A Newcomer Named Errol Flynn in a Handsome Film Version of 'Captain Blood,' at the Strand
by Andre Sennwald
New York Times December 27, 1935, page 14
The history of Dr. Peter Blood, Sabatini's gentleman corsair, is treated with visual beauty and a fine, swaggering arrogance in the new screen version of "Captain Blood" at the Strand Theatre. With a spirited and criminally good-looking Australian named Errol Flynn playing the genteel buccaneer to the hilt, the photoplay recaptures the air of high romantic adventure which is so essential to the tale. Providing a properly picturesque background for Dr. Blood's piratical career, the Warner Brothers skillfully reconstruct the England of the sanguinary Monmouth uprising, the West Indies of tortured slaves and savage masters, and the ships that sailed the Spanish Main flying the jolly roger.
Only yesterday Basil Rathbone was grinding the poor of Paris in "A Tale of Two Cities," and now, with equal skill if slightly increased likeableness, he is quarreling with Captain Blood over the disposition of the handsome English captive, Miss Arabella Bishop. Mr. Rathbone has a habit of dying violently in his pictures, but his demise in this one, when Blood punctures him at the conclusion of a desperately waged duel, seems more lamentable than usual. Perhaps it is because he lacks the proper seasoning of villainy this time.
All Levasseur, the picturesque French freebooter, wanted was the girl, who was rightfully his by right of conquest. Somehow it seemed extravagantly prissy of the Englishman to fight him in abstract defense of the lady's honor instead of admitting candidly that he wanted Arabella for himself. Anyway, it is a brave bit of sword-play that these audacious fellows put on, up and down the Coast, while their rival crews look on.
You may recall that Dr. Blood was an amateur pirate, forced into the business because King James had shipped him off to the Indies with the other condemned Monmouth rebels. A physician by profession, his part in the uprising was innocent, but the king's court convicted him along with the rest. He scorned his masters and laughed when they flogged him, but Arabella saved him from a living death in her uncle's mines at Port Royal because she liked his courage and his face. Then he led the slaves in an uprising, stole a Spanish ship while its crew was looting the town and became the most celebrated corsair in the Caribbean.
Mr. Flynn has an effective cast at his back. Olivia de Havilland is a lady of rapturous loveliness and well worth fighting for. Lionel Atwill, as the cruel governor of Port Royal, is as thorough a knave as Peter Blood is a gentleman. Among the excellent group of players who people the smaller roles you will discover E.E. Clive, the wonderful jurist of "A Tale of Two Cities," who is humorously effective if somewhat less spectacular as the clerk of the bloody assizes.
© 1935 New York Times