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The Sea Hawk Movie Review

thorpe spanish robin hood

1940 – Michael Curtiz –

Reuniting many of the principals of The Adventures of Robin Hood, this attempt to recapture the magic of that classic works almost as well as its predecessor. This time the mythic elements (at least in the first hour) give the film the trappings of a David-and-Goliath-at-sea story. Elizabeth I (Flora Robson) grants tacit approval for Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) and other English buccaneers to plunder the ships of the Spanish Armada. The first action sequence depicts Thorpe and his men boarding a Spanish galleass to free English prisoners used as slave oarsmen. After the Spanish and English return to the British royal court, Elizabeth must sympathize in public with the indignant Spaniards demanding restitution while in private she sanctions further piracy with an admirable Machiavellian evasion: “Captain Thorpe, if you undertook such a venture [of piracy] you would do so without the approval of England … However, you would take with you the grateful affection of Elizabeth.”

For the most part, director Michael Curtiz favors a transparent style. Occasionally he indulges in a flourish, such as the looming shadows Flynn and Henry Daniell cast on the walls during the climactic rapier fight (a similar effect occurs in Curtiz's Robin Hood) . Earlier, when Thorpe starts the English revolt aboard a Spanish ship, Curtiz creates a good effect by having one of the Spanish lords glimpse Thorpe's reflection on the surface of his gold goblet.

The Sea Hawk sorely misses the charms of Flynn's leading lady Olivia de Havilland, who sought more ambitious parts after her success in Gone with the Wind. As a result, the film has less romance and glamour than Robin Hood, but it compensates in part with an emphasis on intrigue and the chess game of national politics. In the middle scenes, after Thorpe has been captured, the Spanish ambassador Don Alvarez (Claude Rains) gloats when he confronts Elizabeth with the results of her scheming. The Queen blusters (“Do you question my word?”), but Alvarez, the master politician, remains calm: “Unfortunately, your grace, my government cannot reconcile your words with the acts of your subjects.” Robin Hood is the more uplifting and idealistic adventure epic while The Sea Hawk is more sly, more knowing about human nature. Robin Hood shows us heroes as they should be; The Sea Hawk shows us heroes as they are.

Cast: Errol Flynn (Geoffrey Thorpe), Brenda Marshall (Doña Maria), Claude Rains (Don Jose Alvarez de Córdoba), 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 López), William Lundigan (Danny Logan), Julien Mitchell (Oliver Scott), Montagu Love (King Philip II), Edgar Buchanan (Ben Rollins), Halliwell Hobbes (Astronomer) Screenwriter: Howard Koch, Seton I. Miller Cinematographer: Sol Polito Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold Producer: Hal B. Wallis for Warner Bros. Running Time: 127 minutes VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1940: Interior Decoration, Sound, Score Budget: $1.7M.

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