The Sea Hawk (1924) Swaggering Bullies & Wallace Beery’s Ten Holy toe bones!

THE SWASHATHON HOSTED BY MOVIES SILENTLY-a blogathon of swashbuckling adventure!

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“Our love is God’s gift. It will endure though men part us and the seas divide us.”

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Maybe not so much?…Well perhaps there’ll be a lot of parting, and doubting and love isn’t as much of a gift as it seems like a principle stuck in a revolving door of the moment, and not some enduring feeling…with these two lovers!

The Sea Hawk is epic, visually stunning, adventurous, and filled with great characterizations, possessing an old-style pageantry that enlivens the screen, with a lovely damsels, Barbary Coast pirates, mustachioed & beardedly dashing heroes, rakes and plunderers, drunkards, the horrors of the slave market, ‘harams’ sweaty men in manacles, crossbows, duels, derring- do – realistic ship battles at sea, and just a simply spectacular fable-like indulgence of danger and peril. On screen there’s a sense of excitement, mystique of the maritime atmosphere, the roaming corsairs that held sway on the Barbary Coast & the seven seas during the 16th-18th centuries- it’s possesses the great lost art of romanticism…

You must see this gorgeous film available through Warner Archives!

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Milton Sills may be a cerebral thinking man’s actor but he’s still one heck of a he-man! look at those pecks! Look at that manly grimace, the sweat,the flailing masculine nostril, the fearless glean in the eye.

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Wallace Beery adds the wonderful gruff, brutish and colorful comic relief as the lovable scalawag and scoundrel with a tidbit or more of loyalty in his heart. Beery & Enid Bennett as Lady Rosamund had co-starred together in the Fairbanks version of Robin Hood as Richard the Lion Heart and Maid Marian. Albert Pisco’s role as a galley slave is short but quite memorable.

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And while you might say that The Sea Hawk (1924) shows deference to other religions as being the more humane, by the end of this film, all religions directed by man alone, from Christian to Muslim are capable of barbarity, capable of cruelty, and the horrors of slavery, torture and blood thirsty greed… There is jealousy and betrayal in both houses, in England and Algiers!

So whether Sir Oliver denounces Christianity for being inhumane and hypocritical and changes his allegiance from Jesus to Allah, faster than superman slips into his satin red undies and cape in that phone booth… The Sea Hawk shows no one is above betraying their conscience even more than Captain Jasper (Wallace Beery) with his ten holy toe bones!

“A sword was forged today that will need blood to temper.”

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“A sword was forged today that will need blood to temper.”

In honor of our amazing host here’s a look see at what Movies Silently had to say about this adventurous film filled with her hilarious commentary–astute & informative background info on The Sea Hawk A Movies Silently Review    Fritzi’s take is right on about the central love story and the emotional scenes consisting of fraternal strife, taking a bit of a back seat to the main narrative, which is a lot of lashing, oaring, sweating and Swashbuckling!

Actually there is more of a profound physical connection between Sakr/Oliver and Yusuf (Albert Prisco) during their enslavement, chained together-which evokes a strong emotional bond, than the few tenuous smiles Mistress Rosamund is capable of mustering for our sexy central figure of controversy…

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Added to the unquenched love & The Wrong Man theme, the film’s melodrama sort of feels as if it’s lacking the luster & oomph that the action scenes possess with battling ships, men in irons and all that said-Swashbuckling. It’s an epic film that utilizes incredibly elaborate, seemingly authentic ships, and showcases such vivid detail that they used footage of the battle ship scenes in future films because of the film’s realism.

And due to the lack of a strong female presence (no criticism of Enid Bennett, it’s the part that is thin), I experienced The Sea Hawk as more of a fable about the human spirit, a story of what revenge can do to the human heart, and the barbarism that mankind (all factions of mankind) is capable of….

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Director Frank Lloyd’s (Mutiny on the Bounty 1935, Blood on the Sun 1945 ) film is marvelously lavish and as usual he is great at achieving a grandiose sense of adventure with an exhilarating & compelling mise en scène.

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The 1924 silent version is a captivating adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s (he wrote Captain Blood) swashbuckling novel and is considered pretty faithful to the original story though I have not read the novel myself. The galley scenes are just worth relishing enough as cinematographer Norbert F. Brodin (The Beast of the City 1932, One Million Years B.C. (1940) Kiss of Death 1947) creates an epic fabulist milieu- and the gorgeous costuming… (I am not a maven on period costuming, so I can’t comment on their accuracy but I can say that they are splendid) … and the battle ships are magnificent theatre alone.

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Taking us back to the Heroic days of the sixteenth century when rogues, cut throats, scalawags, renegades, mischief-makers abound, terrorizing the high seas (actually The Sea Hawk was shot off the coast of the Catalina Islands) The Sea Hawk is a richly dark romantic and harrowing costume story about interfered love, betrayals, fraternal conflict, sword fights, derring-do, sweaty stinky men chained to oar rigging called ‘The Torture Bench’, manacles and more sweat – hierarchy, enslavement, lecherous concubine, and a lazy Infanta who doesn’t like the smell of men upwind of her party– it’s a swashbuckling adventure film overflowing with action and the piercingly handsome Milton Sills playing our hero/anti-hero The Sea Hawk! and Sills‘ got the penetrating stare, physique, dark eyeliner and threatening beard to pull it off.

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Milton Sills, was a former professor of psychology and philosophy who became a very successful silent film star, not generally cast as a swashbuckling hero as say, Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, Sills did more dramatic roles, but as Sir Oliver/Sakr he is every bit a heartthrob.

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Flora Robson and Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk 1940

Sills with his sexy scowl & a grim intensity is a strikingly handsome chap an English Baronet turned terror of the high seas! Errol Flynn is indeed a debonair and iconic figure of the literal swashbuckling paragon, but Sills has a presence that is sexy as the undertones of his attraction is in his eyes that convey a penetrating sensuality… As Sir Oliver he also possesses a wicked smouldering temper!

His first role was in 1914, in The Pit an adaptation of Frank Norris’ novel and directed by the great Maurice Tourneur. He co-starred with Gloria Swanson in her first lead role in The Great Moment (1921). The Sea Hawk was his 60th film! And also to his credits he was one of the founders of both Actors Equity and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Sadly, after filming Jack London’s The Sea Wolf 1930, Sills died at the age of 48 from a heart attack.

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Here’s the sophisticated Sills with Doris Kenyon in The Hawks Nest (1928)

Milton Sills, a major star in the silent era who is now seemingly forgotten, much of his films have either not been preserved or are lost- when you consider he has 86 credits to his name… it’s tragic…

The Sea Hawk (1924) opens with grandiose pipe organs.

The caption reads– THE SEA THAT BREAKS TODAY ON ENGLAND’S WAVE-LASHED COAST, THUNDERS MAJESTICALLY ITS AGE-OLD SONGS OF DIM, FORGOTTEN YESTERDAYS…. BRAVE BOLD DAYS!

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Sir Oliver Tressilian (our hero-Milton Sills) fought in the wars with Spain whom he had helped dash and sweep the Spanish Armada from the sea. It was the time of brave hearts!. Now he is a wealthy landowner in Cornwall England, and has become one of Elizabeth I’s gentlemen pirates.

“Sir Oliver’s sea faring had found it’s climax in the gallant part he played when Spain’s Armada was swept from the sea.”

In the first half of our story there is a lot of sword play between the blustering men filled with flamboyant masculine peacockery, based on familial rivalry, basic greed and lusting after certain women.

Lady Rosamund’s (Enid Bennett) Guardian John Killigrew (Marc McDermott) stirs animosity toward Sir Oliver because of his background as Queen Elizabeth’s top privateer back in the day, and that marriage between Sir Oliver and Mistress Rosamund should be decided by a duel. Rosamund’s brother Peter, another hot-head goes around antagonizing and horse-whipping Sir Oliver every chance he gets.

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In the woods, strictly by accidental bumping-into the swords are raised, and half-brother Lionel Tressilian kills Lady Rosamund’s brother Peter in a fair fight, but the lily livered lad allows his brother Sir Oliver to be framed for the murder.

Oliver’s half brother the handsome yet lily-livered Lionel Tressilian (Lloyd Hughes who also co-starred with Beery and Bessie Love in The Lost World 1925) winds up attracting Lady Rosamund’s sympathy and becomes engaged to her. He also stands on collecting the family inheritance, once Sir Oliver is out of the way. And fortunately for Lionel, Rosamund believes that Oliver has killed her brother Peter because he does have one hell of a temper!

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Lionel the weasel makes a deal with the villainous but lovable scoundrel-Captain Jasper Leigh (Wallace Beery) a freebooting pirate, to arrange for Oliver to wind up on Spanish Galleon — as a slave. So Lionel pays Jasper to Shanghai Oliver one night, which not only gets him out of the way, but it leaves Lionel the sole heir of the estate and makes Oliver look like he’s on the run.

The Sea Hawk prisoner of Spain

The rakish blustering Jasper double crosses Lionel and tries to get even more money out of Sir Oliver to free him and take him back to Cornwall, which Oliver agrees to, but they all get captured by the Spanish Galleon.

When Captain Jasper’s ship is captured by the brutal Spanish, all the men are chained to oars… it’s like one of Dante’s levels of Hell…

There’s very powerful imagery to see the tortured men as they seem to become one fluid body– a writhing, sweaty movement of agony…!

There is quite a striking scene when Sir Oliver (Sills) is chained practically naked to the oars, the mighty rowing and toiling and the threat of the Brute’s whip… He appears like a mythic figure of perdition…..

PERDITION

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The film opens with Sir Oliver at home in Penarrow Hall, waiting for Mistress Rosamund (Enid Bennett) and he to be wed, all is peaceful.

Sir Oliver sitting at his estate quietly enjoying his pipe and his hunting dogs. Oliver is being looked after by his manservant Nick (Burt Woodruff) Sir Oliver tells him, “Nick ye old sea dog, how will you like it when I bring a mistress here?”

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Lionel over hears this and looks visibly disturbed… what will become of his piece of the estate with Mistress Rosamund in the picture?

Sir Oliver plans on marrying the delicate Mistress Rosamund Godolphin (Enid BennettROBIN HOOD 1933 and THE RED LILY 1924) who is the daughter of a neighboring prosperous landowner. Neither John Killigrew Mistress Rosamund’s guardian nor her brother Peter Godolphin (Wallace McDonald) approve of Sir Oliver, having been an illustrious pirate! Mistress Rosamund’s brother Peter Godolphin doesn’t want her to wed Sir Oliver, calling him a “blood-thirsty buccaneer!”

Peter Godolphin, Rosamund’s brother rides up on his horse to Penarrow.

He is a “Hot-Headed young blade” from the adjoining estate.

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A hat should never be larger than your head!

“Neither my guardian Sir John Killigrew, nor myself will permit you to marry my sister… No sister of mine will ever marry a blood thirsty buccaneer—A Pirate!” 

Oliver raises his fist in defiance! “Sir John Killigrew is jealous of my position at court- he taught you that pretty lesson.”

Oliver continues “I’ll not quarrel with a boy- Sir John shall answer to me… I’m off for Godolphin court to teach Sir John a lesson!”

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Now at Godolphin court, because of Sir John’s interference Oliver takes a sword and is provoked to making a few bloody slashes to the mustachioed Sir John and his frilly shirt. Oliver also warns him that he will do worse if he doesn’t stay out of his plans to marry Rosamund, who appears with flowers gathered in her arms. She is shocked by Oliver’s violent side and becomes weary of his volatile temper.

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HAT SLAP
The well timed ‘hat slap’
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Both men agree to a duel. Mistress Rosamund looks out her window and sees Sir John Killigrew and Sir Oliver about to fence.

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“Let this be a lesson. Next time you give me cause to draw blade, I’ll bot be so merciful” -Sir Oliver

“Sir Oliver is an honorable gentleman. I love him and shall wed with him.” Sir John, -“We’ll not allow you to marry this cut-throat.”

Oliver says, “It has pleased you Sir John to have named me rogue and –pirate!… I hold letters of marquee from my Queen. He who names me pirate, lies in his teeth!”

There’s a wonderful moment during this clash when Sir Oliver takes off his marvelous hat and smacks Killigrew across the face with it! These fashionable bullies are very histrionic!

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Rosamund comes out to help Sir John, and she talks with her brother Peter. Then she faces Oliver and says, “My heart refused to believe you ruthless and cruel, but now my eyes have seen the truth.”

Oliver pleads, “He called me coward and pirate-still, I spared his life because he is your guardian”, they hold each other he tells her, “Would Mistress Rosamund wed with one whom men have branded—coward?… Our love, dear, is too fine to be the plaything of others-too sacred to be marred by family quarrels” Rosamund- “Swear, Noll, that you’ll come to me before you draw blade again in quarrel.” He assures her,  “As god as my witness — I swear.” 

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It’s a beautiful day, Oliver and Rosamund are by the ocean. They are a quaint and blissful couple for the moment. “Dearest Noll, it seems not possible so much of happiness can be ours. My heart warns me it cannot last.”

NEARBY LIVED A MATRON WHOSE CONSCIENCE WAS ELASTIC AND WHOSE HUSBAND WAS—OLD

It is revealed that Peter and Lionel also have a competition between themselves for there is a trollop who trifles with both of them. It sparks a rivalry that worsens the dynamic of the family’s strife between Tressilian and Godolphin. When Lionel tries to woo the young flirtation woman credited as Siren, Peter gets infuriated and throws his drink in Lionel’s face.

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The trollop (Ooh I mean Siren played by Claire Du Brey) walks off with Lionel and Peter becomes furious! He meets up with the couple while they are sitting on a bench nearing the woods. She’s obviously enjoying playing with both men’s affections, tells Peter “come tomorrow” – Unfortunately that will be too late for the hot-headed Peter.
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Peter storms off, she tries to lure Lionel back into her clutches but he responds “You Jade!” You’ve made a tryst with him!”

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Left with neither suitor, the Siren is hilarious as she is left abandoned she takes it out on the pillow…

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In town, Peter and his poofy hat that’s bigger than his head, rides up on his horse and accosts Oliver who has just left off with Rosamund after spending a lovely day together–Peter asserts harshly, “Ive had enough of you and your breed, you swaggering bully! Send your seconds to me or…” Oliver tells him “Ride on Peter you’re drunk.” After Peter threatens Oliver with the tip of his sword. “Until you give me satisfaction, I’ll horsewhip you every time we meet!” Two men look on as Peter horse whips Sir Oliver in the public square in front of witnesses. One of them is Justice Anthony Baine (Lionel Belmore). And as Sir Oliver thunders off on horseback with sword in hand ready to duel with this obstinate young man, he disappears past a clearing in the woods, ready to face Godolphin he remembers his promise to Rosamund in a flashback, laughs and turns toward Penarrow.

Justice is a Witness

“A sword was forged today that will need blood to temper.”

Justice Baine one of the witnesses gives us the most profound statement of the film, “A sword was forged today that will need blood to temper.”

(Relations between the two families have become even more divided when Lionel Tressilian (Sir Oliver’s weak-hearted conniving half-brother) kills Peter in the duel.)

Peter continues to gallop through the lush woods until he bumps into Lionel Tresillian accidentally passing Peter on his horse, who is just itching to fight, he insists on dueling with the coward. Peter horse whips Lionel knocking him off his horse.

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Peter Godolphin pulls his sword and begins to fight a duel. Although it is fair sword play, Lionel mortally wounds Peter and leaves him for dead, lying there in the woods.

Lionel sneaks back to Penarrow looking for his brother’s help. Oliver dining alone with Nick attending him. Lionel stands outside the window and presses his finger to his lips letting Oliver know that his return must be a secret. Oliver sends Nick for a bottle of wine they swiped from the last raid they had on a Spanish Galleon. And let’s Lionel in. He is shocked that his brother has been wounded and asks who is responsible.

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“In God’s name, what has happened” Who has Wounded you?”

He tells him Peter Godolphin. Oliver tends to his wounds and tells him to calm down and eat some supper, act like nothing has happened, but they have overlooked the fact the there is now a bloody trail that leads to the Tressilian’s door.

Lionel confides in Oliver- “Although I killed him in fair fight, we fought without witnesses—the law will call it murder.”

Nick comes back in with a tray of wine. Oliver and Lionel pretend that nothing is wrong. Lionel clutches his chest but eats and drinks as if nothing has happened.

WITH MORNING CAME THE FINDING OF PETER’S BODY AND TO ROSAMUND HORROR THE UGLY RUMOR THAT SIR OLIVER HAD KILLED HIM.

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Witnesses saw Peter horse whip Oliver in the town square. Rosamund is inconsolable as her maid tells her that Sir Oliver is there to meet her.

“Rosamund surely you do not believe tis lie that is told against me!” She musters her anger “I did not heed the warnings of my poor brother. Now, I pray God that they may take and hang you!”

He swears he’s innocent of Peter’s death.

She points at him, and tells him that a trail of he brother’s blood leads to his door.

“Should I take this trial for the deed, who will accuse me?” She tells him “ I will accuse you!”

Oliver looks stunned at her lack of faith in him, he walks out.

Sir Oliver has a staunch friend in Justice Anthony Baine who refuses to issue a warrant against Oliver. Anthony Baine says-“I hold you justified in pushing an arrogant offender.”

Though the blood trail has led to his door step he tells Justice Anthony “Now, you shall bear witness to my innocence that there is no fresh wound on my body.

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Okay… if you’ve just come into the movie, without any background, you’d swear Sir Oliver is ‘exposing himself’ naked under his beautiful robe, to Justice Anthony. He really looks like a flasher!

Lionel is visibly worried. Justice is making an affidavit in case it goes to trial.
“Lal, dear boy, you worry too much. Leave this all to me.”

THE TORTURING FEAR THAT HIS BROTHER’S DEFENSE WOULD RESULT IN HIS OWN ARREST AND PUNISHMENT.

While looking out the window, the lily-livered Lionel sees a ship. and gets an idea!

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THERE WAS AN ALE-HOUSE IN THE VILLAGE WHERE SEAMEN MET AND CAROUSED.

“CAPTAIN JASPER LEIGH, WHO HAD NEVER VIOLATED HIS CONSCIENCE—BECAUSE HE HADN’T ANY!”

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Jasper about to punch bar maid meets large marge

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Frames as beautiful as classical paintings!

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Jasper inside the pub is hassling a pretty bar maid, until she hauls off and smacks him right off his stool. Everyone in the pub laughs, he runs after her but winds up coming head to head with Large Marge (I’ve nicknamed her from Pee Wee Herman’s Great Adventure) a brooding woman with an imposing expression on her puss

After the frolics and comedic relief are over, Lionel enters and asks Jasper to join him at the back table.

“I’m told you are a discreet seaman not averse to doing a daring deed.”

The scene flashes to Oliver hiding  proof of his innocence in a book in the library at Penarrow.

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Jasper tells him he’ll take the risk but it’ll cost a hundred pounds, but once he sees Lionel’s fat money pouch he says, “I mean a hundred pound for myself—my crew’ll have to be reckoned with —’twill mean another hundred”

Lionel takes a ring off his finger and hands it to Jasper.

They shake on the deal. We see Oliver is outside his grand house. Lady Rosamund is praying then stands quietly by the window…

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Oliver is approached by Lionel who tells him a lie that will get him alone on Trefusis Point. “A Servent from Godolphin Court bade me to tell you that Mistress Rosamund desires a word with you… Even now she awaits you on Trefusis Point.”

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Oliver hugs him…  he’s so happy he rushes to get his coat so he can meet up with Mistress Rosamund, but tis a trap Arrrr….

There are crashing waves upon the rocks. Jasper’s stealthy cut throats are closing in to secret Oliver away to his ship.

Jasper sneaks up on Sir Oliver… Oliver knocks him down, but the rest of Jasper’s gang surrounds him. Jasper knocks him unconscious while they hold him and he is Shanghaied away.

FOR A WEEK, JASPER LEIGH’S SHIP “THE SWALLOW”, FLEW SOUTH TILL SHE SIGHTED THE PORTUGUESE COAST

One of the crew brings Oliver below to see Capt Jasper.

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Jasper looks at him squinting and says “Sir Oliver, I can swear by me ten holy toes bones that of all men thou art most foully abused… Give me your word, ye’ll make no quarrel wi’ me and I’ll cast ye loose.”

Once untied he offers Oliver a drink. and tells him “I was bidden to take ye and sell ye in slavery to the Moors… I meant ye no harm, Sir Oliver, so if ye’ll pay me well, I’ll bout ship and put ye ashore on the English coast.”

Oliver asks, “Who is this enemy of mine?”

Then he attacks Jasper, strangling him, until he hands over his brother Lionel’s money pouch. Oliver looks inside and sees A JEWEL RING—HIS LAST BIRTHDAY GIFT TO LIONEL.

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“Up on deck and put your tub about—I’ll double the price he gave you!”

But it’s too late a Spanish Galleon is abeam and coming up fast upon them!

SPAIN—THAT PROUD AND POWERFUL KINGDOM RULED THESE WATERS…..

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The Spaniards have captured Jasper and his crew! There’s cannons firing, the smoke fills the ocean and Jasper’s ship The Swallow, shakes and bits of the ship crumble from cannon fire…

Jasper tells Oliver- “WE’RE LOST IT’S SURRENDER OR SINK!”

Oliver hangs his head down… defeated.

A FATE MORE CRUEL THAN HIS BROTHER HAD PLANNED- A SLAVE TO SPAIN.

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Haven’t I seen these guys on a box of cigars?

The cocky Spaniards eyeball the crew–The men get chained to the forehold… !
When the Commandante looks over Oliver, he tells his men “To the oars!”

Jaspers turn, the Commandante tells him while he’s on his knees dressed in chains and begging-“Rascal, I set you free to navigate your ship, under guard, to Spain…”

but he adds, “… after that the chains and then the oars!”

The film is absolutely beautifully filmed. Some of the frames remind of old Medieval Gothic Romantic Romanesque or Byzantine art, and Gothic art FRESCOES. The collective of men on the ships, chained to the torture bench while their tormentors walk the deck appears in particular due to the sepia or at times beige tones, to be as art sculptures that were on the facades of architectural building carved in ivory showcasing myriads of people in action. Mostly religious artworks, but many frames exude this populated world of suffering and transition.

THROUGHOUT CORNWALL, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF SIR OLIVER WAS CONSTRUED AS A CONFESSION OF GUILT…

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Once Lionel is interviewed by the court, he says, “Even though he fled—I cannot believe my brother is guilty.” While Rosamund looks at him and beams a Kewpie doll smile. Lionel breaks down and cries… Rosamund goes to console him. “We cannot doubt your brothers guilt, Lionel; we just find strength to put him from our hearts.”

God Rosamund is fickle ain’t she! So much for faith & loyalty.

Sir Killigrew shakes hands with Lionel… the two houses can now merge with Killigrew at the helm controlling both fortunes. So much for faith & loyalty and horse whipping!

FOR SIX MONTHS, SIR OLIVER HAD BEEN A SLAVE CHAINED TO THE OAR OF A SPANISH GALLEON.

HIS BODY, HARDENED BY THE GRUELING TOIL, BECAME AS TEMPERED STEEL; HIS SOUL A  CAULDRON OF SMOLDERING HATE.

The men are being whipped by a cruel brute who walks up and down the deck-as they row at the oars, another man is banging two wooden gavels hard against the block in order to keep the rhythm of the men’s toiling.

DAY IN AND DAY OUT, BLISTERED BY THE PITILESS SUN—CHAINED TO A TORTURE BENCH FROM WHICH ONLY DEATH COULD RELEASE HIM…

YUSUF-BEN-MOKTAR A HIGH-CASTE MOOR, RECENTLY CAPTURED.

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Sir Oliver becomes friends with an Algerian whom he is chained to named Yusuf-Ben-Moktar (Albert Prisco). Yusuf is a a fine and noble soul who’s uncle happens to be Asad-ed Din, the Basha of Algiers a well known and powerful corsair.

When Asad-ed Din himself attacks the Spanish Galleon Sir Oliver and Yusuf break their shackles and are freed but Yusuf is killed by gunfire. This is when Sir Oliver converts to Islam in defiance of the treachery and hypocrisy he sees in his Christian faith. The Sea Hawk does seem to make a moral utterance pitting ethnic groups against each other showing the Europeans as faithless liars and Muslims as honorable. Again as Fritzi of Movies Silently has pointed out, the “cliché of the ‘harem’ “ is Hollywoodized through an ethnocentric lens, but it’s pretty bold to have our dashing hero defy Christianity and convert to Islam. This impression will only last a while until both groups are shown as capable of human cruelty.

When Yusuf is killed by a gun shot, the men break their chains, and during a sea battle between the Moors and the Spaniards, Oliver escapes while the Spanish ship is captured by “the fighting Basha of Algiers.” (Frank Currier)

Oliver is so disillusioned by the barbarity of men by men who are Christian that he becomes  “ripened for Allah’s service”  and takes the name Sakr-el-Bahr, “The Sea Hawk.” following his friend who has died, Yusuf’-Ben-Moktar’s beliefs.

When he is picked up by the Moors, the Basha of Algiers, Asad-ed Din (Frank Currier) finds something appealing about Oliver, who has taken the name Sakr El-Bahr (The Sea Hawk…)

And so Sakr El-Bahr becomes a fearsome legend, the leader of a gang of Moorish pirates, he is driven by a bitter and vengeful spirit he is known as a scourge and terror to the Spanish navy!

ABOARD THE VESSEL, THE INFANTA OF SPAIN WAS MAKING A PILGRIMAGE TO NAPLES.

The Infanta of Spain (Christine Montt) vain woman with the fan…

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“PUT YOUR SHIP ABOUT, SENOR COMMANDANTE, THE STENCH FROM THOSE SLAVES OFFENDS ME”

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The detail in this film is truly extraordinary.

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PRECIOUS WATER— TO ROT, THE WOOD THAT HELD THEIR CHAINS.

Given water Oliver and Yusuf drip some of it on the wooden floor by the chain’s post in order to soften the wood and pull their chains up breaking the link..
They pull so hard on it — yet it doesn’t give way…

When one of the men tries to ask for more water he is whipped terribly. This moves Oliver to primal rage but alas, he is chained and too worn to rise up.

The brute with the whip goes over to Oliver is takes his lash to him.

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The image of Oliver holding onto the side of the oar pit where he is chained to the torture bench is an incredibly brutal and realistic shot that shows a great eye for a moments’ suffering and Milton Sills ability to convey his anguish by one single shot… it really impressed me and I didn’t expect to see something so naturalistic with such a ‘silent’ (excuse the pun) ferocity. It’s just like Norma Desmond says “We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces!”

The Infanta of Spain and her friends sit atop of the ship as she cools herself off with an elaborately feathered fan, and Oliver is whipped until his back is a collection of bloody gashes and cuts as he clings to the wooden wall of the oar pit.

When the Brute is done Yusuf puts his arm around Oliver as he leans in. ( I wonder if it’s just me or is there a bit of an underlying homo-erotic energy between the two men?)

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A CURSE ON THOSE THAT CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS AND COUNTENANCE SUCH CRUELTY

As the two men sit together watching the vain and cold-hearted Infanta and her gluttonous gang enjoy watching the cruelty and inhumanity, Oliver renounces Christianity…

Yusuf asks “But art thou not a Christian too?” Oliver shakes his head no…

He tells him, “If these be Christian, then do I call God to witness— I renounce the name!”

NIGHT BROUGHT RELIEF TO BODIES WRACKED WITH PAIN —AND MEMORIES

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The night has come as Oliver sits with a fierce concentration his penetrating eyes pierce the darkness. He thinks back about that lovely afternoon with Lady Rosamund at the beach when they embraced. He tries to rip the chains up from the deck. He cannot free himself. Yusuf awakens than falls back to sleep leaning on Oliver.

THE SPANISH GALLEON—ALONG THE SHORES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

THE MINORCAN HEADLAND WAS BUT A FAMILIAR LANDMARK TO THE SPANISH COMMANDER…. BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HEADLAND….

LAY A MOORISH GALLEY!

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Asad-Ed-Din, fighting Basha of Algiers, whose deeds reddened the Mediterranean with the blood of Spain.

Yusuf sees his uncle’s ship and tells Oliver “The hour of our deliverance is near—’tis the galley of my uncle, Asad-ed Din!”

As the two ships launch cannon fire and smoke consumes both decks, Oliver , Yusuf and the rest of the chained men continue to row.

“Allah—y’Allah!”

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The Muslim Moors fight the Spaniards, behind a veil of smoke, there is sword play and long guns. The Spanish are over run, Oliver and Yusuf try to rip their chains from he deck…

Finally it gives way and the two men are free! Yusuf is re-united with his uncle!

Veiled beneath all the gun powdered smoke, Oliver sees the brute who whipped his back raw, and takes off after him, beating him til he is dead, then he and Yusuf flee…

“Alhamdollilah”

THE HAND OF ALLAH HAS GIVEN YUSUF-BEN-MOKTAR BACK TO US!”

“This is my comrade, ripened for Allah’s service by Christian’s inhumanity to Christian!”

Moktar says “By Allah! The strength of the Prophet is already in his arm!”

Oliver casts his chains away…

A Spanish soldier up on the mast shoots Yusuf in the chest. As one of the Moors raises a cross- bow to shoot the Spanish sniper down, Oliver grabs the weapon away and aims at the sniper himself.

Yusuf dies and Oliver falls upon his friend-

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“His body (Sir Oliver/Sakr) hardened by grueling toil became as tempered steel, his soul a cauldron of smoldering hate.”

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THUS—THREE YEARS PASSED AND A NAME RANG THROUGH SPANISH CHRISTENDOM THAT MADE ALL MARINERS QUAKE IN TERROR…..

SAKR-EL-BAHR, THE MOSLEM NAME MEANING ‘HAWK OF THE SEA’ —THE VICTORIOUS CORSAIR OF THE BASHA OF ALGIERS.

“AN EASY PRIZE, MY CORSAIRS!” SAKR EL BAHR RAISES HIS HANDS

Sakr says “Allah is great! Tis the ship from which the Poniards took me prisoner!”… “Bring down their masts.”

Sakr takes his sword and fights with the captain of the Spanish Galleon. He cries out “Allah Y’ Allay”

“The Fortunes of war, Señor Commandante.”

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CAPTURED WITH THE ‘THE SWALLOW’ WERE THE PRISONERS IN HER HOLD.

As an old man kneels before Sakr, he begs, “I’m from Hadley in Sussex, England, sir.”

“My custom holds— I make no war against England or her subjects. Have these two set ashore.”

By the time Oliver has become the holy terror that is the Sea Hawk, Mistress Rosamund disbelieves he is a murderer, despises him, yet cant deny the twinges of love for him still, as she truly thinks that he has killed her brother Peter…

During Sakr-el-Bahr (the Sea Hawk’s) assault on a ship, he runs into his old grimy pal Jasper, who has still been a slave on a Spanish Galleon the whole time. Jasper is brought out from he hold, after Sakr recognizes him. He is taken down to the Captain’s quarters.

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It may be risky with this double-dealing pirate but he asks Jasper to take a message to Mistress Rosamund, and find the papers he has hidden at Penarrow Hall that can prove his innocence.

“I suppose ye’ll give yourself the pleasure of hanging me this fine morning, Sir Oliver.”

He tells Jasper, “I’d save your dirty neck’s acquaintance with a rope if I was sure I could trust you.”

“Ye can— by the ten holy toe bones—ye can!”

“I would have you sail this ship to England and deliver a message.”

“Prove worthy of this trust and I’ll never forget your service.”

He begins telling Jasper his plan—

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Jasper goes to Cornwall and finds the documents and give’s Rosamund the message which she throws into the fireplace without reading it. Oh yeah, and just to add insult to the entire bloody betrayal, she is about to marry Oliver’s double-crossing weasel of a brother, Lionel…

FEW CHANGES HAD TAKEN PLACE AT PENARROW HALL IN THE THREE YEARS THAT HAD PASSED.

A DARK AND RAINY NIGHT AT PENARROW IS SHOWN. NICK HAS SET THE SUPPER TABLE.

Jasper comes to the door, Nick lets him in and then shouts at him…

“Would ye dare refuse hospitality to on who brings a message from Sir Oliver?”

Nick goes to the book shelf and finds the book on falconry mentioned in the letter.

“Bring me food and wine in plenty and have horses put to the coach”
Jasper takes the special note from the book and hides it on himself.

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Meanwhile Lord Killigrew is reading something to Lionel and Rosamund…

“Sir Oliver is then declared an outlaw and the Crown decrees the estates to his brother, Lionel,”

A servant comes into the room… “A most extraordinary personage from the Orient to see Lady Rosamund.”

“His lordship, the Admiral Jasper Nicodemus Leigh.”

Jasper goes to Lady Rosamund. “I bring you this message from my master, Sir Oliver Tressilian.”

“Oliver” with renewed excitement she clings the letter to her breast.

Suddenly she gets angry and throws it in the fire!

Jasper “Ye are condemning an innocent gentleman whose heart is breaking for love of ye!”

Rosamund swears at Jasper a bit and then he points to the weasel who started the whole ordeal. “Ye dastard—’twas ye…”

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The servants throw Jasper out… pushing him down the staircase he tumbles to the floor. Beery’s body comedy is excellent!

“Fetch Justice Baine—he’ll bear witness to the truth!”

One of the servants laughs….

“Justice Baine be dead over two years.”

Jasper runs off while the staff at the top of the staircase laughs heartily at him…

THE CITY OF ALGIERS

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“Belak! Make way! Way for the lord Asad -ed-Din. the exalted of Allah!”

FENZILEH, (Medea Radzina) THE BASHA’S FAVORITE WIFE.

MARSAK, HER SON, HAREM-BORN AND WOMAN -RAISED.

FENZILEH, JEALOUS OF THE SEA HAWK’S GROWING POWER CEASELESSLY PLOTTED TO POISON ASAD’S MIND AGAINST HIM.

“Wilt thou forever close thy heart against thine own son, Marsak, and cherish this infidel Sea Hawk?”

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Marsak, her son (William Collier Jr.) confronts his angry father, “Is that dog-descended Sea Hawk to take my place in thy heart?”

IN A COVE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN THE SEA HAWK AWAITED HIS MESSENGER’S RETURN.

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Jasper returns to the Sea Hawk. He tells him what took place. “And I learned in the village that your brother weds Mistress Rosamund this coming month.” The Sea Hawk rises to his feet and balls up his fists, pointing he shouts at Jasper.

SIR JOHN HAD AT LAST CONTRIVED A MARRIAGE THAT JOINED PENARROW TO GODOLPHIN WITH HIMSELF IN VIRTUAL CONTROL

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Sir John Killigrew meets Mistress Rosamund out on the terrace the morning of her wedding day.

“Always a fear is with me that I was over-hasty when I destroyed Oliver’s message.”

The Sea Hawk crashes the wedding. Lionel the weasel takes his sword out then thinks twice, lily livered fool, surrounded by hundreds of Moorish pirates ready to slice him to ribbons.

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That’s one way of getting that pompous ass to shut his mouth!!!

Jasper has the great joy of tossing the servant who rolled him down the stairs the last time….

“Sakr-el-Bahr!” The Sea Hawk makes a great entrance and walks up to Lionel and Rosamund having disrupted the wedding…

“So the eyes of brotherly love pierce the change exile hath wrought in me.”

“Sir Oliver Tressilian—you dastardly renegade!” says Sir John Killigrew

“Not Sir Oliver Tressilian, but the Sea Hawk—the Moslem scourge of Christendom!”

“The plundering Corsair your cupidity hath fashioned from a one-time Cornish gentleman!”

One of Sea Hawks guards hold Lionel in place while he acts like he is going to strangle the cowardly boy.

Sir John- “You blaspheming renegade—you’ll hang for this as God’s my life!”

The guards take Sir John away.

“Come—lady”

He grabs her, she faints…

“Away—Away!”

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FEZILEH’S SPIES HAD INFORMED HER OF THE SEA HAWKS VOYAGE TO ENGLAND

Sakr-el-Bahr returns victorious —with treasure and slaves beyond  aught ever known!”

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He enters the palace, though the city bazaars –the people love him, he hugs and kisses the Maktar… but Fezileh’s son is brooding…

He brings a trunk of treasures. The camels fill the streets, his brother Lionel is chained up, walking in the parade of slaves…

“I bought you!- you are my property!”– Sakr the Sea Hawk says to his brother Lionel

sea-hawk-1924 lionel the slave

“You find me strong, eh? I toiled at the oar of a galley until it formed my body into steel and robbed me of a soul!”

THE MUSLIM LAW DECREED THAT ALL CAPTIVES BE SOLD BY THE STATE AT PUBLIC AUCTION

“It is my will to inspect the Sea Hawk’s captives.”

The Maktar inspects the female slaves. When he sees Rosamund, he points and chooses her to be his new slave. The milk-faced girl.

This is where I will leave off… you must see for yourselves, the harrowing adventure. I won’t give away the dramatic conclusion to this wonderful Swashbuckling tale of betrayal, unquenched love, inhumanity to man and face slapping with hats!

Will Sir Oliver/Sakr-el-Bahr — the ‘Sea Hawk’ find his way back to Cornwall to exact revenge on his weasel of a brother? Will he regain Mistress Rosamund’s trust and enduring love? (I’d of given up on that one and saved that poor beautiful girl who took the knife to herself rather than marry that horrid old geezer!)

Twixt the Devil and the deep sea will Sir Oliver Tressillian hang by English law… will he wind up with the Milk Faced girl?

Never Surrender or Sink!~~ Your EverLovin’ Joey

22 thoughts on “The Sea Hawk (1924) Swaggering Bullies & Wallace Beery’s Ten Holy toe bones!

  1. Thanks so much for posting! I haven’t seen the 1924 version yet, the first one I saw was when I was young and that was the 1940 version with the wonderful Flora Robson and the great Errol Flynn and oh what memories, The Sea Hawk is a grand adventure love story of a film. One that no one should miss out on especially if they enjoy a good hardy swashbucklin’ on the high seas film. Thanks again you two for posting and have a great weekend!

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    1. I’m reading your post on The Prisoner of Zenda now… I LOVE that photo of Ronald Coleman makes me want to watch all his films, he has a face that tells a thousand stories… so handsome. okay back to reading!

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  2. Holey Moley, Jo! I absolutely adore this post. So much to think about and lots of wit. (I nearly spewed my tea over my keyboard at this description: “dark eyeliner and threatening beard”. I bet that never, in the history of movie review-dom, has this description been used in regards to a hero.)

    This film looks gorgeous – the sets, the costumes, etc. Thanks for sharing so many photos.

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    1. haha! Not unless they were talking about Ethel Barrymore! no just kidding… Thanks our brainy host Fritzi did I discover and fall in love with Milton Sills our dark eyelinered hero! This film had me going with it’s incredible set pieces and the sea fights that were so realistic and most frames were like great classical paintings. Glad to make you do a spit take once in while it’s good for the soul… and our holy toe bones too! thanks for your wonderful comment here at my little place of nostalgia…

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  3. Thiis review would be better if it didn’t keep jumping back and forth in time. Begin at the beginning, go on to the end, then stop. Also, about two-thirds of it consists of stills without captions.

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  4. Yay! Thank you so much for sharing the splendor of The Sea Hawk. We are in absolute agreement: more Enid Bennett, please, and juicier roles. Alas. Oh well, at least we can enjoy the fabulous costumes, ships and the wonder of Wallace Beery.

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  5. This blogathon is introducing me to so many under the radar gems, including this one! (How so many pass me by I’ll never know ;)
    Some wonderful costumes and makeup in this – to me, a lot of these swashbuckler characters have always seemed a bit gender-fluid (perhaps it’s the eyeliner?) or at least so confident of their masculinity they’re willing to give a bit of it up!

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  6. Wow, Jo. That was an epic post about an epic movie. It was the first one I ordered from Warners Archive. “former professor of psychology and philosophy” — Milton Sills was a pretty impressive physical specimen for a professor of psychology and philosophy. I didn’t have any who looked like that.

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    1. Hey Joe! It is one of my particularly epic posts – the film is quite the visual journey that had me drawn in to tell part of it’s story with it’s incredibly poetic imagery. Fritzi at Movies Silently got me interested in Mr Sills and after seeing him as The Sea Hawk I’m a fan! … if I had ever had a professor of anything… like him, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate too well! Ha! or I’d be hanging on every word… thanks so much for your kind comments and for stopping by here. Always a pleasure… Cheers Joey

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  7. Wow! That first paragraph really acted as the salesman’s foot in the door, I’m ready to head on over to the WBshop and buy the movie right now. Barbary coast pirates, rakes and plunderers and harems of sweaty men in manacles….all the ingredients for a perfectly palm-wetting film-viewing experience. Thanks for spewing out your love for this movie unto us humble readers.

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  8. What a superbly detailed post! Having seen only about a dozen silents, I am really surprised at how gorgeous this one looks. And it even has a Middle Eastern connection. Thanks so much for the many glorious screen-shots: I’m sold!

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    1. Thank you Paul. I was not a fan of the Swashbuckling film until Fritzi of Movies Silently hosted this wonderful event. Thru that I discovered Milton Sills who is inspiring. I have always loved Silent Cinema and have a list of films that I would love to sit with, but it’s Fritzi’s knowledge and wit that have turned me onto these incredible gems. The Sea Hawk is a visual stunner right! So many of the frames are like classical paintings. It’s a film to be taken in slowly and studied for it’s thoughtful eye. I wish more people would get interested in Silent film. There’s so much there, particularly the fantasy/horror genre that tickles me the most. However I had a blast watching derring do and men in at the oar bench breaking their chains

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