The Sea Hawk (1940)

Dashing pirate Geoffrey Thorpe plunders Spanish ships for Queen Elizabeth I and falls in love with Dona Maria, a beautiful Spanish royal he captures.


More serious than Michael Curtiz's previous pairing with Errol Flynn (Robin Hood), The Sea Hawk is still a grand adventure, with some pretty great ship sets, and an entertaining performance by Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth the First. Part of the fun is that this acts as an ahistorical origin story for the Royal Navy, but the Queen doesn't want to commit England's resources to it until Captain Thorpe convinces her Spain a warmonger (yes, parallels to World War II, given when this was made). No stranger to experimenting with color, Curtiz switches to warm sepia black and white when the Sea Hawks are in the Caribbean to contrast with the cold standard black and white of European waters. So much happens, it could rightly be called an epic, and while I could part with the wet romance between Flynn and Brenda Marshall's Spanish lady, it does come in handy late in the plot. We all know his true match is Liz I. Great fight scene at the end, reminiscent of The Adventures of Robin Hood's, which isn't a bad thing.

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