Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)

98-99 mins | Adventure | 25 December 1952

Director:

Raoul Walsh

Writer:

Alan LeMay

Producer:

Edmund Grainger

Cinematographer:

William E. Snyder

Editor:

Ralph Dawson

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Jack Okey

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was Buccaneer Empire . The film's opening credits include the following disclaimer: "This photoplay is based on certain actual and outstanding events in the lives of its principal characters, but the other events and the other characters, except those representing persons whose true names are used, are fictional." The anonymous poem, "The Armchair Pirate," concludes the credits: "The meeker the man, the more pirate he/Snug in his armchair, far from the sea,/And reason commends his position:/He has all of the fun and none of the woes,/Masters the ladies and scuttles his foes,/And cheats both the noose and perdition!" The following written statement precedes the first scene: "During the 17th Century the Spanish Main was over-run with pirates, foremost of whom was Edward Teach, the evil and immortal Blackbeard. Sir Henry Morgan, who was then in the service of the king, had been sent to clear the seas of the very pirates he once had led." Voice-over narration, spoken by Keith Andes as his character, "Robert Maynard," is heard during the opening scene.
       According to biographical sources, the real Blackbeard, born Edward Teach (or Thatch) in England in the late 1600s, turned to piracy after twelve years of serving as a privateer during the War of the Spanish Succession. From 1716 to 1718, he attacked ships in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast of North America. Aided by the governor, with whom he shared his booty, Blackbeard maintained a base in North Carolina and raided settlements in the Carolinas and Virginia. Blackbeard died in 1718, killed not by his fellow pirates, as depicted in the film, but by an English ... More Less

The working title of this film was Buccaneer Empire . The film's opening credits include the following disclaimer: "This photoplay is based on certain actual and outstanding events in the lives of its principal characters, but the other events and the other characters, except those representing persons whose true names are used, are fictional." The anonymous poem, "The Armchair Pirate," concludes the credits: "The meeker the man, the more pirate he/Snug in his armchair, far from the sea,/And reason commends his position:/He has all of the fun and none of the woes,/Masters the ladies and scuttles his foes,/And cheats both the noose and perdition!" The following written statement precedes the first scene: "During the 17th Century the Spanish Main was over-run with pirates, foremost of whom was Edward Teach, the evil and immortal Blackbeard. Sir Henry Morgan, who was then in the service of the king, had been sent to clear the seas of the very pirates he once had led." Voice-over narration, spoken by Keith Andes as his character, "Robert Maynard," is heard during the opening scene.
       According to biographical sources, the real Blackbeard, born Edward Teach (or Thatch) in England in the late 1600s, turned to piracy after twelve years of serving as a privateer during the War of the Spanish Succession. From 1716 to 1718, he attacked ships in the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast of North America. Aided by the governor, with whom he shared his booty, Blackbeard maintained a base in North Carolina and raided settlements in the Carolinas and Virginia. Blackbeard died in 1718, killed not by his fellow pirates, as depicted in the film, but by an English force sent from Virginia. Modern sources note that Blackbeard liked to tie firecrackers in his long beard, a detail included in the picture. For information about the life of Sir Henry Morgan, see entry for the 1942 Twentieth Century-Fox picture The Black Swan in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 .
       According to modern sources, producer Val Lewton developed the idea for the film while he was associated with RKO and intended to star Boris Karloff as Blackbeard. In Nov 1950, HR announced that Robert Stevenson was to direct the picture, with a cast headed by Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, Victor Mature and Jack Beutel. A Jan 1952 LAT item noted that Charles Laughton was under consideration for the Blackbeard role. RKO announced in Apr 1951 that the film would be shot in England, but no evidence of location filming has been found.
       Blackbeard was first portrayed on film in the 1911 Selig short Blackbeard , starring Hobart Bosworth, Bessie Eyton and Sydney Ayres. Murvyn Vye portrayed Blackbeard in the 1960 United Artists release The Boy and the Pirates (See Entry). In 1968, Robert Stevenson directed Peter Ustinov in Walt Disney's production Blackbeard's Ghost (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Nov 1952.
---
Daily Variety
26 Nov 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Dec 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 50
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 52
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jan 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Dec 52
p. 1629.
New York Times
25 Dec 52
p. 32.
New York Times
26 Dec 52
p. 20.
Variety
3 Dec 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Edmund Grainger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Dial dir
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Buccaneer Empire
Release Date:
25 December 1952
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 24 December 1952
New York opening: 25 December 1952
Production Date:
early June--late July 1952
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
25 November 1952
Copyright Number:
LP2178
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
98-99
Length(in feet):
8,896
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15976
SYNOPSIS

In Port Royal, Jamaica, in the early eighteenth century, Robert Maynard poses as a surgeon in order to board pirate Charles Bellamy's ship. Maynard has turned spy because Jamaica's governor suspects that Bellamy is in league with Sir Henry Morgan, a former pirate who has been assigned by the King of England to protect the seas. The governor has offered a reward to anyone who can prove that Morgan is receiving pirate loot. As soon as Maynard and fellow spy Briggs board the ship, they learn that the notorious pirate Blackbeard has murdered Bellamy and taken over as captain. Beautiful passenger Edwina Mansfield, a pirate's daughter, is furious at Blackbeard because she had planned to marry Bellamy, but Blackbeard, who wants Morgan dead, knows that the nobleman is infatuated with her and will pursue her. Blackbeard then orders Maynard to remove a bullet from his neck, and ever-suspicious, demands that sailor Gilly watch the newcomer during the operation. Unknown to Blackbeard, Gilly is in league with Maynard and slips him a note begging him to slit the pirate's throat, but Maynard declines. Later, while Blackbeard is up on deck, Maynard slips into the captain's quarters and locates Bellamy's logbook, which he hopes will contain evidence that Bellamy gave Morgan stolen goods. Before Blackbeard discovers him, Maynard manages to rip out the book's incriminating pages. Maynard then defends Edwina against the unwanted advances of a lecherous pirate, killing him with his dagger. A grateful Edwina admits to Maynard that she agreed to marry Bellamy to escape from Morgan, from whom she has stolen treasure, which is now hidden in a clothes chest. Blackbeard suspects Edwina's crime ... +


In Port Royal, Jamaica, in the early eighteenth century, Robert Maynard poses as a surgeon in order to board pirate Charles Bellamy's ship. Maynard has turned spy because Jamaica's governor suspects that Bellamy is in league with Sir Henry Morgan, a former pirate who has been assigned by the King of England to protect the seas. The governor has offered a reward to anyone who can prove that Morgan is receiving pirate loot. As soon as Maynard and fellow spy Briggs board the ship, they learn that the notorious pirate Blackbeard has murdered Bellamy and taken over as captain. Beautiful passenger Edwina Mansfield, a pirate's daughter, is furious at Blackbeard because she had planned to marry Bellamy, but Blackbeard, who wants Morgan dead, knows that the nobleman is infatuated with her and will pursue her. Blackbeard then orders Maynard to remove a bullet from his neck, and ever-suspicious, demands that sailor Gilly watch the newcomer during the operation. Unknown to Blackbeard, Gilly is in league with Maynard and slips him a note begging him to slit the pirate's throat, but Maynard declines. Later, while Blackbeard is up on deck, Maynard slips into the captain's quarters and locates Bellamy's logbook, which he hopes will contain evidence that Bellamy gave Morgan stolen goods. Before Blackbeard discovers him, Maynard manages to rip out the book's incriminating pages. Maynard then defends Edwina against the unwanted advances of a lecherous pirate, killing him with his dagger. A grateful Edwina admits to Maynard that she agreed to marry Bellamy to escape from Morgan, from whom she has stolen treasure, which is now hidden in a clothes chest. Blackbeard suspects Edwina's crime and breaks open one of her chests but discovers only letters in which Edwina implicates Morgan as Bellamy's cohort. Maynard tries to steal the letter, but Blackbeard stops him, noting that if Morgan were arrested, all of his loot would go to the King. Soon after, Blackbeard, having plied Edwina's talkative servant Alvina with liquor, finally identifies the treasure chest and claims it. Although Maynard has made plans to jump ship with Briggs, he sends Briggs on alone with the logbook pages in order to help Edwina, who fears that Morgan will force her to marry him. Maynard chops a hole in the hold, and the next morning, as the ship founders, Blackbeard, having deduced Briggs and Maynard's mission, gives the surgeon a severe beating. Blackbeard then orders the crew to abandon the ship and hide on a nearby island. That night, Blackbeard's first mate, Ben Worley, accuses the pirate of hoarding the loot. To appease Worley, Blackbeard suggests that they bury the chest together on a neighboring beach, and the two watch as Maynard and Jubal, another sailor, dig a deep hole in the sand. When their rowboat suddenly comes unmoored, Maynard and Worley race off to secure it, and during their absence, Blackbeard orders Jubal into the hole, then shoots him. Blackbeard hides the chest among some rocks and refills the hole before Maynard and Worley return. Although Worley deduces Jubal's fate, he believes the treasure is buried and suggests to Maynard they conspire to do away with Blackbeard. The next morning, Blackbeard spies Morgan and his men on the beach and attacks them with cannon fire. During the ensuing battle, Maynard frees Edwina from Blackbeard's guards, while Blackbeard tricks a crazy, bearded beachcomber into dressing in his clothes. Blackbeard then shoots the man in the back, leaving his body to be discovered by Morgan, who assumes he has killed Blackbeard. Morgan defeats the pirates, reclaims Edwina and orders Blackbeard's head chopped off for display in Port Royal. Later, in the city, Maynard learns from his uncle Jeremy that Morgan connived to have the governor arrested and has assumed his post. Fearing for his life, Maynard decides to escape on Blackbeard's ship, which Morgan is sending back to England. Under cover of darkness, Maynard sneaks in to see Edwina at Morgan's villa and persuades her to leave with him. When the couple boards the ship, however, they discover that Blackbeard and his crew of escaped convicts have claimed it. Morgan pursues in a captured Spanish galleon, but halts his assault on Blackbeard's ship as soon as he sees Edwina tied to the mast. By threatening Edwina, Blackbeard then forces Morgan to sail away. That night, Worley, fed up with the captain's greed, encourages the crew to mutiny and retrieve the buried treasure on the island beach. After some fruitless digging, they locate the chest among the rocks and drag it back to the ship. Blackbeard has anticipated the mutiny, however, and greets them with deadly gunshot. When Blackbeard tries to escape with the treasure, however, Gilly and the other sailors shoot and stab him. They then bury him in the sand up to his neck and leave him to be drowned by the rising tide. Nearby, Edwina and Maynard steal a rowboat and, once safely at sea, kiss. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.