The Sea Hawk retains all of the bold and swashbuckling adventure and excitement of its predecessor, turned out for First National by Frank Lloyd in 1923. But the screenplay of the new version is expanded to include endless episodes of court intrigue during the reign of Queen Elizabeth that tend to diminish the effect of the epic sweep of the high seas dramatics. When the script focuses attention on the high seas and the dramatic heroics of the sailors who embarked on daring raids against Spanish shipping, the picture retains plenty of excitement.
Story traces the adventures of the piratical sea fighter (Errol Flynn), commander of a British sailing ship that preys on Spanish commerce in the late 16th century. Colorful and exciting sea battle at the start, when Flynn’s ship attacks and sinks the galleon of the Spanish ambassador, comes too early and is never topped by any succeeding sequences. Then follows extensive internal politics of Elizabeth’s court, with the queen secretly condoning Flynn’s buccaneering activities.
Little credit can be extended to the overwritten script, with long passages of dry and uninteresting dialog, or to the slow-paced, uninspiring direction by Michael Curtiz. Errol Flynn fails to generate the fire and dash necessary to successfully put over the role of the buccaneer leader, although this lack might partially be attributed to the piloting. Flora Robson gets attention in the role of Queen Elizabeth.
The Sea Hawk is a big budget production with reported cost set around $1.75 million. Expenditure is easily seen in the large sets, sweeping sea battles and armies of extras used with lavish display. From a production standpoint, the picture carries epic standards, but same cannot be said for the story.
1940: Nominations: Best B&W Art Direction, Score, Sound, Special Effects