The Master of Ballantrae (1953)



Director:     William Keighly.

Starring:     Errol Flynn (Jamie Durie), Roger Livesey (Col. Francis Burke), Anthony Steel (Henry Durie), Beatrice Campbell (Lady Alison), Yvonne Furneaux (Jessie Brown), Felix Aylmer (Lord Durrisdeer), Mervyn Johns (MacKellar), Charles Goldner (Mendoza), Ralph Truman (Maj. Clarendon), Francis De Wolff (Matthew Bull), Jacques Berthier (Capt. Arnaud).

battle of Culloden



Spoiler Warning: 

"It was the year 1745 when the word spread over Scotland Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart heir, has landed on the shores of his homeland.  Let all the clans rally to his side.  "God and St. Andrew!"  A call to arms.  The call to expel from the throne of England the unwelcome monarch who  ruled:  King George of the House of Hanover.  A call to all Scotsmen to restore to that throne the exiled House of Stuart.'   

The followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie wear a small white ribbon on their tamoshanters.  Wealthy landlord Jamie Durie, the Master of Ballantrae, says that a man can be hanged for wearing the white cockade. 

A messenger tells the people of Ballantrae that Bonnie Prince Charlie is in Scotland.  He's calling for loyal Scotsmen.  The reverend says the Prince is calling for rebels.  Jamie Durie tells the messenger that he will be with the Stuart supporters.  He rides home to his in-debt castle.  At the castle he tells his father and his girlfriend Lady Alison that Bonnie Prince Charlie is back in Scotland.  Alison sides with the rebels but her future father-in-law tells her never to side with rebels.  Alison, however, does not want Jamie joining in the fight.  She looks at Jamie and says Jamie is going anyway.  That's right.  She gets mad and walks out of the room. 

Jamie has a brother, Henry Durie.  He wants to fight alongside Jamie.  The main servant of the family, MacKellar, says that the brothers should fight for different sides in the conflict so that whoever wins will still favor the Ballantrae castle and lands.  Jamie flips a coin and he wins the toss.  So Jamie will fight for the Stuarts.  Henry will fight for King George III. 

Although Jaime is engaged, he still likes to visit with a bonnie lass named Jessie Brown.  Henry urges him to take Jessie's brother's name off the list of Stuart soldiers.  Otherwise with Jamie gone, there will be no one to take care of Jessie. Jamie tells his brother to scratch Mr. Brown's name off.  It's time to say goodbye and Jaime stresses that this may be the last time they see each other.  Henry tells him not to say things like that.  It's bad luck.  Jaime says if something happens to him, Henry could become Master of Ballantrae.  Henry says he doesn't want to get the title that way. 

Lady Alison did not say goodbye to Jamie, but as Jamie catches up with the Highlander troops, he sees her coming toward him on her horse.  They talk a little and then they kiss.   She puts a white cockade on his tamoshanter and then they part. 

Coming together at Glenfinnan are the great clans of Scotland: the Camerons, the MacDonalds, the Stuarts and the Duries. From Glenfinnan they take Edinburgh, Scotland.  Then there was a sudden retreat from Derby, following which they suffered an epic defeat at Culloden.  That ended the power of the Stuarts in Scotland.  After the battle the British and Lowland Scots hunted down the rebels and they killed many of them.

Jamie is still alive.  He takes shelter in a burned-out cottage, but inside there is already an Irishman and he suggests that Jamie move on.  Jamie asks who the fellow is and the fellow says he's "Col Francis Burke, gentleman of Dublin, Chevalier of France and a hunted refugee of a devastated rag-tag army".  Jamie says:  "Either we fight on the spot or we become comrades."  Burke asks how do we decide?  Jamie takes out a coin and says heads we fight.  It's tails, so Burke let's Jamie have some of his chicken. 

The British go to every Highlander village saying anyone helping the rebels is subject to being hanged.  Those who inform on the rebels will be amply rewarded with money.  Listening to the talk in Jamie's village is his brother Henry and Henry's friend MacKellar.  Burke sneaks up behind them and grabs them both.  He says that Jamie is here and he wants his brother to bring a bottle of liquor and come down to see him at Jessie Brown's place. 

Henry comes to see his brother.  Jamie tells him that there is a boat down at the bay and with it they can get to France.  He also asks Jamie how much money can he get his hands on.  Henry doubts that he can raise much money given the circumstances.  This causes Burke to begin telling-off Henry.  He is about to manhandle Henry, when Jamie tells Burke to stop that  --  Henry is his brother. 

Somebody knocks at the door which spooks the rebels.  Henry opens the door and Lady Alison rushes in to hug and kiss Jamie.  She says she wants to go wherever Jamie goes, but Jamie says that's impossible.  He does says that nothing will stop him from getting back home to Alison.  He says that she can come down tonight to the bay with Henry, who is bringing some money for their time in France. 

Burke, two rowers and Jamie wait for Henry's arrival.  Jamie walks up the cliff, where the British are laying in wait for him.  The British signal to Jamie and Jamie turns around to go back to the boat.  A rifleman fires and hits Jamie, who falls into the waters of the bay.  Burke sees that the Redcoats are here and he orders the rowers to start rowing.  The Redcoats go down to the rocky shore to see if they can retrieve Jamie's body, but no such luck for them.  Jessie Brown watches what has happened and a tear starts rolling down her check. 

The British officer reports to the Duries that Jamie was shot and fell off the cliff into the bay waters.  Only Jamie's tamoshanter was found.  Alison starts crying and father tells Henry that he is the new Master of Ballantrae. 

Henry and MacKellar decide they will go down to the waterside and look for Jamie's body.  Henry takes a lantern to a shed where Jamie is waiting for him.  Jamie thinks that Henry double-crossed him and he slaps Henry hard across the face.  He calls Henry a liar, a coward and a stinking thief.  Jamie says Henry wanted his brother killed.  And Henry talks as if he did want his brother to be killed.  He says Jamie the playboy is not worthy of the good things that come with Ballantrae, including Alison.  Now the two brothers start sword fighting.  Jamie is able to get the sword away from Henry.  So Henry pulls out his knife.  Jamie charges him and kind of trips onto Henry bringing Henry down with him to the ground.  Henry pushes Jamie off him saying that he has had enough of this and he never told the British about Jamie.  With no response from Jamie, Henry looks at his brother closely and sees his knife in Jamie's right side.  He pulls the knife out of Jamie.  He listens to Jamie's chest but doesn't hear anything.  He runs into the house to get some help. 

Henry runs into MacKellar and he says that Jamie is dead and it was he who killed his own brother.  MacKellar goes with Henry to check on Jamie's body, but there is no trace of Jamie.  MacKellar doesn't believe Henry.  He asks Henry why should he need to kill Jamie twice?  The story about Jamie dying by an English shooting is better than Jamie's new explanation.  And his version would hurt Lady Alison all over again. 

What happened with Jamie is that Burke came back for him.  He found him laying alone wounded on the ground, picked him up and carried him down to their boat.  The boat went over to a ship used for smuggling cargo, including human cargo.  Captain Macaulay of the ship wants to be paid.  Jamie gives Burke the money he got from Henry and Burke tosses it up to the captain, who says this isn't half enough money.  And now Burke finds out that the ship is not going to France, but rather to the West Indies.  Jamie gets so angry that he gets up to confront the captain.  The captain slaps Jamie back onto the deck.  The same response is dished out to Burke when he tries to attack the captain. 

Burke likes the idea of going to the West Indies, but Jamie is firm in saying that he's going back to Scotland. 

A ship seems to be trying to overtake the smuggling ship.  During the night the ship catches up to the pirate ship.  The two crews now fight each other on the decks of the pirate ship.  The captain of the other ship is somewhat of a French dandy, who dresses very sharply.  He notices Jamie fighting against his own captain.  The captain roots for Jamie but abhors his sword-fighting skills.  So he grabs a rope and swings onto the pirate ship to show Jamie how it's done.  A huge man intervenes and knocks Jamie out of the fight.  The French captain takes over and quickly kills the pirate captain. 

Jamie recovers in the captain's quarters.  The interior decor of the room is very sumptuous.  When Jamie awakens he hears the scream of the pirate being thrown over the side of the ship.  Jamie is worried that one of those walking the plank might be his friend Burke.  Just then, Burke comes into the captain's quarters happy as a lark.  Apparently, he has already joined the French crew. 

Burke starts talking loudly saying that Jamie comes from a Scottish family with great wealth.  Jamie tells Burke to stop it.  He says there's no money to be had in Scotland these days and he intends to get back there with money in his own pockets.  If he has to do this through pirating, then he will do that.  The Frenchman asks Jamie to be a partner with him.  Jamie accepts. 

Land is spotted.  Tortuga's Bay.  [Tortuga is a Caribbean island that forms part of Haiti, off the northwest coast of Hispaniola. In the 17th century, it was a major centre of Caribbean piracy.]

Part of the crew rows to shore.  As they do so, they pass a Spanish ship.  The French captain calls out to Captain Mendoza, who he has meet before.  Frenchy is told that Mendoza is already on the island.  So the men row to shore.  On shore the men stop to watch a pretty woman dance for the crowd.  When the woman dances around the circle, she stops to take a brief look at Jamie.  She then goes over and dances in front of Mendoza with his red beard.

After the dance Frenchy and Jamie go over to meet Mendoza.  Jamie finds out that the woman's name is Marianne.  Mendoza invites Frenchy and Jamie to their sailing away party.  

Jamie goes looking for Marianne and finds her, partly because she was looking for him.  He offers her gold for making sure that Captain Mendoza doesn't leave the tavern. 

Marianne is used as a distraction, but then Burke comes in and says they have taken care of Mendoza's men.  Jamie says it's time to take over Mendoza's Spanish galleon.  Mendoza doesn't realize that Jamie is talking about this galleon, so Jamie directly tells him that his crew is taking over his galleon.  Mendoza tries to stop them, but the huge crew member knocks Mendoza out cold.  Now the crew members start running to the shore to get their boat to attack the galleon.  Jamie explains to Marianne that he is going back to Scotland to a red-headed woman with fair skin.  He then joins the crew running to the boats.  Burke is running to the docks when he gets way-laid.

There is a short fight for the galleon, but the few members of the Spanish crew on the ship are quickly over-powered.  The treasure chest is then brought up on board and the men look at it.  They are thrilled at the size of their bounty.  But the French captain pulls out his pistol, points it at Jamie and tells him this time the pistol is loaded.  The French captain has a problem.  He pulls the trigger, but the there is no bullet or powder in the pistol.  Jamie explains that he took the precaution of disarming the captain's pistol.  So the French captain says he will defeat Jamie in sword fighting.  There is a long sword-fight that goes over almost the entire length of the galleon.  Jamie kills the captain and the Frenchman falls into the bay.  Then the huge man is about to shout Jamie dead, when a very wet Burke just having gotten up on deck from the waters of the bay, shoots the gigantic fellow.  And now it's home to Scotland. 

Jamie and Burke travel in an enclosed coach and are stopped by a British patrol.  The two men are questioned but they have forged papers and are allowed to proceed on. 

There is a big party being held at Ballantrae Castle.  The party celebrates the end of the ban of men wearing kilts in Scotland.  There is traditional Scottish dancing at the party.

The poor people dance outside the castle.  Jessie Brown is one of the dancers.  Burke jumps into the dance, grabbing Jessie, who is totally shocked at his re-appearance. 

Jamie goes into the castle.  He sees his brother dancing with Lady Alison.  McKellar is the first to recognize Jamie.  He tells Jamie that he must go and hide because the English are all about the castle. 

And now Jamie cuts in on the dance with Lady Alison saying he hopes her ladyship still remembers him.  Of course, both Alison and Henry are shocked that Jamie is still alive.  Now father spots his son on the dance floor and is startled.  Alison asks where has Jamie been?  Working his way back to Alison, of course. Jamie is none too happy that they are celebrating the English victory, but Alison says they are celebrating that the English are handing out pardons to the rebels. 

The British commander, Maj. Clarendon, sees Jamie with his father, Henry and Alison.  He comes over to greet Jamie.  He's not quite sure that it's Jamie so he asks him quite a few question. And then he drops a bomb on Jamie.  He mentions that Henry and Alison are to announce their wedding date.  Jamie becomes furious and shouts to the whole crowd that his brother is a coward who never fought for Scotland, that betrayed him, fouled him in a duel and then when Jamie was out of the way, he took everything that was his brother's and then he even took his one love. 

The English grab Jamie and the Major holds a pistol on him.  Burke shows up, as always, and knocks the pistol out of Clarendon's hand.  Jamie gets free of his guards and his brother throws him a sword.  Jamie and Henry, together with Burke, now fight the English.  A few of the English are wounded and then Henry shouts for Jamie to head upstairs and get away.   Jamie has to fight off a few more Englishmen, but then his way is clear, but an Englishman is about to shoot Henry.  Jamie jumps from the stairs onto the back of the Englishman saving Henry's life.  And now all three are captured with the help of British troops. 

The punishment for Henry for this crime is death, but it will not be carried out because of his loyalty to Britain.  But tomorrow Jamie and Burke will be hanged. 

Jessie is determined not to let that happen.  A gibbet is raised, but starts to fall over.  Everyone  of the English guards are used to stop it from toppling.  Jessie uses the opportunity to slip passed them.  A guard is sleeping in a chair by the fire.  She sneaks past him and knocks on Alison's door.  Jessie asks her for help.  She says she must save Jamie.  He can't die thinking that it was his brother who betrayed him for it was she who told the English.  She did it out of jealousy.  So she has to get Jamie out.

Alison appears at the cell of the Scotsman and the Irishman.  She says that the guard has permitted her to speak to him.  Jamie says that her betrothed would not like it.  She says she no longer has a betrothed.  Burke is on Alison's side and he helps melt Jamie's heart.  Alison gives him the Durie ring.  They kiss through the bars.  Alison has to leave.

And now Alison arrives with food for the prisoner.  The guard tells her to go away, so she shoves the pot of hot porridge right into the man's face.  He falls to the floor and the key to the cells falls on the floor.  Jessie picks it up and unlocks the jail door.  Jamie runs past the guard and then Burke knocks him out with his fist.  Jessie now runs down the stairs.  The guard recovers and fires his rifle and a bullet hits Jessie in the back.  She is able however to lock the door to the jail cells. 

Father and McKallar lock some of the doors which slows down the British.  They get into the room with a secret passageway.  While the English try to beat down the door Jessie appears.  She uses her last few breaths to tell Jamie that she was the one who informed on him to the British and asks for Jamie's forgiveness.  She dies.

Jamie and Burke escape just as the English soldiers break through the door.  The British pursue the escapees through a tunnel that leads to the bay.  Henry is there to help the men escape the English.  Jamie and Burke get on the waiting horses and take off.  They are pursued by Englishmen on horseback.  The escapees duck into a cave.  There is a back entrance out of the caves.  There they find Alison on horseback coming toward them.  Jamie tells her:  "You're a fool, if you come with me."  Alison says:  "I know."


Pretty good movie dealing with the Scots' last attempt to free their land from the English overlords.  The problem is that the English win an overwhelming victory against the Scots.  This happened at the Battle of Culloden, which was the last battle attempt of the Scots to free themselves from the English yoke.  Our Scotsman has to find refuge acting as a member of a pirate group in the West Indies.  He uses piracy to earn money and take over the pirate ship to get back to Scotland.  There our hero continues the fight to save what is his in Scotland. 

Errol Flynn (as Jamie Durie) was good as usual.  Roger Livesey (as his friend Col. Francis Burke) also does a good job. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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