Robert Newton in Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)


(director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: Alan LeMay/story by DeVallon Scott; cinematographer: William Snyder; editor: Ralph Dawson; music: Victor Young; cast: Robert Newton (Blackbeard), Linda Darnell (Edwina Mansfield), William Bendix (Ben Worley), Keith Andes (Edward Maynard), Torin Thatcher (Sir Henry Morgan), Irene Ryan (Alvina, a lady in waiting), Alan Mowbray (Noll), Richard Egan (Briggs), Dick Wessel (Dutchman); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; RKO; 1952)

“A disappointingly sluggish swashbuckler from action director Raoul Walsh.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A disappointingly sluggish swashbuckler from action director Raoul Walsh. It’s scripted by Alan LeMay from a story by DeVallon Scott.

In 1674, “reformed” pirate Sir Henry Morgan (Torin Thatcher) has been rewarded by the king with the position of governor in Jamaica and ordered to rid the seas of the pirate Blackbeard (Robert Newton). Edward Maynard (Keith Andes) is a surgeon who is obsessed with proving that Morgan is still a pirate and takes the assignment from Morgan to locate Blackbeard in order to collect the big reward and accomplish his double objective of killing two birds with one stone. The handsome Maynard maneuvers to get himself shanghaied by the notorious pirate, a longtime rival of Morgan’s, along with Morgan’s sexy adopted daughter Edwina Mansfield (Linda Darnell) and her lady in waiting Alvina (Irene Ryan). Ben Worley (William Bendix) is Blackbeard’s chief henchman and amuses us with his dumb facial expressions as he follows his cruel leader’s dumb orders. Maynard also has a few men on board who act as spies and try to steal the ship’s log as proof that the former pirate Captain Bellamy, hung by Blackbeard when he took over his ship, had connections with Morgan. Bellamy was engaged to Edwina, who stole a valuable chest of emeralds from Morgan and planned to flee with Bellamy. Edwina is valuable to Blackbeard alive, as Morgan will not sink the boat as long as she’s aboard.

The main part of the pic has Blackbeard steal the emeralds from Edwina and double-cross his crew by not splitting the treasure with them as promised, as he buries it in secret on an island. It leads to plenty of swordplay, more double-crosses and deceptions, a romance between Edwina and the honest surgeon, and a sword-fight at sea between Morgan’ and Blackbeard’s men.

Though colorful in its characterization of pirate lore, the lush Technicolor film became too predictable and the hammy performance by Newton soon became a major irritation. The film’s funniest dialogue took place with this conversation between Blackbeard and Ben. Blackbeard: “Ben, I believe I’m going to catch me a rat!” Ben Worley: “Why, you hungry?”