Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Sea Hawk (1940) with Errol Flynn

With court intrigues, desperate ventures, a roistering sea fight, and a good dose of sweet romance—this is one splendid high seas adventure!

Described as being one of Errol Flynn’s “best roles”, the stage for The Sea Hawk is set when Spain is preparing to launch her great Armada on the seas and the privateers (aka the Queen’s pirates) are the only ones standing between the mighty Spanish Empire and an unsuspecting England…

Amazingly enough, I first saw Sea Hawk way back last spring within a week of first viewing Rob Roy (talk about writing inspiration overdose!) and for that reason always tend to think of them together. (In fact, I’ve always felt a little badly that I didn’t have a review up for this one yet, though Rob Roy’s been up for several months)—so a big thank you to Hamlette for hosting her Piratical Blogathon, agreeing to my selection, and giving me a deadline to get it
up! :-)

First off, Errol Flynn as Captain Thorpe. Due to the piratical setting, I really can’t help comparing him here and in Captain Blood, and—in case you can’t tell—I’m quite absolutely and entirely thrilled! In fact, he acts like I always kept wanting him to in Captain B!! (And merely a personal preference here, no offense to the latter.)

Teasing and daring (I mean, he couldn’t be anything but, of course), but also serious-minded, level-headed, and in most deadly earnest.

(He goes through some pretty drastic personal and physical difficulties, too, and I…um…like daring and suffering heroes in extremely tight situations…)

There are a number of other jollily familiar faces, including “Prince John” from the 1939 Robin Hood as the heroine’s uncle. *spoiler* He’s still bad, but it’s not so slimy of a role, so that’s quite fun to see *end of spoiler* and he has real feeling for his niece.

And his niece Maria…I like Maria sooo much!! A lovely, soft-spoken yet determined Spanish beauty, she’s probably actually a big part of bringing the serious-minded tone to the story or rather—bringing it out so to speak—in the Captain’s role. 

Dark-eyed and dark-haired, she wears some gorgeous Spanish lace gowns…and veils!

And her hair… Ah yes...her hair. (Yes, very).

The court shots are quite impressive.

And for a few production particulars: the grand, flourishing musical score was done by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (who also did the score for Robin Hood),

and the film was made on the—at the time—magnificent scale of $1.7-million, including the construction of two full-size ships!

There’s also an entire middling section done in sepia rather than black and white while *spoiler* they’re traveling down to and in Panama. And it’s very striking. You can almost feel all their heat and thirst and despair—it’s so heart-wrenching! *end of spoiler*

Intensity-wise, I think it’s a bit heavier than Robin Hood and possibly Captain Blood as well. The battles are pretty dramatic and there are lots of shots in the galleys and of the slaves, etc.

(Here I just have to add an editorial note: if this shows how gripping Sea Hawk is—I’ve been able to concentrate on this review while listening out of one ear to the opening episodes of P&P playing in the next room…wow! But then maybe switching between genres helped the entire process?? I did mention Austen’s merit in the writing inspiration category on another recent post, didn’t I? ;-))

But let us jump back two centuries again!

With Spain on the move piratical activities abound. Royal intrigue is conspiring to disband the Sea Hawks -- leaving the country open to its fate. The future of an entire nation is riding in the balance and the one man who can save the day is most hopelessly immured… But as Spain’s hand is extending to grasp the little country lying on the border of her mighty empire she’s reckoning without the cool-headed planning and brilliant, sure-handed action of one of the Queen’s own pirates!


  1. I love Errol Flynn movies! I've seen a lot of them, this one included.
    Although I need to see it again. :) I just love Errol Flynn's characters-he always a dashing, heroic adventurer with good sense and just an all around "good guy". Even if he's a little mischievous or what have you some times. ;)
    And I too like daring and suffering heroes in intense situations!

    I loved Maria too! And her hair. :) Although, I've seen Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland together so often (and think they make the cutest couple) that it seems strange when his love interest is someone other than her!

    Errol Flynn's movies are just always so exciting. Thanks for reviewing this!!

    1. Natalie,
      Mmhmmm....most exactly!! :) And if you see it again I'd love to hear your thoughts. Yes, I think Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland are super cute together, too -- so when initially finding out about this one I was going "What!!!?? I don't know about that at all..." But then (as you can see) I was quite floored. ;-)

      And you're very welcome!

  2. You like Sea Hawk better than Captain Blood? Then I definitely want to see it! :) It's interesting that some of it was shot in sepia.


    1. SW -- Yes, it's a huge favorite. ;-) I hope you're able to see it! And the sepia part is very interesting...

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. Love this movie. Errol Flynn is so perfect. This is one of my favorite movies of his. (Great screenshots!) And those costumes! You aren't kidding, Maria has the most amazing gowns and I wish I could duplicate those hairstyles. Love the sweeping Korngold score. Really enjoyed this entry in Hamlette's piratical blogathon!

    1. DKoren,
      I'm glad you love it, too! It's all around pretty amazing, isn't it?? And thank you... I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! :-)

  4. Oh my goodness. This is one of my favorite movies. ^_^ It holds very special memories for me of when I first started writing.
    Great review! It makes me want to watch it again. :D

    1. Heidi,
      Oh, I'm thrilled to find you like it, too! (What with Rob Roy and now this, we're really on a roll... ;-)) It's such a good story, it really provides writing inspiration, doesn't it?

  5. Ahoy! I must admit that I've only seen this movie once -- which be a crime, I acknowledge. I've not seen enough Errol Flynn movies to count meself a fan, but I be hopin' to remedy that some time soon. Beginning with this and Captain Blood!

    And thankee for joinin' me first blogathon. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of whatever ye be drinkin'!

    1. Hamlette,
      Oh my... Oh, dear, dear, dear.... (but that's okay, I haven't seen all of his either. ;-)) I hope you can see this and CB soon!

      And you're most welcome...and thank you so much! I was thrilled to get up my review! :-)

    2. I do own his Robin Hood, if that counts for anything :-) Actually, I see that there's a TCM movie collection of his that his this AND CB on it, and Robin Hood and something else... so I'm putting that on my Christmas list.

    3. Oh, good--I'm so glad to know it on the Christmas list! ;-) And a collection would be a great way to do it...

  6. Hmm... I haven't seen this one. I'll have to look it up... I enjoy a good Errol Flynn movie. And I love Claude Rains in everything-Casablanca, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, The Unsuspected- the man never gave a bad performance.

    1. Lynn M,
      I hope you can see it soon! I haven't seen Claude Rains in much else yet, but from what I've seen you're absolutely right. :-) Thanks for commenting!

  7. It looks like loads of fun! I've never seen an Errol Flynn movie before. Maybe I should be making this one my first! :) Also I'm intrigued by the idea that they made parts of it sepia toned. I haven't watched many black and white movies, but isn't that rather different? For old movies like this? Either way, the pictures make it look awesome.

    1. Kara,
      I hope you can see it soon!! It' amazing and (obviously) a big favorite of mine. ;-) The sepia is very intriguing, and yes, I don't think it's at all common (at least from my viewing).

      If you're starting out with Errol Flynn's, I would also recommend Robin Hood as another starter one you could try. Between them, I think I'd choose Sea Hawk as a personal favorite, but RH (done in Technicolor) is a pretty quintessential film (in Technicolor, RH and Errol Flynn categories all together).


I'd love to hear your thoughts and look forward to further confabulation. Please just be courteous to one and all. Oh, and I love thoughts on old posts, so comment away!

(Also of late -- what with time being finite, and Life Happening + managing multiple blogs and computer issues and all that -- I sometimes have to alternate between creating new content and replying to comments, but rest assured I'm thrilled to hear from each and every one of you and always hope to reply thoughtfully in full ASAP. <3)

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