The Sea Hawk (1940)



Director:  Michael Curtiz

Cast:  Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Donald Crisp, Flora Robson, Alan Hale, Henry Daniell, Una O'Connor, Gilbert Roland


A 4 star film.  Swashbuckling by Errol Flynn under Queen Elizabeth I of England.  

This movie had to be loosely based on the life of Sir Francis Drake because there are so many parallels between Drake and Captain Geoffrey Thorpe.  Give the many accomplishments of Drake, it is no wonder a movie about him would have to simplify things.  And, of course, they have to throw a love story in to add to the show.  (As the love interest, Brenda Marshall has a pretty face, but was not able to do much with her role.)

 I was surprised at how good the action sequences were considering all the progress the movies have made in special effects since 1940.  The fight between the Spanish ship and Thorpe's ship at the beginning is very good.  I was also impressed by Errol Flynn's sword-fighting scenes.  Even if nowadays they have kung-fu fighters flying through the air, the Flynn sword play was still excellent. 

I don't know why they chose Walsingham to be the villain, because he was of great assistance to England and Queen Elizabeth I.  He had a sophisticated spy network that he built up personally, and he even at one time paid the wages of 50 of his agents. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


c. 1540  --  Francis Drake born in Tavistock, Devon, the second eldest of the twelve children of a Protestant farmer (later a preacher). 

1549  - during the Roman Catholic uprising, the Drakes were forced to flee to Kent.

c. 1553   --  at age 13, Drake took to the sea. 

c. 1560  --  when the captain of his ship died, Drake became the captain. 

1563  --  at age 23, Drake sailed to the New World under the sails of the Hawkins family of Plymouth.  He and his cousin, John Hawkins, made the first English slave-trading expeditions.

c. 1563  --  Drake sailed west to the Spanish Main.

1568  --  at San Juan de Ulua, the Spanish violated a truce, when then delivered a surprise attack.  In the attack, Drake nearly lost his life.  His special hatred of the Spanish was partly due to this incident. 

1573  --  Drake and his men captured the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios in today's Panama.

1573 (August 9)   --  Drake returned to Plymouth England. 

Queen Elizabeth could not officially acknowledge the deeds of Drake because she had signed a temporary truce with King Philip II of Spain. 

1577 (December) to 1580 (September 26)  --  on the Golden Hind, Drake circumnavigated the globe, the first Englishman to do so.  The half-treasure Drake presented to Queen Elizabeth I was greater than the rest of the crown's income for that entire year.  For this Drake was knighted. 

Drake became the mayor of Plymouth and a member of Parliament. 

1580  -- King Philip II of Spain annexed Portugal. 

1585  -- war between Spain and England.  In the new world, Drake sacked the ports of Santo Domingo and Cartagena.  He also captured what is today St. Augustine, Florida. 

Drake sailed into Cadiz, Spain; occupied the town for three days; destroyed 31 ships and captured 6.  This attack delayed the planned Spanish invasion of England by a year.

1588  --  Vice Admiral Drake (serving under Lord Howard of Effingham) foiled the attempt by the Spanish Armada to invade England.

1589  --  Drake was sent to liberate Portugal from the Spanish with unsatisfactory results.  The failure was due to a lack of organization, poor training and inadequate supplies. 

1595  --  he unsuccessfully attacked San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

1596  --  Drake died of dysentery while trying to take Spanish treasure ships harbored at San Juan.  He was buried at sea in a lead coffin near Portobelo, Panama.



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