The Black Swan


1h 25m 1942
The Black Swan

Brief Synopsis

When he's named governor of Jamaica, a former pirate sets out to clean up the Caribbean.

Film Details

Also Known As
Rafael Sabatini's The Black Swan
Genre
Adventure
Release Date
Dec 4, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Florida, United States; Mexico; Jamaica; Honduras; Cuba
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini (New York, 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,859ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In 1674, pirate James Waring is captured during a raid on a Jamaican town. The Spanish Don Miguel puts Jamie on the rack to question him about his commander, Captain Henry Morgan, who Jamie maintains is in England about to be hanged for piracy. Jamie is rescued by his compatriot, Tommy Blue, but they are stopped from torturing Don Miguel by Lord Denby, the English governor of Jamaica. Jamie does not believe it when Denby tells them that Spain and England have signed a peace treaty, and he decides to hang Denby for sending Morgan to trial. Jamie also tangles with Denby's high-spirited, beautiful daughter Margaret, but before he can carry out his plans, Morgan arrives. At a meeting of the pirates that evening, Morgan explains that he has received a pardon from King Charles II and has been made the new governor of Jamaica. In return, Morgan has promised to rid the Caribbean of pirates and maintain the peace between England and Spain. Morgan tells the men that if they will lay down their arms, they will receive a pardon and one hundred acres of land, but that if they do not, he will hunt them down. Captain Billy Leech and his second-in-command, Wogan, refuse to join and vow to take their ship, the Black Swan , to Maracaibo. Morgan takes Jamie and Tommy with him to the Government House in Port Royal, where he is sworn in by the reluctant assembly, which makes clear its animosity. Jamie attempts to romance Margaret, but she states that she prefers her fiancé, Roger Ingram. Unknown to Margaret, Ingram has leaked information about an English treasure ship to Leech, and soon after, Leech plunders the ship and gives the captain's share to Ingram. Determined to capture Leech, Morgan sends Jamie after him, but Leech is able to elude him and plunder more English ships with Ingram's help. When Jamie returns to Port Royal to report his failure, the assembly votes to impeach Morgan, and Ingram states that he and Margaret will sail to England to take the news to the king. Morgan orders Jamie to capture Leech, and Jamie, determined to prevent Margaret's marriage to Ingram, shanghaiis her. They soon run into Leech, and in order to apprehend him, Jamie pretends to join him. Jamie and Leech sail to Maracaibo, where Morgan, who has had to flee Port Royal due to the outcry over Margaret's abduction, awaits them. Morgan believes that Jamie is in league with Leech, but after a fierce battle between the opposing forces, Jamie kills Leech and convinces Morgan of his loyalty. Morgan still insists that Jamie be hanged because of his treatment of Margaret, but she declares that she accompanied him of her own free will. Soon after, during their return to Jamaica, Margaret lovingly calls Jamie "Jamie Boy" three times, as he had predicted that she would.

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Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Rafael Sabatini's The Black Swan
Genre
Adventure
Release Date
Dec 4, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Florida, United States; Mexico; Jamaica; Honduras; Cuba
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini (New York, 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,859ft (9 reels)

Award Wins

Best Cinematography

1942

Award Nominations

Best Score

1942

Best Special Effects

1943

Articles

The Black Swan


Though he was a major box office idol, Tyrone Power was never particularly overwhelmed by his movie output. "I've done an awful lot of stuff that's a monument to public patience," he once volunteered. Nevertheless, he must have been relatively pleased with The Black Swan (1942), a Technicolor swashbuckling epic that made up for its bouts of anachronistic dialogue, moments of hokum, and more than a passing resemblance to Errol Flynn's wildly popular Captain Blood (1935), with spectacular visuals and a very able cast.

A critic from The New York Times wrote upon the picture's release, "After seeing The Black Swan...a good many small boys are going to feel they were born too late into this world." And that was certainly enough for 20th Century Fox, the studio that released it. Their tag line for the trailer says it all: "Sea ablaze with black villainy, with breathless deeds of daring...in the roaring era of love, gold, and adventure!" You get the idea.

Power stars as James Waring, an assistant to the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar.) Morgan is captured, but his life is spared and he's made to serve as the new governor of Jamaica, where he's expected to dissuade his former cronies from their raping and pillaging. In Jamaica, Waring falls for Margaret Denby (Maureen O'Hara), the daughter of the former governor. Not surprisingly, given the circumstances, she isn't interested in Waring. Morgan makes an effort to clean things up, but a couple of renegade pirates (played by George Sanders and Anthony Quinn) refuse to repent. When Waring is sent to defeat them, he forcefully and rather rudely drags Margaret along on the ship.

Waring soon finds the bad guys, but he and his men are outnumbered. They're imprisoned, and the pirates boldly attack Cregar's headquarters. But don't worry. Waring (since he's played by Tyrone Power) will ultimately escape from prison and take care of the uprising. You get one guess as to whether or not O'Hara will fall for him before the closing credits.

Though the narrative is pretty conventional genre stuff, The Black Swan was nominated for Oscars for Best Musical Score (by Alfred Newman, the uncle of modern day songwriter-score composer Randy Newman), Best Special Effects, and Best Color Cinematography (by Leon Shamroy, who walked away with the award that year.)

It's somewhat amazing that Power wound up in such heroic roles. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1913, he was a sickly child who was taken by his family to the warmer climate of California, but returned to Ohio when his parents divorced. He remained close to his father, a writer who encouraged Tyrone's interest in acting. In fact, Power was appearing in a non-speaking role in a play directed by his father when the older man had a heart attack, dying in his son's arms.

Power served as a pilot in the Marine Corps during World War II, and saw a great deal of action in the South Pacific. (The Black Swan was one of the last big budget pictures to be completed before the U.S. officially entered the war, and the producers did their part for the effort by limiting the number of takes that were made of each scene. They felt the chemicals used in the film could be better utilized by the armed forces.) After the war, Power's star power held strong. Unfortunately, while shooting yet another sword duelling scene with his Black Swan co-star, George Sanders, in 1958 for Solomon and Sheba (1959), he suffered a heart attack and died on the way to the hospital. He was 43 years old.

Directed by: Henry King
Screenplay: Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller (Based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini)
Producer: Robert Bassler Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Editing: Barbara McLean
Music: Alfred Newman
Art Design: Richard Day and James Basevi
Set Design: Thomas Little
Costume Designer: Earl Luick
Principal Cast: Tyrone Power (James Waring), Maureen O'Hara (Margaret Denby), Laird Cregar (Capt. Henry Morgan), Thomas Mitchell (Tommy Blue), George Sanders (Capt. Billy Leech), Anthony Quinn (Wogan), George Zucco (Lord Denby), Edward Ashley (Roger Ingram), Fortunio Bonanova (Don Miguel).
C-85m.

by Paul Tatara

The Black Swan

The Black Swan

Though he was a major box office idol, Tyrone Power was never particularly overwhelmed by his movie output. "I've done an awful lot of stuff that's a monument to public patience," he once volunteered. Nevertheless, he must have been relatively pleased with The Black Swan (1942), a Technicolor swashbuckling epic that made up for its bouts of anachronistic dialogue, moments of hokum, and more than a passing resemblance to Errol Flynn's wildly popular Captain Blood (1935), with spectacular visuals and a very able cast. A critic from The New York Times wrote upon the picture's release, "After seeing The Black Swan...a good many small boys are going to feel they were born too late into this world." And that was certainly enough for 20th Century Fox, the studio that released it. Their tag line for the trailer says it all: "Sea ablaze with black villainy, with breathless deeds of daring...in the roaring era of love, gold, and adventure!" You get the idea. Power stars as James Waring, an assistant to the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar.) Morgan is captured, but his life is spared and he's made to serve as the new governor of Jamaica, where he's expected to dissuade his former cronies from their raping and pillaging. In Jamaica, Waring falls for Margaret Denby (Maureen O'Hara), the daughter of the former governor. Not surprisingly, given the circumstances, she isn't interested in Waring. Morgan makes an effort to clean things up, but a couple of renegade pirates (played by George Sanders and Anthony Quinn) refuse to repent. When Waring is sent to defeat them, he forcefully and rather rudely drags Margaret along on the ship. Waring soon finds the bad guys, but he and his men are outnumbered. They're imprisoned, and the pirates boldly attack Cregar's headquarters. But don't worry. Waring (since he's played by Tyrone Power) will ultimately escape from prison and take care of the uprising. You get one guess as to whether or not O'Hara will fall for him before the closing credits. Though the narrative is pretty conventional genre stuff, The Black Swan was nominated for Oscars for Best Musical Score (by Alfred Newman, the uncle of modern day songwriter-score composer Randy Newman), Best Special Effects, and Best Color Cinematography (by Leon Shamroy, who walked away with the award that year.) It's somewhat amazing that Power wound up in such heroic roles. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1913, he was a sickly child who was taken by his family to the warmer climate of California, but returned to Ohio when his parents divorced. He remained close to his father, a writer who encouraged Tyrone's interest in acting. In fact, Power was appearing in a non-speaking role in a play directed by his father when the older man had a heart attack, dying in his son's arms. Power served as a pilot in the Marine Corps during World War II, and saw a great deal of action in the South Pacific. (The Black Swan was one of the last big budget pictures to be completed before the U.S. officially entered the war, and the producers did their part for the effort by limiting the number of takes that were made of each scene. They felt the chemicals used in the film could be better utilized by the armed forces.) After the war, Power's star power held strong. Unfortunately, while shooting yet another sword duelling scene with his Black Swan co-star, George Sanders, in 1958 for Solomon and Sheba (1959), he suffered a heart attack and died on the way to the hospital. He was 43 years old. Directed by: Henry King Screenplay: Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller (Based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini) Producer: Robert Bassler Cinematography: Leon Shamroy Editing: Barbara McLean Music: Alfred Newman Art Design: Richard Day and James Basevi Set Design: Thomas Little Costume Designer: Earl Luick Principal Cast: Tyrone Power (James Waring), Maureen O'Hara (Margaret Denby), Laird Cregar (Capt. Henry Morgan), Thomas Mitchell (Tommy Blue), George Sanders (Capt. Billy Leech), Anthony Quinn (Wogan), George Zucco (Lord Denby), Edward Ashley (Roger Ingram), Fortunio Bonanova (Don Miguel). C-85m. by Paul Tatara

The Black Swan on Blu-ray


Tyrone Power was one of the top stars of 20th Century Fox, thanks to his turns as the glib, arrogant golden boy in the studio's colorful musicals and melodramas and the earnest, driven young visionary or angry rebel of Lloyds of London (1936), Jesse James (1939), and Johnny Apollo (1940), where his dark good looks and brooding presence gave his handsome romantic lead a bit of smoldering intensity. In the 1940s, Fox decided to mold him into an Errol Flynn-style swashbuckling hero and found success in The Mark of Zorro (1940), as the Robin Hood of old California, and Blood and Sand (1941), as a bullfighting hero led astray by the temptations of fame and fortune. The Black Swan (1942) was the next logical step: a swashbuckling pirate rogue turned hero. It shouldn't have been a good fit for Power, who was better at brooding and flashing his temper than flexing his physicality, but he brings a bit of both the flashy arrogant and the brooding hero to the role.

Captain Jamie Waring is clearly unfulfilled as a pirate captain pillaging Spanish colonies and ships, but he's not so sure he's any happier when he teams up with Captain Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar), the former pirate king appointed by Britain to take over as Governor of Jamaica. It sets him against his former, more savage partners in pillage, especially Billy Leech (George Sanders), and his outlaw instincts don't fit into polite society. Complicating matters is his nearly fatal attraction to Lady Margaret Denby, daughter of the former Governor, played with flashing eyes and furious temper by Maureen O'Hara. The film gets Power's shirt off with great frequency, from a turn on the rack to a swim in the sea to a brawl on the deck of the titular Black Swan, and tries to generate some sort of smoldering love-hate passion between Power and O'Hara as they cross paths and trade barbed exchanges. They get the hate part right-- Lady Margaret all but boils over in righteous indignation whenever the outlaw dares insert himself in proper society and Jamie seems exasperated at himself for his obsession with the fiery beauty--but there's no electricity when they collide and no passion in their furious denial, just umbrage and acerbic bickering.

It's based on a novel by Rafael Sabatini, who also wrote The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, and it's kind of a poor cousin to those in terms of both story and action. The story and screenplay lack the grand conflicts and epic sweep of the great Errol Flynn pirate classics and the action scenes are largely set-bound and lack the momentum and daredevil spectacle that Michael Curtiz brought to The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk, to name just two. Henry King is one of the sturdiest of Fox's directors and has a strong hand when it came to shaping movie stars to character parts--his long partnership with Gregory Peck is one of the best director-actor collaborations of the classic era--but was consistently better with brawny action within a dramatic scenes than with the flamboyant set pieces that define a swashbuckler like this. These pirate brawls are at their best when they rivals collide on deck and King choreographs the chaos so that you keep track of all the major players in the melee.

But what Technicolor glory! They set sail against Maxfield Parish skylines and battle in a riot of indigos and royal blues and crimson reds with flourishes of gold. The finery of the haughty aristocrats and the flamboyance of the gypsy pirate fashions vie for attention in the daylight and glow in the shadows of candlelight and studio moonlight in the purple evenings. The marvelously intricate model ships of the sea battles staged in studio tanks are a reminder of the glorious craft of practical studio effects in the classic age and the sets create a delicious fantasy of the wild Caribbean frontier of European imprints in the tropical setting and outlaw towns of rough taverns. A lively cast of Hollywood's most memorable supporting players, from George Sanders in a wild red beard and a hearty embrace of pirate decadence to Thomas Mitchell as a buoyant Irish sidekick loyal to the end to Laird Cregar in majestic form as the one-time pirate king resisting his outlaw impulses as he battles a belligerent cabinet of arrogant aristocrats, keeps the energy up between romantic tussles.

The original elements of the film are no longer available and this edition was mastered from a high quality vault print. Anyone familiar with the glow of early 1940s Technicolor at its best will notice that there is some fading to image and that the colors are not quite as lustrous as the stunning Drums Along the Mohawk Blu-ray, for example. But the color is still handsome and rich and the average film fan will only see the glorious explosion of overripe colors and deep hues of the painterly colors unique to the early Technicolor era. According to veteran film preservation and restoration professional Robert Harris, the Fox restoration team has done wonders with the materials at hand and the image is rich, clean, and strong.

The disc carries over the commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer and actress Maureen O'Hara recorded for the DVD released a decade ago.

By Sean Axmaker

The Black Swan on Blu-ray

Tyrone Power was one of the top stars of 20th Century Fox, thanks to his turns as the glib, arrogant golden boy in the studio's colorful musicals and melodramas and the earnest, driven young visionary or angry rebel of Lloyds of London (1936), Jesse James (1939), and Johnny Apollo (1940), where his dark good looks and brooding presence gave his handsome romantic lead a bit of smoldering intensity. In the 1940s, Fox decided to mold him into an Errol Flynn-style swashbuckling hero and found success in The Mark of Zorro (1940), as the Robin Hood of old California, and Blood and Sand (1941), as a bullfighting hero led astray by the temptations of fame and fortune. The Black Swan (1942) was the next logical step: a swashbuckling pirate rogue turned hero. It shouldn't have been a good fit for Power, who was better at brooding and flashing his temper than flexing his physicality, but he brings a bit of both the flashy arrogant and the brooding hero to the role. Captain Jamie Waring is clearly unfulfilled as a pirate captain pillaging Spanish colonies and ships, but he's not so sure he's any happier when he teams up with Captain Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar), the former pirate king appointed by Britain to take over as Governor of Jamaica. It sets him against his former, more savage partners in pillage, especially Billy Leech (George Sanders), and his outlaw instincts don't fit into polite society. Complicating matters is his nearly fatal attraction to Lady Margaret Denby, daughter of the former Governor, played with flashing eyes and furious temper by Maureen O'Hara. The film gets Power's shirt off with great frequency, from a turn on the rack to a swim in the sea to a brawl on the deck of the titular Black Swan, and tries to generate some sort of smoldering love-hate passion between Power and O'Hara as they cross paths and trade barbed exchanges. They get the hate part right-- Lady Margaret all but boils over in righteous indignation whenever the outlaw dares insert himself in proper society and Jamie seems exasperated at himself for his obsession with the fiery beauty--but there's no electricity when they collide and no passion in their furious denial, just umbrage and acerbic bickering. It's based on a novel by Rafael Sabatini, who also wrote The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, and it's kind of a poor cousin to those in terms of both story and action. The story and screenplay lack the grand conflicts and epic sweep of the great Errol Flynn pirate classics and the action scenes are largely set-bound and lack the momentum and daredevil spectacle that Michael Curtiz brought to The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk, to name just two. Henry King is one of the sturdiest of Fox's directors and has a strong hand when it came to shaping movie stars to character parts--his long partnership with Gregory Peck is one of the best director-actor collaborations of the classic era--but was consistently better with brawny action within a dramatic scenes than with the flamboyant set pieces that define a swashbuckler like this. These pirate brawls are at their best when they rivals collide on deck and King choreographs the chaos so that you keep track of all the major players in the melee. But what Technicolor glory! They set sail against Maxfield Parish skylines and battle in a riot of indigos and royal blues and crimson reds with flourishes of gold. The finery of the haughty aristocrats and the flamboyance of the gypsy pirate fashions vie for attention in the daylight and glow in the shadows of candlelight and studio moonlight in the purple evenings. The marvelously intricate model ships of the sea battles staged in studio tanks are a reminder of the glorious craft of practical studio effects in the classic age and the sets create a delicious fantasy of the wild Caribbean frontier of European imprints in the tropical setting and outlaw towns of rough taverns. A lively cast of Hollywood's most memorable supporting players, from George Sanders in a wild red beard and a hearty embrace of pirate decadence to Thomas Mitchell as a buoyant Irish sidekick loyal to the end to Laird Cregar in majestic form as the one-time pirate king resisting his outlaw impulses as he battles a belligerent cabinet of arrogant aristocrats, keeps the energy up between romantic tussles. The original elements of the film are no longer available and this edition was mastered from a high quality vault print. Anyone familiar with the glow of early 1940s Technicolor at its best will notice that there is some fading to image and that the colors are not quite as lustrous as the stunning Drums Along the Mohawk Blu-ray, for example. But the color is still handsome and rich and the average film fan will only see the glorious explosion of overripe colors and deep hues of the painterly colors unique to the early Technicolor era. According to veteran film preservation and restoration professional Robert Harris, the Fox restoration team has done wonders with the materials at hand and the image is rich, clean, and strong. The disc carries over the commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer and actress Maureen O'Hara recorded for the DVD released a decade ago. By Sean Axmaker

Quotes

I always sample a bottle of wine before I buy it. Let's have a sip, see if you're worth taking along.
- Jamie 'Jamie-Boy' Waring
In Tortuga when a woman slaps a man's face, it means she wants him to grab her, over-power her, and smother her with kisses. I understand in Jamaica a gentleman must refuse such overtures.
- Jamie Waring
What is that?
- Don Miguel
The devil looking after his own!
- Jamie Waring
Now put your shirt on. You look much too naked for a decent English gentleman.
- Capt. Sir Henry Morgan
The occasion seems a little lacking in enthusiasm, Henry.
- Jamie Waring
I imagined we'd meet with some slight disapproval.
- Capt. Sir Henry Morgan
At least we don't have to shoot our way in.
- Tommy Blue

Trivia

To help out the war effort, the actors tried hard to keep the number of takes low so as to conserve film. Roughly thirty of the scenes were done in one take.

Notes

The opening title cards read "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara in Rafael Sabatini's The Black Swan." Sabatini's novel first appeared as a serial in the London Daily Mail (21 January-29 February 1932). The film is based in part on the real-life pirate Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688). Welsh-born Morgan and his men plundered the Caribbean in many daring raids until his arrest in 1672, after which he was sent to England for trial. Due to the deteriorating relations between England and Spain, however, King Charles II pardoned and knighted Morgan in 1674 and sent him back to Jamaica as the deputy governor. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection and the Records of the Legal Department, both located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collection Library, Sam Hellman and John Taintor Foote worked on early versions of the screenplay, although the extent of their contributions to the completed film has not been determined. Conference notes in the collection indicate that in mid-1941, Rouben Mamoulian was considering directing the picture. Hollywood Reporter news items add that Lou Edelman was originally scheduled to produce the film, and that after Edelman left Twentieth Century-Fox in the summer of 1941, Robert T. Kane was assigned to succeed him as the film's producer. Kane was in turn replaced by Robert Bassler.
       A May 28, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that child actress Ann Todd was to be replaced in the cast due to a fractured ankle, and a studio press release stated that Helen Costello was included in the cast. Costello's appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed, however. According to Hollywood Reporter news items and studio press releases, extensive shooting of background footage was done on location in Florida, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica and Honduras. The studio briefly considered filming at the Great Lakes and also in Puerto Rico; the latter was ruled out in March 1941 after it had become "a battle zone." Although the Variety review asserted that this film would be Tyrone Power's last for the duration of the war, he subsequently appeared in Crash Dive (see below) before entering the Marine Corps. The film received an Academy Award for Best Cinematography (color), and nominations for Best Music (scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture) and Best Special Effects (Fred Sersen, photography; Roger Heman and George Leverett, sound). According to a 1945 New York Times article, the ship used in the picture was later used in That Hamilton Woman, The Princess and the Pirate and Captain Kidd (see below for all).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1942

Released in United States 1942

Re-released in United States on Video February 6, 1996

Re-released in United States on Video February 6, 1996