Friday, September 19, 2014

"The Black Swan" (1942)


This is my contribution to the very first blogathon I have ever hosted :-)  Click here or on that button to find the list of all the other entries and read those too!

I first saw this a few years ago, before I really had seen Tyrone Power in much of anything.  Oh, I'd seen him in two or three movies, but none of them recently.  This is the movie that made me sit up and go, "Zowie!  I need to see more Tyrone Power movies!"  In fact, most of the time I can't actually remember Tyrone Power's name -- I think of him as "Jamie Boy," his character in this movie.  (Also, I just learned I've been pronouncing "Tyrone" wrong all these years.  At least, according to the trailer for this movie.)

Anyway, on to the pirates!

The Black Swan opens with Captain Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) and his band of pirates descending on a sleeping Caribbean city and carrying off all the treasure, wine, and women they can hold.  But Captain Waring (called "Jamie Boy" by those who love him) gets captured by the Spanish soldiers, and the governor of Jamaica puts him on the rack and tries to torture him into revealing where notorious pirate Henry Morgan is.  Of course, Jamie Boy just spits insults at him until his pirate crew comes to free him, and they stick the governor on the rack instead.

And that's when Lady Margaret (Maureen O'Hara) sweeps imperiously down the stairs, points a pistol at Jamie Boy, and demands to know where her father is.  Turns out she's the daughter of some British lord they'd just tossed in a dungeon.


Jamie Boy tells his crew he's claiming her as "captain's share" of the loot, then salutes her with his sword and trades insults with her for a bit.


Frankly, if I'd been confronted by a shirtless, scruffy Tyrone Power brandishing a beautiful sword, I probably would have swooned on the spot to make myself easier to tote.  However, Lady Margaret is made of sterner stuff than I (being played by Maureen O'Hara, after all), and instead she tries to threaten her way free.  He disarms her handily, then tries to kiss her, saying he always samples a bottle of wine before he buys it.  When he does manage to kiss her, she bites him, so he does what any self-respecting pirate would:  slugs her and prepares to carry her off to his ship.


But when he opens the door, what to his wondering eyes should appear but Captain Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar)!  Freshly pardoned by the English government and set up as the new governor of Jamaica!


Captain Morgan announces that peace has been declared between England and Spain, and that as governor, he's giving all pirates the choice of either stopping their piratical ways and settling down on land he'll give them, or else leaving the Caribbean for good.


Of course, that doesn't sit well with every single pirate, particularly Captain Leech (George Sanders) and his menacing pal Wogan (Anthony Quinn).  They declare they think that Morgan is an English spy and that they're going to continue pirating if they darn well please, and don't start ordering them around!

But Jamie Boy agrees to stop being a pirate and instead become Governor Morgan's right-hand man.  And then we have the ceremony where Morgan gets installed as governor publicly, and Lady Margaret is very upset by having a pirate as a governor, especially since it means Jamie Boy is around to bother her now.  AND he's sleeping in her old room at the governor's palace.  She flounces out into the garden, Jamie Boy follows her, and we have my favorite scene in the whole movie.


Jamie Boy tells her that he's learned a whole new set of manners, and that now, instead of hugging and squeezing a woman into loving him, he's going to try his hand at being a gentleman.


 And even with him looking this splendid, she still keeps glaring and yowling at him!


How on earth she can resist him in this outfit, I don't know.  But she does.  Like I said, sterner stuff than I'm made of.


Actually, that's what I like best about this movie -- the way these two characters grow.  They're both very selfish and proud, and they both have to learn to think about someone other than themselves before they can find love and happiness.  It's a very sweet moral, for a pirate movie, but don't worry -- it's not all about the romance.  It's mostly about the swashbuckling, and they have a sword fight every ten minutes or so just to keep things peppy.

Lady Margaret has a fancy-pants fiance named Roger Ingram (Edward Ashley), who Jamie Boy refuses to duel with because he's promised not to kill any tame rabbits today.  Which is important to the plot, but also, I wanted to mention him so I could show you this shot of how awesome Jamie Boy's cape is:


That rascally Captain Leech continues pirating all around the Caribbean, and the people of Jamaica think Governor Morgan is feeding Leech information, so Morgan sends Jamie Boy and a couple other trustworthy captains out to find Leech in Tortuga and bring him to justice.


Leech does have a spy on Jamaica, so he knows to run away from Tortuga before Jamie Boy ever got there.  Jamie Boy heads back to Jamaica to figure out who the spy is, and stomps into the assembly room or whatever it is, looking fearsome and delicious again.  The Jamaican gentry think it's either Morgan or Jamie Boy who's the traitor, and Jamie Boy gets really angry and declares he'll find Leech and stop him or die trying.  Or something like that -- I get distracted by the jaunty angle of Jamie Boy's hat and don't pay close attention to dialog in this scene.


Before he sets sail, Jamie Boy kidnaps Lady Margaret on the eve of her wedding to the tame rabbit, with the help of his trusty sidekick Tommy Blue (Thomas Mitchell).  Tommy Blue calls her a "flouncy wench" and declares she's more trouble than she's worth, but he helps anyway.


They set off to find Leech, but he finds them first and prepares to attack.  Jamie Boy decides the only way to save himself, his ship, and Lady Margaret is to pretend he's gone back to piracy and join up with Leech.  When Lady Margaret comes out on deck, there's a delightful shot of her confronting the Jolly Roger as they're preparing to run it up.


Leech sees their flag and comes over to parley, but he's not convinced.  Jamie Boy claims he and Lady Margaret are married, and she has the good sense to not disagree.  Leech signs articles with Jamie Boy, but insists Jamie Boy and Lady Margaret come sail on Leech's ship, the Black Swan, as an assurance of their loyalty.


They have to share a cabin on the Black Swan, but Jamie Boy courteously cedes the bed to her and sleeps in a hammock.  And looks all wistful and dreamy.  Honestly, has there ever been a more handsome pirate?  I think not.



And then there's a sea battle, and lots and lots and lots of sword fighting, with various and assorted feats of derring-do, as befits a pirate battle.


I'm not going to tell you exactly how it ends.  Watch it for yourself to see if Jamie Boy finally wins the affections of Lady Margaret, or if he dies in glorious battle with Captain Leech, or what.  Seriously -- this is a must-see pirate movie, and it's not hard to find on DVD.  You can pick up a used copy on the Barnes & Noble website for $7, or a brand-new one on Amazon for under $20.  Also, any self-respecting library should have this.

Is this movie family friendly?  Well, I'm not going to show it to my six-year-old just yet, but that's because I think the scene with Jamie Boy on the rack might worry him.  The action is all non-bloody, even when someone gets run through with a sword.  Lady Margaret does have her (non-bare) ankles and calves felt up on a couple of occasions, not to mention Jamie Boy forcing a kiss on her, but that's as racy as it gets.  And there are zero bad words.

Now, let's discuss those costumes a minute.  Specifically the glory and splendor that is Jamie Boy's black outfit with the swooshy red cloak/cape.  This is, hands down, the best pirate costume I have ever seen.  A screenshot can't show you how awesome the cloak in particular is.  I wish I knew how to create a GIF so I could show you how he can swoop the long right end of it up and over his left shoulder -- it's so supremely cool that if I had a cloak like that, I would wear it All The Time.




I probably should have screencapped a few more of Lady Margaret's costumes, but I did get long shots of a couple.  This one makes her look a little bit like Glinda the Good Witch, but it's sparkly and looks soft, and I would wear it if I had the figure for it.  Or a really good corset.  I don't much care for the little poofy bow on top of her head, but she pulls it off.  Because she's Maureen O'Hara.


I like this dress of hers best, with its layers of sheer and flimsy stuff, and that trailing scarf/wrap thingie.  It's the one she gets kidnapped in.  She has a couple others that are not a pale peachy color too, but I couldn't get good long shots of them.


Here's the trailer, if you want a sample this bottle of wine before you buy it:

26 comments:

  1. I have actually seen this movie a few years ago. It was on an old movie channel, so I watched, and it was a fun movie. I do not remember a ton of the details, but the technicolor looked great, and I enjoyed the ride.

    -James

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    1. I miss old movie channels. They're so great for stumbling on awesome movies! Of course, the reason I don't have cable is because if I did, I'd sit around watching old movies all day long, lol. Anyway, yes, it's a very fun ride :-) I'm glad you've seen it!

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  2. Congratulations on your first-ever blogathon! You've done a great job of putting it together. And your new blog banner is gorgeous, as is the blog button you created for the event. (If I had been writing on my classic film blog recently, I would have added it to my sidebar.)

    About this movie---your review is terrific, and the photos you have included are stunners. Ty and Maureen were both so incredibly beautiful!

    Did I tell you that I caught The Black Swan on the big screen? Yep, I did. It was part of Maureen O'Hara's 93rd birthday bash last August. Our historic (1927) theatre screened 6 of her films for the event, and I caught 3 of them, one of which was The Black Swan. Can you imagine, Jamie Boy on the big screen?! Truly that is how he was meant to be seen!

    Have a wonderful day,
    Patti

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    1. Thank you! I was really excited by the level of participation -- turns out most everyone loves pirates!

      I had "too many screenshots" in my review, so I pulled my favorite out and made it into my new blog header. I was originally just going to have it as a temporary header for the occasion, but it matches the background so beautifully (plus, how can I resist that look on Jamie Boy's face?) that I think I'll be keeping it for a while.

      And yes, I remember your post about seeing this on the big screen -- I drool with envy. I can imagine who beautiful this would be spread over a huge screen instead of my TV -- the world needs more 50-foot-tall Jamie Boys!

      Thanks for dropping by :-) I'm glad you liked the review! It was great fun to write and screencap for.

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  3. Ahhhhhh, I so love this movie. Jamie Boy is perfect, and I love Laird Cregar as Harry Morgan. He's my second favorite character. And that's so very true, Maureen O'Hara definitely made of sterner stuff. Hee! Great screenshots. Her dresses are really fabulous.

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    1. Honestly, Jamie Boy could not be more perfect and wonderful. Could not. Sigh.

      And Henry Morgan is awesome! I think Tommy Blue is probably my second-fave, but Henry Morgan about ties. I love their exchange at the very end, especially Tommy Blue's line, "Aye, there's nothin' like it for keepin' your ears pink." I've never particularly desired pink ears, but I do use that line now and then :-D

      My girls were watching over my shoulder while I screencapped this, and now they keep asking to watch "that pirate movie with the lady in the orange dress." Hee!

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  4. I haven't seen this one, but I'm always up for some Tyrone Power- and Maureen O'Hara of course! Thanks again for organizing the blogathon. It's been fun! :)

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    1. Do yourself a wonderful favor and find it! It is delicious.

      And thank you for joining in as a blogathon reader! Blogathons would be pointless without people reading and enjoying all the contributions. I'm glad you've had fun!

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  5. Any self respecting library, you say? Well goodness! Guess I'd better hie me over to ye old B&N and find me a copy! Sounds like fun! :D

    (And have I mentioned how much I love your reviews, Hamlette? Seriously. Even if the movie isn't one that I have any desire to see at all, your reviews always convince me otherwise! Plus that cape just looks awesome.)

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    1. I hope your B&N has it! I'm sure they could order it if they don't have it in-store.

      And thank you -- I'm so pleased you like my reviews! I do try to convey my enthusiasm for movies I like. And that cape is beyond awesome. Mmmm, mmm, mmm.

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  6. Also? How does one actually say Tyrone? I've always said Tie-roan. Is that not correct?

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    1. I always said TIE-roan too, but in this trailer, the announcer calls him tih-RONE.

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  7. Oh, the sparkle in those dresses! :-) And I love The Mark of Zorro so I have (just a slight!) feeling that I'll definitely be checking this out someday! ;-) Somewhere I thought I'd heard there might be a potentially skip-able scene near the end... Is there?

    Also, speaking of Zorro--have you seen that yet? We have the version with either b/w or Technicolor (which color is fun :-)) and I was wondering as you would probably heartily appreciate his cloak (long and black and mysterious in that one).

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    1. Hmm. Potentially skippable scene. Hmm. Well, they do have to spend the night in the same cabin, like I mentioned. He has to hop in bed with her and pretend they're sharing the bed and asleep because the pirates come check on them. At that point, one of the pirates does feel up Lady Margaret's ankle and calf, but she's under the sheet and he's mostly trying to gauge Jamie Boy's reaction/devotion. As soon as the pirates are gone, Jamie Boy climbs back out of bed and sleeps in a hammock, and it's made clear they do nothing they shouldn't. Not a scene I would find skippable.

      I saw The Mark of Zorro years and years ago. Once. I actually bought a copy recently, after reading the original book, but haven't managed to watch it yet. I think I have that dual version too.

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  8. This is such a great movie! And it is so great to see George Sanders in a very un-Sanderish role. That red beard suits him well! Great post.

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    1. George Sanders has such a great voice, doesn't he? I'm always excited when I see he's in a movie, because I know my ears are in for a treat. And that red beard really does suit him! So very different from some of his more usual looks, you're right. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  9. Tyrone Power is incredibly sexy in this movie. Maureen O'Hara too for that matter. And the Technicolor is gorgeous, almost like a storybook illustration.

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    1. Yes! They almost ignite the filmstock, don't they? It's such a feast for the eyes, all of it.

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    2. Great review.
      Ah, westerns and pirate films always take me back to when I was a kid. I bet I say this 4-5 times in B/W before we ever got a color set. Was blown away by how vivid everything was. This was one of the first vhs tapes I ever bought.
      Gord

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    3. Thanks, Gord! I've loved cowboys and pirates since I was a kid too. If I'd seen it as a kid, it probably would have been a favorite of mine then too!

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  10. Just a heads up on a decent Pirate film I ran across on You-Tube. THE KINGS PIRATE is a decent 1967 remake of Errol Flynn's AGAINST ALL FLAGS. The remake stars the always likeable Doug McClure. I saw this at the drive-in as a kid and loved it.

    Gord

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    1. Nifty! You have me at "Doug McClure" cuz I totally love him as Trampas on The Virginian :-)

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  11. The Virginian was one of my favorite westerns growing in the 60's. McClure also made a pretty good Beau Geste remake in 1966.

    Gord

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    1. Gord, nifty! I didn't know McClure did a remake of Beau Geste. Yet another movie for my list...

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  12. A Tyrone Power film I recommend is 1947's NIGHTMARE ALLEY. It is a nifty film noir that fires on all cylinders.
    Gord

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    1. Gord, I have heard good things about Nightmare Alley. I will see it one day, when it crosses my path!

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Agree or disagree? That is the question...

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)