The Buccaneer (1938)

124 or 126 mins | Drama | 4 February 1938

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HISTORY

Early titles for this film were Lafitte the Pirate and The Baratarians . The film's opening credits appear on a simulated parchment scroll being removed from a treasure chest. The film's opening narrative includes the "immortal words" that George Byron wrote about Jean Lafitte, the "Last of the Buccaneers"--"He left a Corsair's name/to other times/Linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes." This film was promoted as Cecil B. DeMille's 25th anniversary film and marked his 64th personal production. According to a news item in HR on 28 May 1934, Charles Laughton was originally slated to star in this film. On 4 Dec 1935, HR reported that British writer C. S. Forrester was set to write the script for the film, although he receives no credit on the film or in any reviews. A 11 Feb 1937 news item in HR stated that DeMille visited New Orleans with his technical staff to research the life of Lafitte. On 5 Jun 1937, HR reported that William de Mille returned to Hollywood after an absence of several years and conferred with Cecil DeMille on the film's script. Shooting began on DeMille's 56th birthday, 12 Aug 1937. According to HR , 350 guests attended DeMille's birthday party in the Paramount commissary. Creole food was served and the cake was sent by the Governor of Louisiana.
       The preview length for this film was 115 min. The premiere at the New Orleans Saenger Theatre drew a crowd of 15,000 people. Traffic was so heavy, authorities made announcements over local radio stations asking that no one ... More Less

Early titles for this film were Lafitte the Pirate and The Baratarians . The film's opening credits appear on a simulated parchment scroll being removed from a treasure chest. The film's opening narrative includes the "immortal words" that George Byron wrote about Jean Lafitte, the "Last of the Buccaneers"--"He left a Corsair's name/to other times/Linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes." This film was promoted as Cecil B. DeMille's 25th anniversary film and marked his 64th personal production. According to a news item in HR on 28 May 1934, Charles Laughton was originally slated to star in this film. On 4 Dec 1935, HR reported that British writer C. S. Forrester was set to write the script for the film, although he receives no credit on the film or in any reviews. A 11 Feb 1937 news item in HR stated that DeMille visited New Orleans with his technical staff to research the life of Lafitte. On 5 Jun 1937, HR reported that William de Mille returned to Hollywood after an absence of several years and conferred with Cecil DeMille on the film's script. Shooting began on DeMille's 56th birthday, 12 Aug 1937. According to HR , 350 guests attended DeMille's birthday party in the Paramount commissary. Creole food was served and the cake was sent by the Governor of Louisiana.
       The preview length for this film was 115 min. The premiere at the New Orleans Saenger Theatre drew a crowd of 15,000 people. Traffic was so heavy, authorities made announcements over local radio stations asking that no one attempt to go downtown for the second showing. The onscreen credits acknowledge the assistance of the Louisiana State Museum. An early pictorial review in MPH listed Preston Sturges among the several writers who "checked in" early on in the writing stages of the film; however, it is unclear whether he actually contributed to the final script. Locations for the film include the Mississippi bayous near New Iberia, LA and Catalina Island and Baldwin Oaks, CA, where 450 actors recreated the Battle of New Orleans. According to press material, Barataria was recreated on a seven-acre settlement at White's Landing, Catalina. The Battle of New Orleans was staged using parapets of cotton bales, furniture and sandbags on four acres of the Baldwin Oaks area because of its resemblance to Chalmette Field, east of New Orleans, where the original battle was fought on 8 Jan 1815. A news item in HR on 24 Aug 1937 reported that fifty actors hired to play pirates, of the 450 encamped at Catalina, left their tents in search of hotel rooms and, finding no vacancies, were barred from returning to camp and were forced to sleep on the beach. The following day, they had to present DeMille with a formal apology in order to readmitted to the camp. According to a DV news item, assistant director Richard Harlan testified at a National Labor Relations Board investigation that he directed three weeks of battle scenes off Catalina; the investigation was concerned with the question of whether assistant directors were ever called on to direct scenes.
       Press material includes the following information on the production: the interior of Lafitte's home was furnished with pieces of the famous Mario Ramirez collection of silver valued at $250,000. Dan Sayre Groesbeck made 173 sketches to create a visual impression of costumes and sets for DeMille; and sculptor Dwight Franklin made miniature wax figures of all the principal characters. Groesbeck also painted the brooch miniature of "Mrs. de Remy." Paramount chartered and re-designed two square-rigged warships and three gunboats from the period of 1814. Editors Anne Bauchens and Hans Lubitsch worked throughout the film's shooting and for three months following. The 700 stills and 3,000 negatives shot totaled nearly ten times that of the average film production at the time, and the cast and crew totaled almost 10,000. Sixty-three functional cast iron cannons were manufactured by Paramount's property shop for the film. The character of "Dominique You" was based on the real-life cannoneer of Napoleon. Numerous contemporary reviews applauded Tamiroff's comic performance as superior to that of March, who was reportedly paid $150,000 in cash for the role. After seeing her in a foreign film, DeMille hand-picked Hungarian actress Franciska Gaal for her American debut as "Gretchen." According to the file on the film in the Paramount Script Collection, a short personality sketch tentatively titled "Star Bright" was written for Gaal depicting DeMille calling her in Budapest, her trip to the United States, her preparing for the role and shooting a couple of scenes, as well as DeMille introducing her to American audiences at her debut and Gaal asking to stay in America.
       Early scripts list Porter Hall in the role of "Mouse" and Barton MacLane as "Gramby," although they were later replaced. Judith Allen and Richard Loo were cast in Aug 1937, according to HR , but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In the middle of shooting, actor Hugh Sothern was given a contract by Paramount. A modern source credits William LeBaron as executive producer on the film. Cinematographer Victor Milner was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the picture. Cecil B. DeMille remade The Buccaneer in 1959 with Anthony Quinn directing and Yul Brynner, Claire Bloom, Charlton Heston and Charles Boyer starring. The 1959 version was DeMille's last film. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Jan 38
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Oct 38
p. 7.
Film Daily
4 Feb 38
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 34
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 35
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 37
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 37
p. 3, 11
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 37
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 37
p. 3., 13752
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 37
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 37
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 37
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 38
p. 3, 5
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 38
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
8 Jan 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
23 Oct 37
pp. 14-15.
Motion Picture Herald
15 Jan 38
p. 47, 50
New York Times
17 Feb 38
p. 17.
Variety
12 Jan 38
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Mert La Varr
Melville Ruick
Edward Brady
Robert Terry
J. M. Sullivan
Bob St. Angelo
Curt von Fuerberg
Olga Borget
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cecil B. DeMille Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Dial supv
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr to scr const and dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Int dec
COSTUMES
Cost manufactured by
Cost des
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orig mus
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Franciska Gaal's hair and makeup
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc dir
Loc scout
Bus mgr
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
Still photog
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Lafitte the Pirate by Lyle Saxon (New York, 1930).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Baratarians
Lafitte the Pirate
Release Date:
4 February 1938
Premiere Information:
New Orleans premiere: 7 January 1938
Production Date:
12 August--late October 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 February 1938
Copyright Number:
LP7794
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
124 or 126
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3654
SYNOPSIS

In August, 1814, as the British seize and burn the President's Palace in Washington, D.C., Senator Crawford of Louisiana plots with British naval officers to attack New Orleans. Meanwhile, the Corinthian sets sail from New Orleans carrying Marie de Remy, whose sister Annette loves privateer Jean Lafitte, who is wanted by Governor Claiborne. Lafitte and his thousand pirates hold Barataria, a territory of bayous which separates the ocean from New Orleans and claims allegiance to no nation. When pirate Captain Brown sinks the Corinthian , breaking Lafitte's rule never to attack an American ship, the sole survivor is a Dutch girl, Gretchen, who falls in love with Lafitte. On the advice of Crawford, the British bribe Lafitte to lead them through the bayous to attack General Andrew Jackson's army at New Orleans. Lafitte, however, convinces his men to fight for "the only shore that has let [them] stay" and turns the letters of conspiracy over to Claiborne. Now a man of honor, Lafitte proposes to Annette. Crawford, however, convinces Claiborne that Lafitte's letters were forged and when Lafitte's men greet the American ships, they are met with cannon fire and taken prisoner. Lafitte escapes, however, and when General Jackson learns of Crawford's demands for surrender, Lafitte offers his army of pirates in exchange for their pardon and a head start of one hour for his own escape. Behind bales of cotton, aided by Dominique You, ex-cannoneer for Napoleon, Lafitte defeats the Scottish army, while Jackson fights the British. That night at the victory ball, when Annette sees Gretchen wearing Marie's dress and the miniature of her mother, she ... +


In August, 1814, as the British seize and burn the President's Palace in Washington, D.C., Senator Crawford of Louisiana plots with British naval officers to attack New Orleans. Meanwhile, the Corinthian sets sail from New Orleans carrying Marie de Remy, whose sister Annette loves privateer Jean Lafitte, who is wanted by Governor Claiborne. Lafitte and his thousand pirates hold Barataria, a territory of bayous which separates the ocean from New Orleans and claims allegiance to no nation. When pirate Captain Brown sinks the Corinthian , breaking Lafitte's rule never to attack an American ship, the sole survivor is a Dutch girl, Gretchen, who falls in love with Lafitte. On the advice of Crawford, the British bribe Lafitte to lead them through the bayous to attack General Andrew Jackson's army at New Orleans. Lafitte, however, convinces his men to fight for "the only shore that has let [them] stay" and turns the letters of conspiracy over to Claiborne. Now a man of honor, Lafitte proposes to Annette. Crawford, however, convinces Claiborne that Lafitte's letters were forged and when Lafitte's men greet the American ships, they are met with cannon fire and taken prisoner. Lafitte escapes, however, and when General Jackson learns of Crawford's demands for surrender, Lafitte offers his army of pirates in exchange for their pardon and a head start of one hour for his own escape. Behind bales of cotton, aided by Dominique You, ex-cannoneer for Napoleon, Lafitte defeats the Scottish army, while Jackson fights the British. That night at the victory ball, when Annette sees Gretchen wearing Marie's dress and the miniature of her mother, she demands to know the wherabouts of the Corinthian . As leader of his men, Lafitte takes responsibility for Brown's crime and is about to be hanged when Jackson fulfills his promise of Lafitte's escape. As Lafitte's ship sails, Gretchen, at his side, swears her loyalty to him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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