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Movies to Buckle One's Swash!


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Favorites from Kathie Gladden, a Canton Public Library staffer and Internet Branch contributor.

Check our other Fave Five lists, too!

Captain Blood

(1935)
1348884.jpg This film is full of firsts. First starring role for swashbuckling god Errol Flynn. His first on-screen pairing with perennial love interest Olivia de Havilland and dueling playmate Basil Rathbone. First original Hollywood film score by Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (who scored seven Flynn films in all). And Flynns first film helmed by his favorite director, Michael Curtiz (they teamed for eight subsequent films). Thanks to the music, the plot (noble hero, unjustly imprisoned, turns pirate in self-defense but is redeemed in the final reel) but mostly to an unpolished yet energetic and sincere performance by Flynn, this is the film that revived the swashbuckler genre.

The Sea Hawk

(1940)
1348889.jpg No, Brenda Marshalls leaden performance cant compare to any of the luminous Olivia de Havillands outings as Errol Flynns love interest. And yes, Henry Daniell (no Basil Rathbone, he) snivels more than sneers as Flynns villain du jour. All the same, this historical drama about English privateers in the reign of Elizabeth I is Flynns best pirate movie. Filmed on a lavish $1,700,00 budget, The Sea Hawk sets, script and score (again by Korngold) lushly evoke the period and settings, from the 16th Century courts of England and Spain to the swampy jungles of Panama. As is, its the rousing action-adventure one could dependably expect from Flynn and director Michael Curtiz; add de Havilland and Rathbone, and it would have been sublime.

The Black Swan

(1942)
blakswan.jpg Based, like Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, on a Rafael Sabatini novel, The Black Swan offers the romantically dashing Tyrone Power as likeable ex-scoundrel Jamie Waring. A former buccaneer reluctantly reformed when his idol, pirate Captain Henry Morgan, is inexplicably appointed Governor of Jamaica by Charles II, Waring helps Morgan secure the Caribbean from piracy, incidentally winning the heart of vixenish aristocrat Margaret Denby (played to fiery perfection by Maureen OHara) along the way. This film is considered a benchmark of pirate movies, against which all others are measured. Oscar winner for Best Cinematography and nominated for Alfred Newmans score, it is a visual and aural treat that stands the test of time.

Swashbuckler

(1976)
swshbuck.jpg Hollywood quit making pirate flicks after the 1950s, and for good reason: the new stars couldnt pull them off. After all, would you pay to see Paul Newman as Captain Blood, or Al Pacino as the Crimson Pirate? Universal made a worthy attempt to revive the genre with this light-hearted romp. Robert Shaw is appropriately roguish as Irish pirate Red Ned Lynch; Genevieve Bujold does a spirited rendition of Anne of the Thousand Days at Sea; and a pre-Raymond Peter Boyle as the pedophilic villain is creepily satisfying. But the real treat is a buff James Earl Jones as Lynchs sidekickthe only time well ever see this respected actor in hottie-mode.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

(2003)
1282986.jpg Whod have thought a movie based on a theme park ride could be such fun? Johnny Depps pirate Captain Jack Sparrow is more swish than swash, and hunky co-star Orlando Bloom is the one who gets to sail into the sunset with feisty damsel Keira Knightley. Those insults to convention aside, this is one great pirate movie. The plot is intriguing (zombie pirates need Knightleys blood to lift a curse that dooms them to roam the seas for eternity), the swordfights hearken back to Flynn and Rathbone, and Depps insouciant hero is a film pirate for the new millennium.