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Help Support Research Indy's Influences Classics Adventures Captain Blood
Captain Blood

Released by Warner Bros. - 1935

Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Story by: Rafael Sabatini (novel)
Screenplay by: Casey Robinson
Produced by: Harry Joe Brown, Gordon Hollingshead & Hal B. Wallis

Errol Flynn .... Dr. Peter Blood
Olivia de Havilland .... Arabella Bishop
Lionel Atwill .... Col. Bishop
Basil Rathbone .... Capt. Levasseur
Ross Alexander .... Jeremy Pitt
Guy Kibbee .... Henry Hagthorpe
Henry Stephenson .... Lord Willoughby


It had happened a few times before. It’s happened since. People are rarely happy about it.

Errol Flynn in action.

In 1935, Hollywood took a fantastic and popular novel, one of extraordinary lyrical wit and finesse, and blew it up into an action-packed piece of bombast. What followed however was very strange. Some might call it a miracle. A classic was created. But, as those who’ve read Rafael Sabatini know, there is still treasure undiscovered in this pirate adventure for those with the spirit to search.

Hollywood’s greatest have almost all been rewards of risk. In 1935 Errol Flynn had yet to become a star; never even played a supporting role in an American movie. Olivia de Havilland was not yet a household name and Erich Wolfgang Korngold had no motion picture credits whatsoever. Captain Blood changed all that.

Flynn as Peter Blood.

Dr. Peter Blood is imprisoned by the King of England for tending to a wounded warrior in violent opposition to current rule. Forced into the Caribbean slave market, his skills as a physician and demand for justice raises the ire of his owner and the heartbeat of his owner’s niece. Blood voices regret at having not been part of England’s insurgency and bands together with a crew of slaves plotting escape. When their brilliant plan is foiled at the last minute and all seems lost, the Spanish suddenly attack the British governed island, offering Blood’s crew a chance to escape in the chaos by stealing a Spanish ship. Now an enemy of both warring factions, Peter Blood has little option but to become a pirate of the high seas.

However, this Sabatini-created pirate is hardly the typical scallywag swaggering between Tortuga pubs. Captain Peter Blood is a gentleman pirate, aware that his notorious escapades will drift into the ears of his former owner’s niece.

Epic sea battle.

Warner Bros. produced this Sabatini novel with unusual respect for the story but also with respect for their shareholders, which is not so unusual. The parts cut were the brilliant tactical battles at sea that built Blood’s reputation. These would have been super-expensive to shoot (with no chance of splicing in pieces from old silents). Unfortunately, losing these chapters leaves us with little of the trickster strategist that makes Peter Blood so convincingly a great pirate.

With Warner’s confidence earned by Blood’s huge success many from this same creative team were reunited for the more extravagant presentations of The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk (another Sabatini novel).

Today it seems every pitch session in Hollywood begins with the words, “It’s a remake of…” Has anyone thought of doing a remake of Captain Blood? A TV mini-series could be great, so that the whole of Sabatini’s novel is given a more loyal cinematic presentation. It’s not like Hollywood can say, as they did throughout the 1990’s, that no one wants to see a pirate movie. (Stephen Jared)


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