The Sea Hawk Review

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In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, privateer Geoffrey Thorpe preys on the galleons of Spain. The Spanish Ambassador and an English traitor conspire against Thorpe and other ‘sea hawks’, Britain’s only naval defence, to have them out of the way so that the S


The most elaborate of Warner Brothers’ Errol Flynn swashbucklers, this casts the star as a happy‑go‑lucky (but patriotic) pirate in the service of a cheerful Good Queen Bess, defeating the humourless minions of Spain (Claude Rains, Henry Daniell) on the high seas and in swordfights.

It expresses wartime sentiments with jolly pirate singalongs (‘Ho for the Shores of Dover’), speeches about Britain's indomitable navies and an explicit depiction of King Philip of Spain as a Hitler figure who cannot be appeased in his desire for world-conquest.

Flynn prevents it from becoming a simple propaganda film, swishing a mean cape as he drives his trusty blade into black hearts, slogging with his crew across the isthmus of Panama (in a sun-scorched sepia sequence) and shackled to an oar (with his shirt off) as a galley slave before fomenting a daring plan to take over the ship. Olivia de Havilland, perhaps sensing that the Queen would get all the best scenes with Flynn, passed on the heroine role, which is taken by the appreciably less winsome if still-lovely Brenda Marshall, and in any case there’s not enough kissy stuff to compromise the energetic leaping about and rip-roaringly bloodthirsty sea battles.

Rains is underused, but Daniell is perfectly Rathbone-like as the scheming villain and the supporting cast is aces: Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, Una O’Connor. It has some of the best sets, costumes and effects of any Hollywood spectacle, and an Erich Wolfgang Korngold score that is a triumph of old-time movie music.

One of the very best and most lavish of all the Errol Flyn sweeping adventures. A feast for the eyes and the a good fun romp.