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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

Captain Blood (1924)

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Captain Blood. A Spanish poster from Wikipedia. Bertram Grassby as Don Diego, J. Warren Kerrigan as Captain Blood. Capitan Blood / Kapteeni Blood / Verinen kapteeni / Kapten Blod US 1924 regia/dir: David Smith. scen: Jay Pilcher; dal romanzo di/based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini (Captain Blood, His Odyssey, 1922). photog: Steve Smith Jr., ASC. mont/ed: Albert Jordan. scg/des: Al Herman. asst dir: William T. Dagwell. research: Philip Goodfriend. cast: J. Warren Kerrigan (Captain Blood), Jean Paige (Arabella Bishop), Charlotte Merriam (Mary Traill), James Morrison (Jeremy Pitt), Allan Forrest (Lord Julian Wade), Bertram Grassby (Don Diego), Otis Harlan (Corliss), Jack Curtis (Wolverstone), Wilfred North (Colonel Bishop), Otto Matiesen (Lord Jeffreys), Robert Bolder (Admiral Van Der Kuylen), Templar Saxe (Governor Steed), Henry Barrows (Lord Willoughby), Boyd Irwin (Levasseur), Henry Hebert (Captain Hobart), Miles McCarthy (Captain Caverly), Tom McGuire (Farmer Baynes), Frank Whitson (Baron de Rivarol), Helen Howard (Mistress Baynes), Robert Milash (Kent), William Eugene (Don Esteban), George  Williams (Major Mallard), Omar Whitehead (Don Miguel), Muriel Paull (Mlle. d’Ogeron), George Lewis (Henri d’Ogeron). prod: Vitagraph Corporation of America, pres. Albert E. Smith. uscita/rel: 21.9.1924. copia/copy: 35 mm, 8232 ft. (orig. 10,680 ft.), 122′ (18 fps); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio-Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA.     Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM).     Grand piano: Philip Carli.     Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (The Parade's Gone By... 50 Years of Kevin Brownlow's Book), with e-subtitles in Italian, 9 Oct 2018 Kevin Brownlow (GCM): "One of the greatest pirate stories ever written came from the pen of a man who was termed “a modern Dumas”, Rafael Sabatini. Born in Italy in 1875, he chose to live in England as “the land of stories”. He wrote 31 novels, but was most famous for three, Scaramouche, The Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood, each of which became highly successful silent films." "The rights for Captain Blood were bought by Vitagraph for $30,000. The head of the company, Albert E. Smith, told employees that it would be “a rip-snorting, rapid-fire melodrama that will please any red-blooded audience”." "The plot was set in 1685, during the reign of James II, when a young Irish physician named Peter Blood is exiled as a slave to Barbados. He and his friend Jeremy Pitt are purchased by Colonel Bishop at the behest of his niece Arabella. With other slaves, Blood captures a Spanish galleon and becomes the terror of the Caribbean privateers until offered a commission in the Royal Navy. He defeats the French at Port Royal, and as a reward is named Governor of Jamaica and marries Arabella. (Synopsis from AFI Catalog)" "Rudolph Valentino was the favourite for the lead. In a poll of motion picture editors of newspapers, 113 were for Valentino, 110 for Fairbanks, and 64 for Kerrigan. “Jack” Kerrigan had been a pioneer, starting in 1910 and playing in nearly 300 films – mostly one- and two-reelers – and had crowned his career with The Covered Wagon, yet Captain Blood would prove his last major film. He was only 35 when he “retired” – and he lived for another 23 years." "Vitagraph had been formed  by two Englishmen, J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith. Both men were born in 1875 and had emigrated to New York City in the 1880s. They were attracted to moving pictures as a way to enhance their vaudeville act. And with a new business partner, William T. “Pop” Rock, they formed the Vitagraph Company of America to make their own films. The company soon became the most successful in the world, producing a short film every day and a feature per week. But they couldn’t keep it up. And with business fading in the 1920s, it was brave – or foolhardy – to stage their biggest-ever production, particularly one involving battles at sea." "Vitagraph tried first to hire the four big ships used by First National for The Sea Hawk, but were turned down. Instead, they bought two square-riggers for $7,000 each, and a third was rented from Charles Ray, who was using it for his Courtship of Miles Standish. The rest were miniatures, photographed in a shallow tank, manoeuvred along toy railroad tracks laid across the bottom. The main battle had to end with a massive explosion. Federico Magni has discovered that the explosives experts were Mark M. Peebles and Carlos Hernandez. According to Albert Smith, the explosives men loaded the ship with too much dynamite and the explosion registered as a blur. They had to blow up a second ship." "Vitagraph was a family concern, with a great many Smiths. Bessie Love said you could call “Oh, Mr. Smith!” from a window and seventeen men would look up! David Smith was appointed director, but the huge production so overwhelmed him that Albert occasionally had to take over." "The picture was edited by Albert Jordan who, as Bert Jordan, would cut many Laurel and Hardys. He had been one of the editors on Intolerance (1916)." "Historian Anthony Slide recounts how, on the night of the premiere, Albert Smith’s old enemy Adolph Zukor, head of Paramount, gave a lavish dinner party for the leading New York critics. Each was given an expensive wristwatch, and Zukor commented that his feelings would not be hurt if they decided Captain Blood was a lousy picture. The reviews, however, were mostly good." "“Vitagraph has achieved its most ambitious effort,” said Motion Picture Classic. “There is action aplenty, the characterization is well pointed, the incident carries vigorous melodrama – and it is treated with painstaking attention to color and atmosphere.”" "Motion Picture Magazine: “This much-heralded picture easily lives up to the fulsome praises sung in its behalf by its sponsors… When it flashes its big battle scene as the ships come abreast with the guns belching powder and flame and smoke – and the men pouring over the side to fight hand to hand encounters – there is revealed one of the most stirring shots ever caught by a camera.”" "An English cinemagoer, Leslie Wilkinson, who kept a film diary, rated this as good, but not that good: “The story and acting are swamped by the costumes. There are some good ship scenes but the action moves too slowly. The acting is barely adequate and J. Warren Kerrigan not very prepossessing.”" "It may have been their most expensive, but ironically, the film was also Vitagraph’s highest-grossing picture, earning almost $600,000 after only six months in release. The company made a special closing scene for the British market showing the Union Jack being rescued from the Arabella after the stern sinks below the sea. The London office booked the film in 1,239 theatres throughout the country, where it earned over £50,000." "But it was too late for Vitagraph. Captain Blood was their last large-scale production before they sold out to Warner Bros. in 1925. For good measure, Warners acquired First National, and a decade or so later remade both Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn." Kevin Brownlow (GCM) AA: I saw for the first time the original film adaptation of Captain Blood. One of the first great pirate epics, it had been preceded by Scaramouche. The sound remake of Captain Blood was the breakthrough vehicle of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, starring with Lionel Atwill and Basil Rathbone. The cast of the silent film is not as stellar, but otherwise it is a grand adventure film. Like Zorro and Robin Hood, Captain Blood is a noble hero who becomes a rebel and an outlaw against a brutal authority. The condition of slavery is addressed frankly and shockingly. The sea fights are vigorously staged, and there is an authentic sense of the epic in the spectacle. The feeling of genuine agony and destruction in the war sequences made me think of the centenary of the First World War and that even this adaptation of Captain Blood can be viewed as "shell shock cinema" to quote the title of Anton Kaes's book on Weimar films. I like the grace, the tact, and the nobility in this adventure film about gross injustice and humiliation. J. Warren Kerrigan is not in the class of Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn as a swashbuckling hero, but he carries the film with inner authority and dignity. Philip Carli rose magnificently to the challenge of the musical interpretation of the rousing spectacle. This film has been previously reported as mostly lost, but we saw a version that contains 80% of the original and moves seamlessly and vigorously ahead. The visual quality is good, and it is all in glorious black and white.

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