The Black Swan (1942)
O'Hara Over Powers The Black Swan
I always sample a bottle of wine before I buy it. Let's have a sip, see if you're worth taking along - Jamie
Whilst Johnny Depp and "Pirates of the Caribbean" may have made pirate movies cool again some of the best pirate movies which embodied the swashbuckling tales of troubles on the high seas were made in the first half of the 20th century. One of my favourites is "The Black Swan" because it delivers everything you could want from a pirate movie, be it swashbuckling sword fights, comedy or romance. And it also features a brilliant cast from Tyrone Power as the handsome Jamie Waring through to the feisty Maureen O'Hara as Lady Margaret Denby. Of course compared to today's special effects littered movies it may seem all a bit old hat but thanks to a reasonable story, some nice action as well as the performances "The Black Swan" still entertains.
When legendary pirate Captain Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar) is made governor of Jamaica in return for putting a stop to all pirate action he is met with resentment from the Lords and politicians who distrust him. He is also met with opposition from other pirates including Captain Leech (George Sanders) who refuses to tow the line and continues his pirating ways, destroying ships and robbing them of their treasure. Forced to do something about Leech, Morgan sends Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power - Jesse James) and his men to try and stop him but when it appears that Jamie has kidnapped Lady Margaret Denby (Maureen O'Hara - The Hunchback of Notre Dame), the daughter of Lord Denby (George Zucco), and swapped sides Captain Morgan must go after both Jamie and Leech.
In fairness you could say that the storyline to "The Black Swan" is a bit stereotypical because once you get the intro out of the way with it then revolves around an evil pirate, some skulduggery and a romance all of which is topped off with some expected swashbuckling action. But it is the intro and embellishments to the story which help to make it so much more such as the flamboyant Captain Sir Henry Morgan, leader of the pirates, being made Governor of Jamaica by the King of England, much to the annoyance of Lord Denby who he replaces. It's an amusing intro which paves the way nicely for pirate Captain Leech to rebel against orders for the pirating to stop and at the same time also pave way for Lord Ingram to scheme against Morgan and get him removed from power by feeding Leech information on all the ships which will pass through the sea.
It's all pretty simple but it works as it leads to Jamie Waring and his men trying to stop Leech from his pillaging ways, discovering who has been helping him and also finds himself trying to romance Margaret Denby, Lord Denby's daughter, with little success. To put it simply you know what will happen in "The Black Swan", but strangely it doesn't matter because it lives up to your expectations and is entertaining.
A big reason why "The Black Swan" is so entertaining is the mix of humour and action. With Thomas Mitchell taking on the role of Waring's first mate Tommie' Blue there is plenty of comedy as he sets about following Jamie's orders. But it is not just Thomas Mitchell who delivers the humour as with Maureen O'Hara playing another feisty woman you can't but help but smile as she fends off the amarous advances of Jamie.
Plus of course there is the action and for a movie which is now almost 70 years old you have to say "The Black Swan" is pretty impressive with all the swashbuckling action. From mass sword fights and cannons blowing up boats to Tyrone Power swinging through the air from a boats rigging it truly has what you want from a swashbuckling pirate adventure which makes you sit up and imagine being that heroic figure.
But it is the cast who really bring it all together and whilst you have to enjoy the performances of Laird Cregar as the flamboyant Captain Morgan, George Sanders as the villainous Captain Billy Leech and Thomas Mitchell as Tom 'Tommie' Blue it is Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara who really bring it all together. Delivering a performance almost equal to the swashbuckling of Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power makes a brilliant hero pirate, handsome with a winning smile, slightly rough and arrogant but also charming and when it comes to the action he delivers every scene brilliantly. Watching Power and Sanders fight each other with swords or Power swinging through the air you can't but help be impressed.
At the same time Power works well with Maureen O'Hara when it comes to the romance and whilst you could say that the chemistry between them may be lacking, the spark of comedy most certainly isn't as O'Hara's Margaret Denby keeps repelling Jamie's advances. And aside from repelling his advances Maureen O'Hara brings that brilliant feisty temperament to the movie making Margaret a wonderfully strong character.
what this all boils down to is that whilst "Pirates of the Caribbean" may have made pirate movies cool again it is movies like "The Black Swan" which paved the way for it. The storyline maybe obvious but the humour, romance and swashbuckling action is as wonderful as ever and in many ways more impressive than modern movies with stunt men battling away with swords. But it is the pairing of Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara who make the movie more than just another average pirate movie delivering excitement, romance and comedy brilliantly.
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