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Errol Flynn received his first star billing for Captain Blood (1935), alongside 19-year-old newcomer Olivia de Havilland as Arabella Bishop. The film also established star Basil Rathbone (The Hound of the Baskervilles, 1939) as the cold-hearted Pirate Levasseur. Playing romantic hero Peter Blood, a British doctor enslaved in 16th century Jamaica, Flynn leads a revolt, becomes a pirate king, and, with spitfire love interest de Havilland, returns to govern the island where he and his comrades were chattel.
With a production budget of nearly one million dollars, Captain Blood was richly filmed by director Michael Curtiz, Warner's tough-talking, Hungarian born director (Casablanca, 1942). Curtiz' exacting professionalism drove the picture, and brought outstanding performances from his fledging stars, sometimes pushing 25-year-old Flynn through ten takes per scene. Although much of the film was shot on a sound stage in the summer of 1935, exteriors such as the agile, florid swordfight in which Rathbone is challenged and defeated by Flynn was shot on location, with Laguna Beach, California standing in for a Caribbean shore. The rousing battle sequence involving Blood's pirate crew storming French ships used one of the largest technical crews assembled for a film and 2500 extras, each of whom was personally interviewed by Curtiz.
The New York Times heralded Flynn with a review entitled "Newcomer Errol Flynn in a handsome film version of Captain Blood." Flynn's vigor, remarkable good looks and athletic skill established him as the natural successor to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and the symbol of an unvanquished man that Depression-era audiences cheered. Captain Blood was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar® in 1936, but lost to Mutiny on the Bounty.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Harry Joe Brown, Gordon Hollingshead, Hal B. Wallis (all uncredited)
Screenplay: Casey Robinson, based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini
Cinematography: Ernest Haller, Hal Mohr
Editor: George Amy
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn (Dr. Peter Blood), Olivia de Havilland (Arabella Bishop), Lionel Atwill (Col. Bishop), Basil Rathbone (Capt. Levasseur), Ross Alexander (Jeremy Pitt), Guy Kibbee (Hagthorpe), Henry Stephenson (Lord Willoughby), Donald Meek (Dr. Whacker).
BW-120m. Close captioning.
By Jessica Handler