The Sea Hawk (1940 film)

The Sea Hawk (1940 film)

Infobox Film
name = The Sea Hawk

image_size =
caption = Original theatrical poster
director = Michael Curtiz
producer = Henry Blanke
Hal B. Wallis
writer = Howard Koch
Seton I. Miller
narrator =
starring = Errol Flynn
Brenda Marshall
Claude Rains
music = Erich Wolfgang Korngold
cinematography = Sol Polito
editing = George Amy
distributor = Warner Bros.
released = flagicon|USA July 1, 1940
runtime = 127 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget = $1.7 million
amg_id = 1:43317
imdb_id = 0033028

"The Sea Hawk" (1940) is a Warner Bros. feature film starring Errol Flynn in a story about an English privateer defending his nation's interests on the eve of the Spanish Armada. The film was the tenth collaboration between Flynn and director Michael Curtiz. The film's screenplay by Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller is loosely based on "The Sea Hawk" (1915) by Rafael Sabatini. The film has been broadcast on American television and has been released to both VHS and DVD formats.


* Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth of England
* Montagu Love as King Phillip II of Spain
* Claude Rains as Don José Alvarez de Cordoba, Spanish ambassador at the court of Queen Elizabeth
* Henry Daniell as Lord Wolfingham
* Errol Flynn as Geoffrey Thorpe, an English adventurer and privateer
* Brenda Marshall as Doña Maria, a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth and niece to Don José Alvarez de Cordoba
* Una O'Connor as Miss Latham, Doña Maria's English duenna
* Donald Crisp as Sir John Burleson
* Gilbert Roland as Captain Lopez
* Alan Hale as Carl Pitt
* James Stephenson as Abbott
* William Lundigan as Danny Logan
* Julien Mitchell as Oliver Scott
* J.M. Kerrigan as Eli Matson


The film begins with King Philip II of Spain (Montagu Love) declaring his intention to destroy England and after this "puny rockbound island as barren and treacherous as her Queen" is out of the way, he believes that world conquest will follow: "it (a map) will cease to be a map of the world; it will be Spain." He sends one of his courtiers, Don Alvarez (Claude Rains), as his ambassador to allay the suspicions of Queen Elizabeth I (Flora Robson) about the great armada he is building to invade England.

In England, some of the Queen's ministers plead with her to build a fleet, which she hesitates to do in order to spare the purses of her subjects.

The ambassador's ship is captured en route to England by the "Albatross" and her captain, Geoffery Thorpe (Errol Flynn). Don Alvarez and his niece, Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall), are taken aboard and transported to England. Thorpe is immediately enchanted by Dona Maria and gallantly returns her plundered jewels. Her detestation towards him softens as she too begins to fall in love.

Don Alvarez is granted an audience with the Queen and complains about his treatment; Dona Maria is accepted as one of her maids of honour. The "Sea Hawks", a group of English privateers who loot Spanish ships for "reparations" appear before the Queen, who scolds them (at least publicly) for their piratical attacks and for endangering the peace with Spain. Captain Thorpe finally appears and proposes a plan to seize a large caravan of Spanish gold in the New World and bring it back to England. The Queen is wary of Spain's reaction, but allows Thorpe to proceed.

Suspicious of Thorpe's expedition, Lord Wolfingham (Henry Daniell), one of the Queen's ministers (and a secret Spanish collaborator), sends a spy to try to discover where the Albatross is really heading, but to no avail; the courtiers are told that Thorpe is going on a trading expedition up the Nile River in Egypt.

Upon visiting the chartmaker responsible for the chart for the Albatross' next voyage, Don Alvarez and Lord Wolfingham determine that the ship is really sailing to the Isthmus of Panama and order Don Alvarez's Spanish captain to sail ahead, in order to capture Thorpe and his ship. The "Albatross" reaches its destination, and part of her crew seizes the caravan, but they fall into a well-laid trap and are driven into the swamps. Thorpe and a few others survive and return to their ship, only to find that it in Spanish hands. Thorpe and his crew are returned to Spain, tried by the Inquisition, and sentenced to the galleys for the rest of their lives.

Don Alvarez informs the Queen of Thorpe's fate, causing his niece to faint. The Queen and Don Alvarez exchange heated words, and she expels him from her court.

On the Spanish galley, Thorpe meets an Englishman named Abbott who was captured trying to uncover evidence of the Armada's true purpose. Through cunning, the prisoners take over the ship during the night. They board another ship in the same harbor, where an emissary has stored secret incriminating plans. Thorpe and his men capture that ship as well and sail back to England with the plans in hand.

Upon reaching port, Thorpe tries to warn the Queen. A carriage bringing Don Alvarez to the ship which, unbeknownest to him Thorpe had captured, also brings his niece. Don Alvarez boards the ship and is held prisoner as Captain Thorpe, dressed in the uniform of a Spanish courtier, sneaks into the carriage carrying Dona Maria, who had decided to stay in England and wait for Thorpe's return. The two declare their love for each other.

Lord Wolfingham's spy, who had escorted the ambassador and his niece, spots Thorpe and alerts the castle guards to stop the carriage and take Thorpe prisoner. Thorpe escapes and enters the Queen's residence, fending off guards all the while. He runs into Lord Wolfingham, whom he kills in a sword fight. With Dona Maria's assistance, Thorpe reaches the Queen and provides proof of Phillip's intentions.

The Queen knights Captain Thorpe for his gallantry, with Dona Maria present, and declares her intention to build a great fleet to oppose the Spanish threat. The movie closes with cheers and great pomp, and a declaration of "Hail to the Queen and to England."

Production notes

Sabatini's story of the Elizabethan-era privateer Sir Geoffrey Thorpe was inspired by the exploits of Sir Francis Drake. [Kael, Pauline, "5001 Nights at the Movies" ISBN 0805013679 p. 660]

The speech the Queen gives at the close of the film was, "sub silentio", meant to inspire the viewing British audience, which was already mired in the grip of the Second World War. Suggestions that it was the duty of all free men to defend liberty, and that the world did not belong to any one man (an obvious insinuation of Hitler's wish to conquer Europe) were rousing.


Bosley Crowther wrote in the "New York Times" of 10 August 1940, "Of course, [the film] is all historically cockeyed, and the amazing exploits of Mr. Flynn, accomplished by him in the most casual and expressionless manner, are quite as incredible as the adventures of Dick Tracy. But Flora Robson makes an interesting Queen Elizabeth, Claude Rains and Henry Daniell play a couple of villainous conspirators handsomely, there is a lot of brocaded scenery and rich Elizabethan costumes and, of course, there is Brenda Marshall to shed a bit of romantic light. And, when you come right down to it, that's about all one can expect in an overdressed "spectacle" film which derives much more from the sword than from the pen." [ [ "New York Times" Review] . Retrieved 13 September 2008.]

"Time" magazine of 19 August 1940 observed, "The Sea Hawk" (Warner) is 1940's lustiest assault on the double feature. It cost $1,700,000, exhibits Errol Flynn and 3,000 other cinemactors performing every imaginable feat of spectacular derring-do, and lasts two hours and seven minutes...Produced by Warner's Hal Wallis with a splendor that would set parsimonious Queen Bess's teeth on edge, constructed of the most tried-&-true cinema materials available, "The Sea Hawk" is a handsome, shipshape picture. To Irish Cinemactor Errol Flynn, it gives the best swashbuckling role he has had since Captain Blood. For Hungarian Director Michael Curtiz, who took Flynn from bit-player ranks to make "Captain Blood" and has made nine pictures with him since, it should prove a high point in their profitable relationship." [ [,8816,764442,00.html "Time" Review] . Retrieved 13 September 2008.]


External links

* [ DVD Journal review]

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