-fire swashbuckler format that had given them their biggest successes so far, but it has a maturity and a darkness to it that was absent from their previous efforts.

Comparing this to Flynn's previous sea-faring adventure Captain Blood, made in 1935, you can see how much cinema had changed in the intervening years. Despite the title, the earlier film isn't really that bloodthirsty. Its depiction of slavery is fairly tame, there aren't too many deaths, and the tone remains optimistic throughout. The Sea Hawk on the other hand, while still a rousing swashbuckler is shot through with despair. The galley-slave scenes come far closer to reality than Captain Blood's plantation. Darker still are the sepia-tinted Panama scenes, where some men are gunned down in cold blood, only for others to die by inches under a glaring sun. Above all, you really get the impression that this time, the enemy is truly menacing, and it will take the heroes more than a few cutting remarks and a few minutes of derring-do to get out alive. The approach of World War Two (which broke out during production) in particular seems to have cast a shadow over this picture.

The Sea Hawk is not an out-and-out propaganda piece, but demonstrates that fear of a sinister, aggressive nation bent on world domination, which had been subtly creeping into cinema during the late 1930s (a good example is Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes). I don't know for certain but I get the feeling that Elizabeth's final speech at the end of the picture may have been added at the last minute when war began. However, even without this rather obvious morale booster on the final reel, the comparison between 16th century Spain and Hitler's Germany is fairly clear. Right from the opening scene, the Spaniards are introduced as particularly sinister types (the sinister touch, by the way, is something Curtiz was really good at; there's a hint of it in nearly all his films). On top of that there's this dark feeling that here is a real enemy, not some cartoon villain we can laugh away.

Regardless of the context, The Sea Hawk also stands out amongst Flynn's swashbucklers because of the strength of its elements. The score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold is one of his best. The production design is particularly lavish, and the hefty budget enabled Curtiz to get a really grand scale to the sea battles. The cast is fantastic too. Flynn was really maturing as an actor, and he gives a kind of sober world-weariness to the character. Some of the era's best supporting players make appearances, including Alan Hale, Claude Rains and Una O'Connor. There's also a memorable turn by Victor Varconi – albeit just a couple of lines – as a sleazy Spanish general. There are a few wrong notes – for example Brenda Marshall's character is equally as annoying as the usual Oliva de Havilland heroine, although she isn't as good an actor. Henry Daniel also isn't a match for Basil Rathbone.

So, a more mature Errol Flynn, a darker edge to the adventure picture, but also the end of an era. Flynn and Curtiz were soon to part ways, and the adventure genre as a whole was beginning to wane in favour of the western and the noir thriller.


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