July 28th, 2011: The Sea Hawk (1940)

Cast and Crew: Michael Curtiz (Director); Donald Crisp, Alan Hale Sr.

What It’s About: Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) is a heroic privateer who captures Spanish ships, freeing English slaves and stealing gold for Queen Elizabeth.  The aptly named Lord Wolfingham (Henry Daniell) is secretly allied with the Spanish and is trying to sway Elizabeth into ending the activities of the privateers.  King Phillip II (Montagu Love) sends Don José Alvarez de Cordoba (Claude Rains) to be his ambassador to England. Thorpe ambushes Don de Cordoba’s ship and brings de Cordoba, his beautiful niece Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall) and her maid (Una O’Connor, doing her usual Odious Comic Relief maid) to England safely.  Don de Cordoba plots revenge with the captain of his ship (Gilbert Roland), while Phillip plans to send an armada against England.  Can Thorpe escape from Don de Cordoba’s traps and warn England of Phillip’s treachery and Wolfingham’s treason?

Why Watch it Today?: On the evening of July 28th, 1588, English ships attacked the Spanish fleet in Calais, using small vessels filled with explosives and flammable materials to set Spanish ships ablaze and break up their fleet.  This allowed the smaller English navy to further harass and weaken the Spanish force before the final engagement at Gravelines.  The Sea Hawk is the Hollywood version of the lead-up to the big battle with the Spanish Armada, with Erroll Flynn at his most dashing as Queen Elizabeth’s best privateer.

Where to Get It Libraries, Netflix, Amazon

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