Monday, June 24, 2013

Classic Movie Pirates A to Z

Aargh, maties! We're back with a new A to Z list and this time, the subject is those men--and women--who sail the seas beneath the jolly roger flag. Don't look for any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in this list. Our focus is strictly classic cinema.

Jean Peters means business!
A - Anne of the Indies. Jean Peters played Anne Providence, a female pirate, who falls for the charms of Louis Jourdan (who turns out to be married to Debra Paget!). Blackbeard appears as Anne's mentor; the story was inspired by the life of pirate Anne Bonny.

B - The Black Pirate. Douglas Fairbanks starred in this lively 1926 adventure about a young man seeking vengeance against the pirates responsible for his father's death. It was shot in two-strip Technicolor.

C - Captain Blood. There have been several films based on Rafael Sabatini's best-selling pirate yarn and its sequels. The best, of course, is 1935's Captain Blood, in which a then-unknown named Errol Flynn took over the lead role when Robert Donat turned it down. By the way, Sean Flynn--Errol's son--starred in The Son of Captain Blood.

D - The Devil-Ship Pirates. This is one of three pirate films made in the 1960s by Hammer Films (better known for their Dracula and Frankenstein series). Both Devil-Ship Pirates and Pirates of Blood River take place primarily on land! The former film is the better of the two with Christopher Lee as a nasty pirate captain. (For the record, Peter Cushing was a retired pirate in Hammer's Captain Clegg.)

Flynn looking dashing in
The Sea Hawk.
E - Errol Flynn. He played a pirate in Captain Blood, a privateer (i.e., a pirate for the Queen) in The Sea Hawk, and posed as a pirate in Against All Flags.

F - Frenchman's Creek. Joan Fontaine starred in this 1944 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel about an aristocratic woman who falls in love with a French pirate.

G - Ghosts in Blackbeard's Ghost. Long before Pirates of the Caribbean, ghostly pirates haunted the screen in movies like Blackbeard's Ghost. It starred Peter Ustinov as a curmudgeonly pirate anxious to be reunited with his ghost ship.

Disney's colorful Hook.
H - Captain Hook. Peter Pan's archnemesis was delightfully voiced by Hans Conried in Disney's animated Peter Pan. My favorite Hook, though, was the one played by Cyril Ritchard in the Broadway musical (adapted for TV) with Mary Martin as Peter.

I - The Ice Pirates. Robert Ulrich and Mary Crosby teamed for this futuristic yarn about buccaneers searching for treasure--in the form of water! It's the best we could do for "I."

J - Jamaica. This Caribbean country serves as home base for many real-life and movie pirates, notably Captain Blood, The Black Swan, and A High Wind in Jamaica.

K - Captain Kidd. Some historians think William Kidd was more of a privateer than a pirate--though he was found guilty of piracy and hanged. Charles Laughton played him twice on films, in Captain Kidd (1945) and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952).

L - The Lost Continent. Hammer Films' third pirate picture is a wacky, entertaining fantasy-adventure with a modern-day tramp steamer going off course and docking near an island populated by the descendants of Conquistadors and buccaneers.

M - Moonfleet. The distinction between pirates and smugglers can be a bit blurry at times and this 1955 adaptation of the classic children's novel is a perfect example. Since the film involves the legend of someone named Blackbeard--even though he wasn't the Blackbeard--I'm counting it as a pirate movie!

N - Naughty Marietta. Jeanette MacDonald flees to New Orleans to avoid an arranged marriage, but her ship is captured by pirates. Never fear. Nelson Eddy is there rescue her and, yes, there is much singing!

Maureen looking pensive for
a pirate.
O - Maureen O'Hara. Was there a better a female pirate than Maureen in Against All Flags? You agree? I thought so!

P - The Pirate. Yes, there several possible picks for "P", so we'll stick with the obvious and go with this Gene Kelly-Judy Garland musical. Quick now, who played the real (retired) pirate?

Q - Anthony Quinn.  He, Errol, and Robert Newton may have played more pirates than any other actors. Quinn's pirate pics include: The Black SwanA High Wind in Jamaica, and Against All Flags.

R - Raiders of the Seven Seas. John Payne played the real-life Barbarossa in this fictional tale in which he falls in love with Spanish countess Donna Reed. (Apparently, that thing about shipboard romances applies to pirate ships as well.)

S - The Sea Hawk. Well, Errol Flynn is technically a privateer working for the Queen in this loose adaptation of Rafael Sabatini's novel. Still, it's Errol on a ship, plundering other ships--close enough to a pirate for me!

Newton in his most famous role.
T - Treasure Island. There have been numerous film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel, but the best remembered is probably the Disney version with a wild-eyed Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Newton reprised the role in a non-Disney sequel called Long John Silver and in a short-lived TV series.

U - Undercover Agents. Surprisingly, there have been several movies about undercover agents posing as buccaneers in order to infiltrate a pirate stronghold. Examples include Against All Flags, Yankee Buccaneer, and The King's Pirate (with Doug McClure in the Errol Flynn role!).

V - Captain Vallo from The Crimson Pirate. You knew the most acrobatic of all pirates--played by Burt Lancaster--would be on this list somewhere!

W - The Walrus, Captain Flint's ship in various film versions of Treasure Island. Typically, we only hear about Flint's ship since that notorious pirate is dead at the start of the story...and his treasure is buried.

X - is the "X" formed by crossbones beneath the skull on the Jolly Roger flag.

Jeff Chandler prior to posing
as a pirate.
Y - Yankee Buccaneer.  Jeff Chandler plays a Naval lieutenant who goes undercover to nab some pirates in this 1952 adventure. Two years later, in Yankee Pasha, Jeff would have to rescue his love (Rhonda Fleming) when pirates kidnap her and sell her to a sultan. (Yes, Yellowbeard would work for "Y", but it's just not very good.)

Z - Zaca. Yes, we are really stretching it by listing the name of Errol Flynn's real-life yacht. But Errol played several pirates--so we can legally make connection from pirate movies to Flynn to Zaca.


  1. You had me at "Don't look for any Pirates of the Caribbean movies on the list." Well done. Enjoyed the list tremendously. And yes, Maureen O'Hara is my favorite lady pirate in the movies. Sorry Jean Peters.

  2. Aye, but this is a list worthy of a pirate's plunder! Captain Hook is my favorite buccaneer but I also enjoy Errol whether at sea or on land. And your selection for "x" was spot on, Rick! I also agree that feisty Maureen O'Hara is a most excellent female pirate.

    Well done, Matey!

  3. What a fun post! Who knew you could actually make A-Z with a pirate theme! I had no idea there were so many pirate movies. I've hardly seen any of them! Awhile back, I turned off "The Black Swan."....was bored to tears. However, my blog readers convinced me to have another go at it. Though I still haven't done so, I'm determined that I will. (Which means, I couldn't vote in your poll, because I haven't seen a single one of the films.)

    I adore "Moonfleet." Just caught that last month for the first time.

  4. Ha! I wondered what you would come up with for "X". "Against All Flags" is one of our favorite pirate flicks and one film that should have a little more recognition than it does. It's really a gem. Great list!

  5. Who doesn't like a pirate movie? The pirate ship is a floating model of American democracy. When one embarks onto a particular ship for the purpose of piratical pursuits, he (very few "her's"...women were considered "bad luck" on ships---but always a sign of potential "good luck" on shore!) signed an Article of Code. Here the ship's "citenzenary (sic) & employee duties & compensation were apelled out.
    Anyone could take over the ship as Captain...if they had enough "help". The former Captain would either receive a lifeBoat & few provisions Cruise or an early retirement to Davey Jones Locker.
    The Articles of Code also designated the duties of the crew members and what their piractical booty of each endevour would be.
    Maureen O'Hara did a lot of pirate movies...but Rhonda Fleming (The Black Haek) can compete as a valid opponent.
    Plus--what about "The Kings Pirate (19690 for the "K" category? Come on---it has Doug McClure, Guy Stockwell, AND JIL ST JOHN!

    1. Thanks for a little pirate history, raccoon713! Interesting that red-haired actresses made the best female movie pirates (though I also liked Geena Davis in the non-classic CUTTHROAT ISLAND). Wasn't Rhonda's movie THE GOLDEN HAWK? Hey, Doug was mentioned under "U", but not Jill--yet another redhead!

  6. B is for Bucket o' Blood. I can't believe you didn't include something from the Princess and the Pirate. Classic with Bob Hope and Virginia Mayo!

    My fave pirate film ever is Disney's Treasure Island. Robert Newton's Long John Silver is the pirate voice that has become the default.

  7. I thought for sure X would be 'X marks the spot'

  8. Errol Flynn was amazing in so many of the movies he did...but, I loved "Captain Blood"!

  9. Ohmygosh, I can't believed you managed to fill that whole list! WELL DONE! (And I'm giving you extra points for the "X" - that one probably would have stumped me!)