Captain Blood, from the Rafael Sabatini novel, is a big picture. It’s a spectacle which will establish both Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Director Michael Curtiz hasn’t spared the horses. It’s a lavish, swashbuckling saga of the Spanish main.
The engaging Flynn is the titular Peter Blood, erstwhile physician, later sold into West Indian slavery, to emerge thereafter as a peer among Caribbean pirates, Capt Blood, only later to be pardoned, his crew of run- away slaves likewise granted their freedom, and sworn into the King’s navy.
Flynn impresses favorably from the start. One lives with him in the unfairness of a tyrant King Charles which causes him and his fellow Englishmen to be sold into slavery. One suffers with their travail; the audience roots with them in their ultimately fruitless plot for escape from the island. And then he is catapulted into leadership of a pirate ship.
De Havilland, who came to attention in Warner’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is romantically beauteous as the unsympathetic plantation owner’s (later governor’s) niece. This supplies a modicum of romantic interest, although all too paltry. It’s one of the prime shortcomings of the production. Lionel Atwill is sufficiently hateful as the uncle. Basil Rathbone is an effective co-pirate captain (French brigands, this time), he and Flynn engaging in an arresting duel in the course of events.
1935: Nominations: Best Picture, Sound