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.


Michael Curtiz


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





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 ... Captain 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


Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) 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 Doña Maria (Brenda Marshall), 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 I (Dame Flora Robson) 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, Doña 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 Doña Maria's heart. Written by Julie Sherman <>

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


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Did You Know?


While this movie was already in production, Seton I. Miller raised a fuss over Howard Koch's determination to receive sole screen credit for the script. In a letter to the studio dated March 18, 1940, Miller outlined the similarities in the two scripts, noting a few minor details added by Koch, such as a softening of the characterizations of Queen Elizabeth I and the two villains, a change in the nationality of the servant of the Spanish noblewoman, and the addition of a pet monkey for Captain Geoffrey Thorpe. Miller conceded that Koch had tightened the structure of the story, shortening some scenes, eliminating others, adding a few new ones, and changing some of the dialogue. But he also insisted the meaning of the dialogue was the same, and in some cases, lifted wholesale from his own script, while the basic story and characters were all present in Miller's version. He suggested that fair credit would be Original Story by Seton Miller (since, contrary to the studio's initial decision to include Sabatini's name, the screenplay had nothing to do with the original novel) and Screenplay by Koch and Miller. A couple of days later, Koch countered that while Miller was correct in many of his facts, he was mistaken in "most of his conclusions." Koch also insisted he did not want sole credit, but that he did feel he should get top billing. By the end of that week, Miller agreed to take second screenplay billing and not go into arbitration. The studio also dropped Sabatini's name from the credits. See more »


When the crew intercept a shipment of gold in the Panama forest, they fire multiple shots from muzzle loading flintlocks without reloading. Although the flintlocks were not available at the time, most men would carry two pistols into a fight because they knew they would not have an opportunity to reload. 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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Alternate Versions

Also shown in computer-colored version. See more »


Referenced in The Last of Robin Hood (2013) See more »


Old Spanish Song
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Lyrics by Howard Koch
Sung by Brenda Marshall (dubbed by Sally Sweetland)
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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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Frequently Asked Questions

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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 »


Box Office


$1,700,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs


| (re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


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

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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