movie review: the sea hawk

This post is part of the Swashathon hosted by Movies Silently.


I inherited my love of swashbucklers from my grandfather, who is a huge fan of the genre in general – and of Errol Flynn’s films in particular.  While I don’t care for Errol Flynn much, old-fashioned swashbucklers are a big favorite of mine.  The glamorous action, feats of derring-do, music, romance, and gorgeous costumes all come together beautifully to create a kind of film that can still entertain today. (I know there are swashbucklers made today.  But the old ones were the best, in my opinion.)

On to the review!


As Spain prepares an armada to invade England, British privateer Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) embarks on a mission to loot Spanish ships. When he captures the vessel carrying ambassador Don Jose Alvarez de Cordoba (Claude Rains), the dashing captain falls for his niece, the beautiful Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall), who settles comfortably in England. Dedicated to protecting British interests, Thorpe heads out to sea on a dangerous expedition that may determine the country’s fate.

‘The Sea Hawk’ is easily my favorite Errol Flynn movie…and my favorite swashbuckler.

Stuff I love about it (because lists are easier than an in-depth review):

~The music – Nominated for a best score Oscar, and it definitely deserved that nomination.


~The romance between Geoffrey and Maria.  Yes, it’s a little clichéd and predictable, but so sweet.  I like how she starts out by hating/despising him but then softens.  Actually, Maria carries most of the romantic subplot by herself, as Geoffrey doesn’t have much time to think about his lady love in the jungle and the galleys.  It’s enough to bring a lump to your throat, the way Maria mourns for him. (That scene where she’s too late to warn him?  GAH.)

~How the jungle scenes are sepia-toned instead of black & white.  I dig it.

~All the other Sea Hawks.  You don’t see much of them, but they’re cool guys.

El-halcon-del-mar (4).jpg

~I LOVE THE QUEEN’S FINAL SPEECH SO MUCH.  You have to remember, that in 1940, England was at war with Germany (and had been for a year already), so I’m fairly certain that Queen Elizabeth I’s speech at the end was a good bit of patriotism that any British citizen would have found more than applicable to their current circumstances.

We have tried by all means in our power to avert this war.  We’ve no quarrel with the people of Spain or of any other country.  But when the ruthless ambition of a man threatens to engulf the world, it becomes the solemn obligation of all free men to affirm that the earth belongs not to any one man, but to all men.  And that freedom is the deed and title to the soil on which we exist.

Honestly, the only thing I would change about this movie is to have Basil Rathbone instead of Harry Daniell play Lord Wolfingham .  Basil Rathbone would’ve provided a chilling presence in the English court instead of a rather wimpy one.  Though, I suppose no-one would’ve been surprised at Wolfingham’s duplicity, then.


The swordfights are awesome, as usual.  I’ve read the Michael Curtiz didn’t put safety tips on the ends of the blades because he wanted the actors’ reactions to be real.  Dangerous, but it made for some great scenes.

‘The Sea Hawk’ is a glowing, adventurous, swoony film, the very epitome of a swashbuckler.  Highly recommended to all fans of the genre.



8 thoughts on “movie review: the sea hawk

  1. I love that final screencap you included!! That is a HUGE shadow on the wall behind them. Very spooky.

    I always get bothered by movies made in the 40s that compare other, historical enemies to Adolf Hitler–like the Spanish under Phillip II; I mean, people do not have to LIKE Phillip II, but whatever you may say about him, he wasn’t Adolf Hitler. I know it was wartime and they wanted to inspire people, but it makes me annoyed.

    Do you think Errol Flynn is handsome? I’m sort of on the fence about him, although I certainly wouldn’t say he’s bad-looking.


    • Michael Curtiz did basically the same thing – the thing with the shadows – in The Adventures of Robin Hood (also with Errol Flynn). It’s pretty neat.

      Eh…I think it’s, to re-use a word I just used, neat. Though Phillip II wasn’t Hitler, definitely.

      Even though he isn’t bad-looking, per se, I don’t personally think he’s all that handsome either. Just sort of meh.


      • His eyes bother me, I think. Which is odd because there’s nothing “wrong” with them, per se? But they are weird to me.

        It’s funny, to think about how standards for attractiveness change over the decades. Because I know that, back in the day, Errol Flynn was thought of as one of the handsomest actors in Hollywood . . .


  2. Thanks so much for joining in! I love Flora Robson’s Elizabeth as well. Just goes to show that physical resemblance is okay but nothing can beat a wonderful performer sinking her teeth into the role!


  3. This is one of my favorite swashbucklers, along with Robin Hood. I agree with your list of reasons. I enjoyed it very much in Robin Hood: Men in Tights when Mel Brooks spoofed the fencing shadows scene.


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