Aargh, maties! We’re back with a new A to Z list, and this time the subject is those men–and women–who sail the seas beneath the jolly roger flag. Don’t look for any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in this list. Our focus is strictly classic cinema.
A – Anne of the Indies. Jean Peters played Anne Providence, a female pirate who falls for the charms of Louis Jourdan (who turns out to be married to Debra Paget!). Blackbeard appears as Anne’s mentor; the 1951 actioner was inspired by the life of 1700s pirate Anne Bonny.
B – The Black Pirate. Douglas Fairbanks starred in this lively 1926 adventure about a young man seeking vengeance against the pirates responsible for his father’s death. It was shot in two-strip Technicolor.
C – Captain Blood. There have been several films based on Rafael Sabatini’s best-selling pirate yarn and its sequels. The best, of course, is 1935’s Captain Blood, in which a then-unknown named Errol Flynn took over the lead role when Robert Donat turned it down. By the way, Sean Flynn–Errol’s son–starred in The Son of Captain Blood.
D – The Devil-Ship Pirates. This is one of three pirate films made in the 1960s by Hammer Films (better known for their Dracula and Frankenstein series). Both Devil-Ship Pirates and Pirates of Blood River take place primarily on land! The former film is the better of the two, with Christopher Lee as a nasty pirate captain. (For the record, Peter Cushing was a retired pirate in Hammer’s Captain Clegg.)
E – Errol Flynn. He played a pirate in Captain Blood, a privateer (i.e., a pirate for the Queen) in 1940’s The Sea Hawk, and posed as a pirate in 1952’s Against All Flags.
F – Frenchman’s Creek. Joan Fontaine starred in this 1944 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel about an aristocratic woman who falls in love with a French buccaneer.
G – Ghosts in Blackbeard’s Ghost. Long before Pirates of the Caribbean, ghostly pirates haunted the screen in movies like this 1968 Disney comedy. It starred Peter Ustinov as a curmudgeonly Blackbeard anxious to be reunited with his ghost ship.
H – Captain Hook. Peter Pan’s archnemesis was delightfully voiced by Hans Conried in Disney’s animated Peter Pan. My favorite Hook, though, was the one played by Cyril Ritchard in the Broadway musical (adapted for TV) with Mary Martin as Peter.
I – The Ice Pirates. Robert Ulrich and Mary Crosby teamed for this futuristic yarn about buccaneers searching for treasure–in the form of water! It’s the best we could do for “I.”
J – Jamaica. This Caribbean country serves as home base for many real-life and movie pirates, notably Captain Blood, The Black Swan, and A High Wind in Jamaica.
K – Captain Kidd. Some historians think William Kidd was more of a privateer than a pirate–though he was found guilty of piracy and hanged. Charles Laughton played him twice on films, in Captain Kidd (1945) and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952).
L – The Lost Continent. Hammer Films’ third pirate picture is a wacky, entertaining 1968 fantasy-adventure with a modern-day tramp steamer going off course and docking near an island populated by the descendants of Conquistadors and buccaneers.
M – Moonfleet. The distinction between pirates and smugglers can be a bit blurry at times, and this 1955 adaptation of the classic children’s novel is a perfect example. Since the film involves the legend of someone named Blackbeard–even though he wasn’t the Blackbeard–I’m counting it as a pirate movie!
N – Naughty Marietta. Jeanette MacDonald flees to New Orleans to avoid an arranged marriage, but her ship is captured by pirates. Never fear. Nelson Eddy is there rescue her and, yes, there is much singing!
O – Maureen O’Hara. Was there a better a female pirate than Maureen in Against All Flags? You agree? I thought so!
P – The Pirate. Yes, there several possible picks for “P”, so we’ll stick with the obvious and go with this 1948 Gene Kelly-Judy Garland musical. Quick now, who played the real (retired) pirate?
Q – Anthony Quinn. He, Errol, and Robert Newton may have played more pirates than any other actors. Quinn’s pirate pics include: The Black Swan, A High Wind in Jamaica, and Against All Flags.
R – Raiders of the Seven Seas. John Payne played the real-life Barbarossa in this fictional tale in which he falls in love with Spanish countess Donna Reed. (Apparently, that thing about shipboard romances applies to pirate ships as well.)
S – The Sea Hawk. Well, Errol Flynn is technically a privateer working for Queen Elizabeth I in this loose adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s novel. Still, it’s Errol on a ship, plundering other ships–close enough to a pirate for me!
T – Treasure Island. There have been numerous film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, but the best remembered is probably the 1950 Disney version with a wild-eyed Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Newton reprised the role in a non-Disney sequel called Long John Silver and in a short-lived TV series.
U – Undercover Agents. Surprisingly, there have been several movies about undercover agents posing as buccaneers in order to infiltrate a pirate stronghold. Examples include Against All Flags, Yankee Buccaneer, and The King’s Pirate (with Doug McClure in the Errol Flynn role!).
V – Captain Vallo from The Crimson Pirate. You knew the most acrobatic of all pirates–played by Burt Lancaster–would be on this list somewhere!
W – The Walrus, Captain Flint’s ship in various film versions of Treasure Island. Typically, we only hear about Flint’s ship since that notorious pirate is dead at the start of the story…and his treasure is buried.
X – is the “X” formed by crossbones beneath the skull on the Jolly Roger flag.
Y – Yankee Buccaneer. Jeff Chandler plays a Naval lieutenant who goes undercover to nab some pirates in this 1952 adventure. Two years later, in Yankee Pasha, Jeff would have to rescue his love (Rhonda Fleming) when pirates kidnap her and sell her to a sultan. (Yes, Yellowbeard would work for “Y”, but it’s just not very good.)
Z – Zaca. Yes, we are really stretching it by listing the name of Errol Flynn’s real-life yacht. But Errol played several pirates–so we can legally make connection from pirate movies to Flynn to Zaca.
Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!
What’s your favorite swashbuckling pirate film? Let us know in the comments!