Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Captains Courageous


I’ve never read the book by Kipling, but the Wiki summary doesn’t even mention the character of Manuel Fidello, for which Spencer Tracy won an Oscar. I have to assume Hollywood made him up. Which really shortchanged Mickey Rooney, who has almost nothing to do as the son of the captain of the Grand Banks fishing boat, who in the book befriended the stuck-up little rich kid (Freddie Bartholomew) when he was washed overboard and had to learn how to be a man in a hard world. The screenwriters were going for a father figure to replace the kid’s real father, a tycoon who couldn’t be bothered to raise his own son. Maybe I haven’t been around enough Portagees, but I didn’t find Tracy’s accent convincing. It doesn’t really matter. Tracy is a memorable character and this is a rip-snorting adventure, very satisfying, a portrait of a hard and dangerous life, and contains some really stunning footage of these relatively small sailing ships in heavy weather. Lionel Barrymore is as crusty and irascible as usual as the captain of the We’re Here. And there is one of those moments that makes you shout Yes!!, when the captain finally loses his patience and whacks the kid upside the head. I’d have thrown him overboard for shark chum about ten minutes before that.