19 November 2014 | drednm
Excellent Light Drama
This is a rather remarkable little British film, a sort of boy's view of going to sea, that boasts several excellent performances and one that is downright astonishing. Master Easy goes to sea in the 1850s under the watchful eye of the ship's captain (Roger Livesey) who is a family friend. Easy has grown up thinking life's virtues are built around zeal, fairness, and cooperation. On board, his views are tested by sea sickness, a mean first mate, and other midshipmen (all in their teens) jockeying for position. But by ignoring all orders and common sense, Easy comes to the fore in a series a Napoleonic war-time adventures involving a Spanish family from Sicily and an Italian desperado.
Hughie Green at age 15 is perfect as the midshipman hero of the story and throws himself into the role. After boyhood, Green was apparently a British TV "personality" involved in all kinds of game shows and such. But here as a young actor he just about perfect for his role. Roger Livesey has fun as the indulgent captain, and Margaret Lockwood has an early role Donna Agnes. Also notable is Harry Tate as Mr. Biggs. But among all the fun there is a remarkable performance by Robert Adams, a black actor, who plays Mesty. Mesty's job onboard the ship is rather vague, but he becomes Early's protector and right-hand man. He's promoted to the rank of corporal and later saves Early's life by fighting the Italian desperado and throwing him over a cliff. The class and bravery of this black character in a 1935 British film outpaces anything I can think of in an American film of the era.
This hugely enjoyable film is part of the ongoing Ealing Rarities DVD series from UK and was directed by Carol Reed.