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… Continue reading “The Sea Hawk (1924) Swaggering Bullies & Wallace Beery’s Ten Holy toe bones!”