Cast & Crew
Blackbeard's Inn, a small hotel on the Carolina coast, is run by the Daughters of the Buccaneers, a group of little old ladies all claiming to be descendants of the notorious Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard. When Steve Walker, the new track coach for Godolphin College, registers at the inn, he learns that the Daughters are desperately trying to pay off their mortgage in order to prevent a takeover by the local gambling czar, Silky Seymour. Encouraged by Jo Anne Baker, a college instructor, Steve helps the old ladies' cause by buying an antique bedwarmer at a charity auction and discovers that it was once owned by Blackbeard's 10th wife. Before being burned as a witch, she had condemned her philandering husband to wander in limbo until he performed one good deed. By accident, Steve conjures up the devilish pirate's spirit and persuades him to help the Daughters. Since Blackbeard is invisible to all but Steve, he easily steals $900 of the mortage money that Jo Anne has raised and places a bet with Silky that Steve's track team will win the upcoming relays. Utilizing his invisible powers, Blackbeard creates havoc among the opposing team and literally hurls the Godolphins to victory; but Silky welshes on the bet and agrees only to return the $900. Steve, relying on Blackbeard's help, storms into Silky's gaming room, slaps down the money at the roulette table, and watches as the pirate helps him win $38,000. Following a confrontation with Silky and his hoods, Steve and Jo Anne hand the money over to the Daughters and save the inn. Suddenly Blackbeard materializes, ritually burns the mortgage, and then--free at last from the curse of his wife--majestically departs.
Robert F. Brunner
Robert O. Cook
Cecil A. Crandall
John B. Mansbridge
La Rue Matheron
Robert A. Mattey
Joseph L. Mceveety
Arthur J. Vitarelli
Blackbeard's Ghost began as a film project in 1966 with Walt Disney personally at the helm. Based on the popular 1965 children's novel of the same name by Ben Stahl, Disney believed that the story would make a terrific family film in the great Disney tradition. Screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, who had previously collaborated on the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for Disney's smash hit Mary Poppins (1964), adapted Stahl's book for the big screen.
Disney tapped Robert Stevenson to direct. Stevenson was one of Disney's most reliable and trusted directors, having put his stamp on a number of the studio's biggest hits over the years including Old Yeller (1957), The Absent Minded Professor (1961), and Mary Poppins.
Disney favorite Dean Jones was set to star as harried track coach Steve opposite Suzanne Pleshette as his college professor love interest Jo Anne. Blackbeard's Ghost marked the second time Jones and Pleshette worked together on a Disney film, the first time being on the 1966 live action comedy The Ugly Dachshund.
To play the colorful title role of Blackbeard, Disney made an inspired decision to hire the immensely versatile actor Peter Ustinov. The two-time Academy Award winner (Spartacus , Topkapi ) tackled the deliciously broad role with panache, and his mere presence elevated the picture's prestige.
As preparations began on the film, leading man Dean Jones was excited about the new project. However, during a one-on-one lunch with Walt Disney in the Fall of 1966 before shooting began, he took the opportunity to point out some concerns he had with the script.
"[Disney] sat back in his chair," recalled Jones in his 1982 memoir Under Running Laughter. "'You know, if you have so many objections to this picture, maybe you shouldn't be doing it at all. Maybe I should get another actor.'
We looked at each other for a moment. The iron fist was tightening in Walt's velvet glove, and I knew I had better talk fast. 'Look, Walt, you know I want to do this picture. This is an important film. They all are...There hasn't been a group of films with the historical significance of your comedies since Charlie Chaplin,' I said. 'I'd break down the studio gates to do Blackbeard's Ghost.'
'You would, huh?'
'Yes, I would,' I replied with emphasis. Walt smiled. He knew I was putting him on. Maybe he even admired the way I was doing it. He was also enjoying watching me squirm...Finally Walt let me off the hook, and he began talking about Peter Ustinov's arrival the next day.
'Can you have lunch with us?' he asked.
'Only if I'm still in the picture,' I smiled."
When shooting began on Blackbeard's Ghost in late 1966, Walt Disney kept his usual close eye on the production. However, when Disney appeared on set after a two-week hospital stay for what everyone thought to be minor neck surgery, it was clear Disney's health problems were more serious. "I was shocked by his appearance," said Jones. "His face was haggard and colorless, and there were large circles under his eyes...His suit hung on him six sizes too big...I wondered what the doctors had done to Walt's neck to make him look so depleted." Jones asked Disney if his neck would be okay.
"'Neck, no!' Disney spat with disgust, then whispered, 'They took out my left lung,'" recalled Jones.
"My mind stopped functioning. 'Your lung...That would mean cancer!'
[Disney] nodded his head slowly, disgusted, staring defiantly but unseeing into the set...I looked toward the camera involuntarily, surprised that work was continuing after what Walt had just said. The set still buzzed with noise and the crew stood ready to make the shot. Everything was normal, except Walt Disney was dying."
Just two weeks later, in the middle of production, Disney passed away at the age of 65.
Disney's sudden death shook The Walt Disney Company to its core. However, he left behind a thriving business with a strong veteran leadership team that had been mentored under his keen guidance and steeped in the Disney tradition. Life at The Walt Disney Company moved forward, and so did the production of Blackbeard's Ghost.
When the film opened in February 1968, Blackbeard's Ghost proved to be a winner at the box office, boosted by positive reviews. The New York Times called it "a delightful seasonal goody for the young and young-hearted," while Roger Ebert called it "a pleasant surprise...It is Disney's best since The Absent Minded Professor, and a splendid vehicle for the many talents of Peter Ustinov." Variety decreed it "lively and entertaining...highlighted by several very amusing chase and special effects sequences."
Dean Jones went on to star in several more successful Disney live action films, including The Love Bug (1968) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976), which reunited him with Blackbeard's Ghost co-star Suzanne Pleshette. Peter Ustinov would work twice more with Disney on One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975) and Treasure of Matecumbe (1976).
Blackbeard's Ghost was popular enough to warrant a theatrical re-release in 1976, followed by its release on home video in 1982. People of all ages will love this delightful family comedy with its flamboyant spirit of fun and excitement.
By Andrea Passafiume
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.
His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).
He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.
After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.
Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).
The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).
He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).
Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.
Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
You took that money, didn't you?- Steve Walker
(Thinking a moment.) Money...money... OH, the odd flimsy I removed from the pocketbook of your book-ish wench.- Blackbeard
Beware all wenches.- Blackbeard
As the flames crept higher and higher, she screeched her dying words: EDWARD TEACH, sometimes known as Captain Blackbeard, when you come to die, may your body and soul be racked between this world and the next, always to be alone! May the curse hold fast and true, may you be held forevermore in limbo, until such time as there be found in you, most wicked of all villains, some spark of human goodness. h well, good night Mr. Walker, sleep well. The dining room will be open at 7:30 AM. Please be prompt.- Mrs. Stocroft
What manner of craft be this we're cruisin' in?- Captain Blackbeard
It's an automobile.- Steve Walker
Eh?- Captain Blackbeard
An automobile!- Steve Walker
Oh, is it? Yes. An "automotonus".- Captain Blackbeard
Location scenes filmed in California.