The Sea Hawk (1940)

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The Sea Hawk (1940) Poster

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.


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  • Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • Errol Flynn and Gilbert Roland in The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • Errol Flynn and Brenda Marshall in The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • Errol Flynn and Henry Daniell, "The Sea Hawk" 1940 Warner Bros.
  • Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940)

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12 February 2006 | bkoganbing
10
| Errol at his best
My favorite Errol Flynn movie has always been The Sea Hawk. Flynn made this in 1940 at the height of his career. All it is missing is Flynn's usual screen partner in that period, Olivia DeHavilland.

Errol Flynn plays the fictional privateer Geoffrey Thorpe who with the well known real characters like Drake, Frobisher, and Hawkins, raid the rich Spanish commerce from the New World which is what Europeans of the day were referring to the western hemisphere as. Queen Elizabeth of England gave all knowing wink to their activities and the realm took a cut of their loot.

One day Flynn attacks the ship carrying the Spanish ambassador Claude Rains and his niece Brenda Marshall who's English on her mother's side. That's it for Flynn.

But Queen Elizabeth has some traitors in her midst. The clever Lord Wolfingham played by Henry Daniell is in the Spanish pay. Daniell was one of the best screen villains ever. He was always a cold and calculating individual and had a voice with a built in sneer. He very cleverly deduces Flynn's future plans and lays a trap for him. See the film and find out, but suffice it to say Daniell is no fool.

Jack Warner saw that Flynn's films were always well scored musically. Flynn swashbuckled to some of the best film music ever composed. Here the composer is Erich Wolfgang Korngold, in other films with Warner Brothers, it's Max Steiner. Korngold's score isn't quite on par with the one he did for Robin Hood, but it's one you will not forget.

This was the last film Errol Flynn did with director Michael Curtiz. David Niven in his memoirs made of Curtiz a figure of some fun, he was the guy with the fractured English who uttered the memorable phrase that became Niven's title for his memoirs, 'bring on the empty horses.' Flynn in his memoirs hated him with a passion in that Curtiz put his players in some dangerous situations without regard for safety. After this he refused to work with him. But between them, Curtiz and Flynn did some grand entertainment. Curtiz later won an Oscar for directing Casablanca.

Flora Robson repeats her role as Queen Elizabeth, she had previously portrayed Elizabeth in Fire Over England back in the old country. It's probably the part she's most identified with in her career.

Brenda Marshall who is probably better known for being Mrs. William Holden, pinch hits for Olivia DeHavilland. Olivia was trying to get some better acting roles that she knew she could do and not be a crinolined heroine all the time. Jack Warner refused to see her as anything else for a long time.

Others in the cast who stand out are Alan Hale, Una O'Connor, Gilbert Roland and William Lundigan has a death scene that will haunt you for a long time.

The Sea Hawk is also a film that made use of a film process known as sepia tone. It's probably the film best known for it. The whole sequence of when Flynn sails his ship, the Albatross, to Panama is photographed in sepia tone. It makes the film come out a kind of brackish yellow. Since Warner Brothers didn't want to spring for full technicolor, this process is effective in demonstrating the jungle heat that Flynn and his men and the Spaniards for that matter operate under.

It is also no accident that this film was made in 1940 showing brave England refusing to buckle under to a tyrant from the European continent. Phillip II of Spain, played by Montagu Love, controlled a whole lot of the world's real estate at that point in time and wanted more. The meaning for the audiences of 1940 could not have been more clear.

The Sea Hawk is grand entertainment. In my humble opinion Errol Flynn's best film and one of the best of the swashbuckling genre.

Critic Reviews



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Did You Know?

Trivia

Many viewers at the time could possibly make parallels between the film's period setting and World War II. The writers intended King Phillip to be an analogy of Adolf Hitler, and Phillip's attempt to conquer England was similar to Hitler's apparent intention of invading the United Kingdom. (However it is disputed whether Hitler really intended to invade the UK, or whether Operation Sea Lion was just a bluff to put pressure on the British government to come to terms with Germany after the Fall of France). This makes Queen Elizabeth's speech at the end, in which she states that the world does not belong to only one man, all the more poignant. In 1940 the UK was occupying a quarter of the world.


Quotes

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 ...


Goofs

Spanish galleons of the Elizabethan era did not have oars.


Alternate Versions

Reissue prints of "The Sea Hawk" run 109 minutes, and for years this was the only version available for television airing. Since the video restoration in the early 1980's, most TV stations now run the full 127-minute print.


Soundtracks

Strike for the Shores of Dover
(1940) (uncredited)
Music by
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Lyrics by Jack Scholl and Howard Koch
Sung by the oarsmen when they take over the ship
Played also in the score

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Action | Adventure | History | Romance

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