The exploits of one of Britain’s greatest fictional naval adventurers have been filmed by Warner with spectacular success. Captain Horatio Hornblower has been brought to the screen as effervescent entertainment with action all the way.
Three C.S. Forester stories provide the basis for the pic, and the author, in preparing his own adaptation, has selected the best material. It is an incisive study of a man who is dispassionate, aloof and remote, yet often capable of finer feelings.
In his interpretation of the title role, Gregory Peck stands out as a skilled artist, capturing the spirit of the character and atmosphere of the period. Whether as the ruthless captain ordering a flogging as a face-saving act for a junior officer or tenderly nursing Virginia Mayo through yellow fever, he never fails to reflect the Forester character.
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The film is divided into two halves. In the opening, Hornblower (Peck) is commanding the frigate Lydia throught the Pacific waters to fulfill a British mission to provide arms to enemies of Spain. On his return to England, he participates in an exiting adventure against Napoleon’s fleet, eventually becoming a national hero. The major action sequences have been lensed with great skill.