John Paul Jones has some spectacular sea action scenes and achieves some freshness in dealing with the Revolutionary War. But the Samuel Bronston production doesn't get much fire-power into its characters. They end, as they begin, as historical personages rather than human beings.

John Paul Jones has some spectacular sea action scenes and achieves some freshness in dealing with the Revolutionary War. But the Samuel Bronston production doesn’t get much fire-power into its characters. They end, as they begin, as historical personages rather than human beings.

John Farrow’s direction of such scenes as the battle of Jones’ Bon Homme Richard with the British Serapis is fine, colorful and exciting. Perhaps because Jones himself was a man of action, the story gets stiff and awkward when it moves off the quarterdeck and into the drawing room.

The screenplay attempts to give the story contemporary significance by opening and closing with shots of the present US Navy, emphasizing the tradition Jones began almost single-handed. The interim picks up Jones as a Scottish boy who runs away to sea, becomes a sea captain, and winds up in the American colonies as they prepare for the War of Independence.

The historical figures tend to be stiff or unbelievable. Charles Coburn, as Benjamin Franklin, has a fussy charm, and Macdonald Carey, as Patrick Henry, is good. The brief appearance of Bette Davis as Catherine the Great of Russia is the cliche portrait of that vigorous empress, a woman bordering on nymphomania.

Robert Stack in the title role gives a robust portrayal. Marisa Pavan, as a titled Frenchwoman, is sweet but rather lifeless, while Jean-Pierre Aumont, as Louis XVI, seems a stronger monarch than the usual portrait of that doomed king.

John Paul Jones

Production

Warner. Director John Farrow; Producer Samuel Bronston; Screenplay John Farrow, Jesse Lasky Jr; Camera Michel Kelber; Editor Eda Warren; Music Max Steiner; Art Director Franz Bachelin

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Extract of a review from 1959. Running time: 126 MIN.

With

Robert Stack Marisa Pavan Charles Coburn Erin O'Brien Jean-Pierre Aumont Bette Davis

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