Captain Blood title image
, , , ,
119 min.
Release Date
captain blood

(This essay was originally published on April 7, 2009. It has been edited and expanded.)

Captain Blood is a bold, swashbuckling adventure. Released in 1937, the film marshals the kind of effortless spirit and earnestness only the Golden Age of Hollywood could produce. Michael Curtiz, the most prolific and estimable Warner Bros. director, delivers classical escapism of the highest order, without a shred of irony or cynicism toward the pirate genre. Under his direction, the film progresses with action and romance—a shining example of Hollywood entertainment during the studio heyday. A box-office hit, Captain Blood catapulted the careers of newcomers Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, and it presented a gold standard against which every swashbuckler would be judged. But even while the film represents a prototypical Warner Bros. “A” picture, made with a considerable budget and impressive production values, it’s also evidence of how Curtiz injected realism, energy, and distinct stylistic flourishes into his productions. Film scholars and critics continue to overlook Curtiz as the creative force behind his pictures; many deny him the designation of auteur and prefer to credit him as another workhorse beholden to his studio bosses. However, by considering Curtiz’s origins and views on directing through the lens of Captain Blood’s production, it becomes evident that the director may have been a contracted talent, but he could make even the most straightforward studio assignments distinctly his own.

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