Pirates 101: Of Wenches and Ladies, Corsets and Balloon Pants

pirateopeningI love pirates who swashbuckle their way through high adventure on the high seas, but I am not always thrilled with the women who try to tame them.  For this second installment in my series in support of TCM’s Friday Night Spotlight on pirate movies, I offer some thoughts on wenches, ladies, and female buccaneers.

A common female character in pirate movies is the aristocratic woman—or, lady—who detests the roguish protagonist because he is uncouth, ill-mannered, and unrefined. Typically, her father represents a powerful local authority, which makes him the arch-enemy of the pirate. Often, the pirate kidnaps the lady, or she finds herself aboard his ship through unforeseen circumstances, instigating a series of romantic adventures in which his virile masculinity wins her over. In the end, the lady lies to authorities, claiming that she had actually run away with the pirate of her own volition; or, she realizes he has acted nobly, which alters her opinion of him. In the silent version of The Sea Hawk (1924), the smitten Lady Rosamund  defends her pirate kidnapper, while in Captain Blood (airing this Friday, June 20), the governor’s daughter changes her low opinion when Blood fights for England against the French.

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Tales from the trenches: Pahlen Season

Having retired from the DVD business, I am realizing now that I’m sitting on 15 years’ worth of anecdotes from behind the scenes that I never felt like sharing publicly at the time, because I worried they didn’t gibe with my marketing plans, and I was also mindful of not misusing this forum for self-promotion.  But I no longer have a vested interest in any of these movies, and I’m now starting to feel more willing to talk about what went on in the making of some of these DVDs.  I’m posting a few stories these weeks to gauge reader interest.

This week I want to talk a bit about my triptych of DVDs with the estate of Victor Pahlen!

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The Silent Robin: A Tonic for the Soul

I suppose to the eyes of the world, we were a motley looking crew as the capacity crowd flowed eagerly into George Eastman House‘s Dryden Theatre in Rochester, New York last month. Unlike the first Hollywood premiere of Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1923) at Sid Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre on October 18, 1922, there were no limos, no gowns, no red carpets, no klieg lights searching the sky, and certainly no hint of a “Day of the Locust” style mob scene. However, there were about five hundred not very glam but expectantly eager people gathered on an October evening for the “World Premiere” of this restored version of the tale in the 21st century starring Douglas Fairbanks in one of his classic roles.

So, who were these people who came out to see this 87 year old film version of the English bandit’s adventures?  Among the crowd at this movie were a few who might have been just old enough to have seen a later Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. film in a movie theater, a generous sprinkling of younger cinephiles, middle aged academics, and a delightful gaggle of children of about nine years of age in the audience that Saturday.  Once thought lost until it was rediscovered in the 1960s, this film’s “premiere” was a highlight of the seventh biennial conference of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies at the University of Rochester, where the historical and literary permutations of the appealing errant figure of lore were analyzed and, frankly, reveled in by the participants. Accredited scholars and hard core Robin buffs from around the world spent three days discussing the evergreen legend of this “Robin Hood: Media Creature”, trying to discern if the 700 year old hero of Sherwood Forest even existed, while enjoying an extravaganza of multi-media exhibits (including Douglas Fairbanks boots, seen below), early manuscripts, songs, and presentations discussing all aspects of the tale.

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The Last Swashbuckler by Peter Bosch

small alan

A Note from  Moira:
When I heard the news that Stewart Granger was to be July’s Star of the Month on TCM, I was delighted for two reasons. As regular readers might have guessed, part of my happiness stemmed from my lifelong enjoyment of the adventure films touched on appreciatively in last week’s nod to Errol Flynn in this blog. Such movies also were animated with renewed zest during Stewart Granger‘s high time in British and Hollywood films.

My second reason for joy was the offer by my friend, Peter Bosch, a writer and a recent TCM Fan Guest Programmer to have an interview he’d conducted with Mr. Granger published here. I think Peter, (fondly known to many of us on the TCM Message Boards as Filmlover), does an excellent job of capturing Granger‘s acerbic wit and honesty in this glimpse of the man as he launched his well done autobiography in 1981.

Flynn: A Touch of Color in a Prosaic World

“Maybe all that I am in this world and all that I have been and done comes down to nothing more than being a touch of color in a prosaic world. Even that is something.” ~ Errol Flynn, writing in My Wicked, Wicked Ways

Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1937)

Well, no. It can’t be possible. Errol Flynn at 100 is unimaginable. Yet, as of Saturday, June 20th, the great swashbuckler of the sound era passed the one hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1909 in Tasmania. It may seem impossible that such a milestone has been reached without a bigger celebration in Flynn‘s adopted homeland of America. However, ask yourself: For true classic movie fans, haven’t we continued to celebrate and rediscover Errol Flynn and his evergreen films over and over in the years since he left this world?

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