After seeing THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD last weekend at the Paramount, I decided to watch another Errol Flynn film this week. This one, CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935) is the granddaddy of them all.
Based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini, CAPTAIN BLOOD is a glorious, old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure film. Flynn stars as the titular character, Dr. Peter Blood, who through trials and tribulations goes from being a man of medicine to a fearless pirate captain. This was Flynn's first starring role for Warner Brothers (he had appeared in bit parts in a few other films prior to this). He was a relative unknown at the time and the studio took a major gamble casting him in such a prominent role. The gamble paid off.
The story goes that Flynn was extremely nervous while shooting his first scenes under the direction of Michael Curtiz. But as the days went on, Flynn became more confident in his role and began to deliver an astonishingly assured performance. In fact, by the time the film was finished, Flynn was so good that several earlier scenes were re-shot to showcase Flynn's bravura performance.
Also in the cast was the lovely, 19-year-old Olivia de Havilland (also in her first big role). Flynn, de Havilland and Curtiz made a terrific team and they went on to make several classic adventure films together, including THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).
Every good hero deserves a good villain and CAPTAIN BLOOD has two of them: Lionel Atwill and Basil Rathbone. Atwill is the evil governor of Jamaica who buys Flynn into slavery early in the film while Rathbone plays a treacherous French pirate with whom Flynn forms an uneasy alliance. When Rathbone disobeys Flynn's articles of piracy, swords are drawn. The two square off in a terrific sword fight staged on a rocky beach. Flynn and Rathbone also dueled to the death in ROBIN HOOD and Rathbone and Atwill co-starred in the Universal horror classic SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939).
CAPTAIN BLOOD is a terrific movie, full of political intrigue, romance, sea battles and flashing swords. It made an icon out of Errol Flynn and defined his film persona for the rest of his career. I think ROBIN HOOD is the slightly better film but CAPTAIN BLOOD is a solid piece of work that is still thrilling after 78 years. Highly recommended.