Blackbeard, the Pirate


1h 39m 1952
Blackbeard, the Pirate

Brief Synopsis

A kidnapped beauty gets caught between feuding pirates.

Film Details

Also Known As
Buccaneer Empire
Genre
Action
Adventure
Historical
Release Date
Dec 25, 1952
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 24 Dec 1952; New York opening: 25 Dec 1952
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,896ft

Synopsis

In Port Royal, Jamaica, in the early eighteenth century, Robert Maynard poses as a surgeon in order to board pirate Charles Bellamy's ship. Maynard has turned spy because Jamaica's governor suspects that Bellamy is in league with Sir Henry Morgan, a former pirate who has been assigned by the King of England to protect the seas. The governor has offered a reward to anyone who can prove that Morgan is receiving pirate loot. As soon as Maynard and fellow spy Briggs board the ship, they learn that the notorious pirate Blackbeard has murdered Bellamy and taken over as captain. Beautiful passenger Edwina Mansfield, a pirate's daughter, is furious at Blackbeard because she had planned to marry Bellamy, but Blackbeard, who wants Morgan dead, knows that the nobleman is infatuated with her and will pursue her. Blackbeard then orders Maynard to remove a bullet from his neck, and ever-suspicious, demands that sailor Gilly watch the newcomer during the operation. Unknown to Blackbeard, Gilly is in league with Maynard and slips him a note begging him to slit the pirate's throat, but Maynard declines. Later, while Blackbeard is up on deck, Maynard slips into the captain's quarters and locates Bellamy's logbook, which he hopes will contain evidence that Bellamy gave Morgan stolen goods. Before Blackbeard discovers him, Maynard manages to rip out the book's incriminating pages. Maynard then defends Edwina against the unwanted advances of a lecherous pirate, killing him with his dagger. A grateful Edwina admits to Maynard that she agreed to marry Bellamy to escape from Morgan, from whom she has stolen treasure, which is now hidden in a clothes chest. Blackbeard suspects Edwina's crime and breaks open one of her chests but discovers only letters in which Edwina implicates Morgan as Bellamy's cohort. Maynard tries to steal the letter, but Blackbeard stops him, noting that if Morgan were arrested, all of his loot would go to the King. Soon after, Blackbeard, having plied Edwina's talkative servant Alvina with liquor, finally identifies the treasure chest and claims it. Although Maynard has made plans to jump ship with Briggs, he sends Briggs on alone with the logbook pages in order to help Edwina, who fears that Morgan will force her to marry him. Maynard chops a hole in the hold, and the next morning, as the ship founders, Blackbeard, having deduced Briggs and Maynard's mission, gives the surgeon a severe beating. Blackbeard then orders the crew to abandon the ship and hide on a nearby island. That night, Blackbeard's first mate, Ben Worley, accuses the pirate of hoarding the loot. To appease Worley, Blackbeard suggests that they bury the chest together on a neighboring beach, and the two watch as Maynard and Jubal, another sailor, dig a deep hole in the sand. When their rowboat suddenly comes unmoored, Maynard and Worley race off to secure it, and during their absence, Blackbeard orders Jubal into the hole, then shoots him. Blackbeard hides the chest among some rocks and refills the hole before Maynard and Worley return. Although Worley deduces Jubal's fate, he believes the treasure is buried and suggests to Maynard they conspire to do away with Blackbeard. The next morning, Blackbeard spies Morgan and his men on the beach and attacks them with cannon fire. During the ensuing battle, Maynard frees Edwina from Blackbeard's guards, while Blackbeard tricks a crazy, bearded beachcomber into dressing in his clothes. Blackbeard then shoots the man in the back, leaving his body to be discovered by Morgan, who assumes he has killed Blackbeard. Morgan defeats the pirates, reclaims Edwina and orders Blackbeard's head chopped off for display in Port Royal. Later, in the city, Maynard learns from his uncle Jeremy that Morgan connived to have the governor arrested and has assumed his post. Fearing for his life, Maynard decides to escape on Blackbeard's ship, which Morgan is sending back to England. Under cover of darkness, Maynard sneaks in to see Edwina at Morgan's villa and persuades her to leave with him. When the couple boards the ship, however, they discover that Blackbeard and his crew of escaped convicts have claimed it. Morgan pursues in a captured Spanish galleon, but halts his assault on Blackbeard's ship as soon as he sees Edwina tied to the mast. By threatening Edwina, Blackbeard then forces Morgan to sail away. That night, Worley, fed up with the captain's greed, encourages the crew to mutiny and retrieve the buried treasure on the island beach. After some fruitless digging, they locate the chest among the rocks and drag it back to the ship. Blackbeard has anticipated the mutiny, however, and greets them with deadly gunshot. When Blackbeard tries to escape with the treasure, however, Gilly and the other sailors shoot and stab him. They then bury him in the sand up to his neck and leave him to be drowned by the rising tide. Nearby, Edwina and Maynard steal a rowboat and, once safely at sea, kiss.

Film Details

Also Known As
Buccaneer Empire
Genre
Action
Adventure
Historical
Release Date
Dec 25, 1952
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 24 Dec 1952; New York opening: 25 Dec 1952
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,896ft

Articles

Blackbeard the Pirate


Like many other genres, swashbuckling adventures popularized by the likes of Errol Flynn were largely put on hold in Hollywood with the eruption of World War II, resulting in only odd hybrids like the 1948 MGM musical, The Pirate. However, 1950 saw a sudden resurgence with no less than seven pirate movies unleashed on moviegoers, most prominently with Disney's Treasure Island. Soon the '50s transformed into the busiest decade ever for screen buccaneers, and no film better represents the apex of this trend than 1952's Blackbeard the Pirate.

Lensed in vivid Technicolor and written by Alan Le May (a western writer who also penned the source novel for The Searchers, 1956), the film stars Linda Darnell as Edwina Mansfield, a well-bred society lady with a particularly shady past abducted by the crass Blackbeard (Robert Newton). Her possible salvation lies with Robert Maynard (Keith Andes), an innocent civilian along for the ride posing as a surgeon to prove that a powerful Jamaican magistrate also has a history of piracy.

Best known as a contract actress with 20th Century Fox from 1939 to 1952, the raven-haired Linda Darnell rose to fame during her first year with the studio in Star Dust and appeared opposite Tyrone Power in Brigham Young (1940), The Mark of Zorro (1940), and Blood and Sand (1941); she was also cast opposite him in Captain from Castile (1947) but was replaced by Jean Peters. Her tumultuous career at Fox was often unsatisfying for both the actress and her directors, but she did star in a quartet of bona fide classics: Hangover Square (1945) for John Brahm, Forever Amber (1947) for Otto Preminger (with whom she also worked on the solid film noir, Fallen Angel in 1945), Unfaithfully Yours (1948) for Preston Sturges, and A Letter to Three Wives (1949) for Joseph L. Mankiewicz. However, the 1950s proved less kind as, after appearing in No Way Out (1950) for Mankiewicz and The 13th Letter (1951) for Preminger, she was released from her contract and, not lured by the arrival of television, sought work in overseas productions. RKO hired her for Blackbeard the Pirate before she was to leave for a pair of productions in Italy, though the production ran so far over schedule she nearly lost those subsequent roles. A string of personal and romantic difficulties plagued her for many years, and she died tragically at the age of 41 on April 10, 1965, due to injuries sustained during a house fire.

Darnell's main male co-star in the film had already proven his swashbuckling mettle; in fact, English actor Robert Newton had stolen Walt Disney's 1950 version of Treasure Island in perhaps the screen's most indelible pirate role as Long John Silver, a role he reprised in a 1954 Australian film and a single-season 1955 television series. Character roles and volatile villains were his specialty, including memorable turns as Bill Sikes in David Lean's film of Oliver Twist (1948) and Inspector Javert in Les Misérables (1952), as well as a stellar sinister turn in the underrated 1949 Edward Dmytryk thriller, Obsession. His final film was Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) as Inspector Fix, and like Darnell, he died far too young at 51 in 1956.

By comparison, the other male lead in Blackbeard the Pirate had little scenery left to chew. A relative newcomer, Keith Andes had his first significant role in Fritz Lang's acclaimed noir film Clash by Night (1952). His subsequent career consisted primarily of character roles, most notably in John Farrow's Back from Eternity (1956) in which he co-starred with Lucille Ball, with whom he would subsequently appear on television several times.

The boisterous music for Blackbeard the Pirate was composed by Hollywood veteran Victor Young (who posthumously won his only Academy Award for his reunion of sorts with Newton, Around the World in Eighty Days). A wildly prolific composer, he had been working since the mid-1930s with credits including The Glass Key (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), The Uninvited (1944) (which spawned the popular song "Stella by Starlight"), and Shane (1953). The same year as Blackbeard the Pirate, he composed the scores for seven other films including Scaramouche and The Quiet Man.

Also notably prolific was the film's director, Raoul Walsh, who began his career with silent shorts in 1913 and remained in the director's chair until 1964. An occasional actor as well, he is best remember in front of the camera in an uncredited but memorable turn as John Wilkes Booth in The Birth of a Nation (1915) for D.W. Griffith, for whom he also worked as an assistant. He had also had experience with high seas adventure one year before Blackbeard the Pirate with Captain Horatio Hornblower, and he was best known for his tough, masculine adventures and thrillers like They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), and White Heat (1949). He is also remembered both for introducing moviegoers to John Wayne in the ambitious early widescreen film The Big Trail (1930) and for losing his right eye in 1928 during the making of In Old Arizona when a rabbit struck the windshield of his car. Interestingly, his pirate anti-hero in this film does not come equipped with an eye patch.

Producer: Edmund Grainger
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Alan LeMay; DeVallon Scott (story)
Cinematography: William E. Snyder
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey
Music: Victor Young
Film Editing: Ralph Dawson
Cast: Robert Newton (Edward Teach/Blackbeard), Linda Darnell (Edwina Mansfield), William Bendix (Ben Worley), Keith Andes (Robert Maynard), Torin Thatcher (Sir Henry Morgan), Irene Ryan (Alvina, a lady in waiting), Alan Mowbray (Noll), Richard Egan (Briggs), Skelton Knaggs (Gilly), Dick Wessel (Dutchman).
C-99m.

by Nathaniel Thompson
Blackbeard The Pirate

Blackbeard the Pirate

Like many other genres, swashbuckling adventures popularized by the likes of Errol Flynn were largely put on hold in Hollywood with the eruption of World War II, resulting in only odd hybrids like the 1948 MGM musical, The Pirate. However, 1950 saw a sudden resurgence with no less than seven pirate movies unleashed on moviegoers, most prominently with Disney's Treasure Island. Soon the '50s transformed into the busiest decade ever for screen buccaneers, and no film better represents the apex of this trend than 1952's Blackbeard the Pirate. Lensed in vivid Technicolor and written by Alan Le May (a western writer who also penned the source novel for The Searchers, 1956), the film stars Linda Darnell as Edwina Mansfield, a well-bred society lady with a particularly shady past abducted by the crass Blackbeard (Robert Newton). Her possible salvation lies with Robert Maynard (Keith Andes), an innocent civilian along for the ride posing as a surgeon to prove that a powerful Jamaican magistrate also has a history of piracy. Best known as a contract actress with 20th Century Fox from 1939 to 1952, the raven-haired Linda Darnell rose to fame during her first year with the studio in Star Dust and appeared opposite Tyrone Power in Brigham Young (1940), The Mark of Zorro (1940), and Blood and Sand (1941); she was also cast opposite him in Captain from Castile (1947) but was replaced by Jean Peters. Her tumultuous career at Fox was often unsatisfying for both the actress and her directors, but she did star in a quartet of bona fide classics: Hangover Square (1945) for John Brahm, Forever Amber (1947) for Otto Preminger (with whom she also worked on the solid film noir, Fallen Angel in 1945), Unfaithfully Yours (1948) for Preston Sturges, and A Letter to Three Wives (1949) for Joseph L. Mankiewicz. However, the 1950s proved less kind as, after appearing in No Way Out (1950) for Mankiewicz and The 13th Letter (1951) for Preminger, she was released from her contract and, not lured by the arrival of television, sought work in overseas productions. RKO hired her for Blackbeard the Pirate before she was to leave for a pair of productions in Italy, though the production ran so far over schedule she nearly lost those subsequent roles. A string of personal and romantic difficulties plagued her for many years, and she died tragically at the age of 41 on April 10, 1965, due to injuries sustained during a house fire. Darnell's main male co-star in the film had already proven his swashbuckling mettle; in fact, English actor Robert Newton had stolen Walt Disney's 1950 version of Treasure Island in perhaps the screen's most indelible pirate role as Long John Silver, a role he reprised in a 1954 Australian film and a single-season 1955 television series. Character roles and volatile villains were his specialty, including memorable turns as Bill Sikes in David Lean's film of Oliver Twist (1948) and Inspector Javert in Les Misérables (1952), as well as a stellar sinister turn in the underrated 1949 Edward Dmytryk thriller, Obsession. His final film was Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) as Inspector Fix, and like Darnell, he died far too young at 51 in 1956. By comparison, the other male lead in Blackbeard the Pirate had little scenery left to chew. A relative newcomer, Keith Andes had his first significant role in Fritz Lang's acclaimed noir film Clash by Night (1952). His subsequent career consisted primarily of character roles, most notably in John Farrow's Back from Eternity (1956) in which he co-starred with Lucille Ball, with whom he would subsequently appear on television several times. The boisterous music for Blackbeard the Pirate was composed by Hollywood veteran Victor Young (who posthumously won his only Academy Award for his reunion of sorts with Newton, Around the World in Eighty Days). A wildly prolific composer, he had been working since the mid-1930s with credits including The Glass Key (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), The Uninvited (1944) (which spawned the popular song "Stella by Starlight"), and Shane (1953). The same year as Blackbeard the Pirate, he composed the scores for seven other films including Scaramouche and The Quiet Man. Also notably prolific was the film's director, Raoul Walsh, who began his career with silent shorts in 1913 and remained in the director's chair until 1964. An occasional actor as well, he is best remember in front of the camera in an uncredited but memorable turn as John Wilkes Booth in The Birth of a Nation (1915) for D.W. Griffith, for whom he also worked as an assistant. He had also had experience with high seas adventure one year before Blackbeard the Pirate with Captain Horatio Hornblower, and he was best known for his tough, masculine adventures and thrillers like They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), They Died with Their Boots On (1941), and White Heat (1949). He is also remembered both for introducing moviegoers to John Wayne in the ambitious early widescreen film The Big Trail (1930) and for losing his right eye in 1928 during the making of In Old Arizona when a rabbit struck the windshield of his car. Interestingly, his pirate anti-hero in this film does not come equipped with an eye patch. Producer: Edmund Grainger Director: Raoul Walsh Screenplay: Alan LeMay; DeVallon Scott (story) Cinematography: William E. Snyder Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey Music: Victor Young Film Editing: Ralph Dawson Cast: Robert Newton (Edward Teach/Blackbeard), Linda Darnell (Edwina Mansfield), William Bendix (Ben Worley), Keith Andes (Robert Maynard), Torin Thatcher (Sir Henry Morgan), Irene Ryan (Alvina, a lady in waiting), Alan Mowbray (Noll), Richard Egan (Briggs), Skelton Knaggs (Gilly), Dick Wessel (Dutchman). C-99m. by Nathaniel Thompson

Keith Andes (1920-2005)


Keith Andes, the tall, raw-boned actor who had a notable career in film, television and stage, died on November 11 at his home in Canyon Country, California. He was 85. His death was ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County coroner's office. He had been suffering for years with bladder cancer.

Born John Charles Andes on July 12, 1920, in Ocean City, New Jersey, Keith been began performing in his teens for school productions and for local radio stations in his hometown. After he graduated with a B.A. in education from Temple University in 1943, he pursued a stage career in earnest, and in 1947 scored a triumph in the Broadway musical The Chocolate Soldier, where he won a Theatre World Award for his performance. That same year, he made his film debut as one of Loretta Young's brothers in The Farmer's Daughter (1947). Although his film career never quite took off, one could certainly envy him for playing opposite two of the hottest blonde bombshells of their generation: first with Marilyn Monroe Clash by Night (1952); and then Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Most Likely (1957).

If Andes lacked the star power to be a consistent Hollywood lead, he certainly had no problems with television. Here, his stalwart presence and commanding baritone made him more than servicable for television through three decades: (Goodyear Theatre, Playhouse 90, The Ford Television Theatre); '60s: (Perry Mason, The Rifleman, Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Glynis); and '70s (Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco).

Andes made his last notable screen appearance in the Al Pacino vehicle And Justice For All (1979), before falling into semi-retirement and doing occassional voice work. He is survived by two sons, Mark, Matt; and three grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Keith Andes (1920-2005)

Keith Andes, the tall, raw-boned actor who had a notable career in film, television and stage, died on November 11 at his home in Canyon Country, California. He was 85. His death was ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County coroner's office. He had been suffering for years with bladder cancer. Born John Charles Andes on July 12, 1920, in Ocean City, New Jersey, Keith been began performing in his teens for school productions and for local radio stations in his hometown. After he graduated with a B.A. in education from Temple University in 1943, he pursued a stage career in earnest, and in 1947 scored a triumph in the Broadway musical The Chocolate Soldier, where he won a Theatre World Award for his performance. That same year, he made his film debut as one of Loretta Young's brothers in The Farmer's Daughter (1947). Although his film career never quite took off, one could certainly envy him for playing opposite two of the hottest blonde bombshells of their generation: first with Marilyn Monroe Clash by Night (1952); and then Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Most Likely (1957). If Andes lacked the star power to be a consistent Hollywood lead, he certainly had no problems with television. Here, his stalwart presence and commanding baritone made him more than servicable for television through three decades: (Goodyear Theatre, Playhouse 90, The Ford Television Theatre); '60s: (Perry Mason, The Rifleman, Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Glynis); and '70s (Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco). Andes made his last notable screen appearance in the Al Pacino vehicle And Justice For All (1979), before falling into semi-retirement and doing occassional voice work. He is survived by two sons, Mark, Matt; and three grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Buccaneer Empire. The film's opening credits include the following disclaimer: "This photoplay is based on certain actual and outstanding events in the lives of its principal characters, but the other events and the other characters, except those representing persons whose true names are used, are fictional." The anonymous poem, "The Armchair Pirate," concludes the credits: "The meeker the man, the more pirate he/Snug in his armchair, far from the sea,/And reason commends his position:/He has all of the fun and none of the woes,/Masters the ladies and scuttles his foes,/And cheats both the noose and perdition!" The following written statement precedes the first scene: "During the 17th Century the Spanish Main was over-run with pirates, foremost of whom was Edward Teach, the evil and immortal Blackbeard. Sir Henry Morgan, who was then in the service of the king, had been sent to clear the seas of the very pirates he once had led." Voice-over narration, spoken by Keith Andes as his character, "Robert Maynard," is heard during the opening scene.
       According to biographical sources, the real Blackbeard, born Edward Teach (or Thatch) in England in the late 1600s, turned to piracy after twelve years of serving as a privateer during the War of the Spanish Succession. From 1716 to 1718, he attacked ships in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast of North America. Aided by the governor, with whom he shared his booty, Blackbeard maintained a base in North Carolina and raided settlements in the Carolinas and Virginia. Blackbeard died in 1718, killed not by his fellow pirates, as depicted in the film, but by an English force sent from Virginia. Modern sources note that Blackbeard liked to tie firecrackers in his long beard, a detail included in the picture. For information about the life of Sir Henry Morgan, see entry for the 1942 Twentieth Century-Fox picture The Black Swan in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.
       According to modern sources, producer Val Lewton developed the idea for the film while he was associated with RKO and intended to star Boris Karloff as Blackbeard. In November 1950, Hollywood Reporter announced that Robert Stevenson was to direct the picture, with a cast headed by Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, Victor Mature and Jack Beutel. A January 1952 Los Angeles Times item noted that Charles Laughton was under consideration for the Blackbeard role. RKO announced in April 1951 that the film would be shot in England, but no evidence of location filming has been found.
       Blackbeard was first portrayed on film in the 1911 Selig short Blackbeard, starring Hobart Bosworth, Bessie Eyton and Sydney Ayres. Murvyn Vye portrayed Blackbeard in the 1960 United Artists release The Boy and the Pirates . In 1968, Robert Stevenson directed Peter Ustinov in Walt Disney's production Blackbeard's Ghost (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).