Fritzi, over at MoviesSilently, is hosting this blogathon all about swashbucklers. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries, I can’t wait to read them myself.
When you think of pirates, I will bet most of you will instantly think of athletic, rugged men, who are skilled sword fighters, and who speak in a somewhat similar fashion to Long John Silver (as played by Robert Newton.) Am I right? I will bet hardly any of you ever think of women pirates.
In real life there were actually several women who would go on to became pirates. Anne Bonny and Grace O’Malley are just two such examples. I find the choice of these women to roam the seas at the time they did to actually be quite brave. In the time those women lived life for women was very restrictive; they were expected to behave in a certain way, to marry, bear children, and to keep the home clean and tidy. Women pirates showed that women didn’t have to live that way, they could be fearless, strong and were more than capable of taking on a mans role.
In 1951, Jacques Tourneur directed Anne Of The Indies. This exciting pirate story sees Jean Peters (step aside Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone) proving that women could have adventures, command ships and buckle their swash too. Jean is one of my favourite classic era actresses and she is someone who I think should have become a far greater star than she did become. She is brilliant here.
Jean Peters accepted the role of the barefoot, fearless, Captain Anne Providence (loosely based on Anne Bonney), and in doing so delivers what I consider to be one of her best screen performances. Anne is a woman living and trying to survive in a man’s world. She is the Captain of her own ship and is respected by the men who sail under her command. Jean captures and conveys to us that Anne has to be doubly tough, doubly harsh etc to feel that she is one of the men. Anne cannot afford to be seen as a weak woman by them, lest that should make her men lose faith in her and feel that she is no longer one of them. There are times when we see she wants to break down and cry, wants to accept comfort, but she can’t afford to do anything to destroy the crews perceived image of her.
Jean really makes you admire this woman’s strength and determination. As the film goes on Anne falls in love, and she fights an internal struggle over whether she should let herself be a woman, or whether she should deny her feelings and remain the Captain and leader of her crew. Captain Anne Providence (Jean Peters)commands the pirate ship, The Sheba Queen. In revenge for her brothers murder at the hands of the English, Anne hunts down British ships and makes their crews walk the plank.
One night, whilst taking a British ship, Anne and her crew find a Frenchman aboard kept as prisoner. This man is Pierre LaRochelle (Louis Jourdan). Anne spares his life and keeps him on as her sailing master. Pierre claims to have been the Captain of an Irish ship captured by the English over a year ago. One of Anne’s most loyal crew members is Dougal (James Robertson Justice),and he is suspicious of LaRochelle’s story. Famed pirate Blackbeard (Thomas Gomez)also has doubts about LaRochelle, but even he cannot place doubt in Anne’s heart or mind. Anne and Pierre fall in love, and for the first time in many a year, Anne allows herself to just be a woman. Heartbreak, betrayal and some genuine surprises await just around the next cove.
This film has everything, a good story, lots of action, adventure, romance and it captures the pirate life quite well. You see them sharing the spoils of war, you see the larger than life personalities and see the danger and violence of their way of life.
I really love the relationship between Anne and her ships doctor, Jameson (Herbert Marshall)he is a father figure to her, and he is the only one with whom she can be vulnerable. The pair have several touching moments and he can see long before she is perhaps aware of it, that she is falling for LaRochelle. Jameson is also the one person aboard her ship who is not afraid to be openly compassionate or to speak his mind; even if his opinion will put him against Anne and the rest of her crew.
The cast all give solid performances. Jean Peters is defiant, strong and tough. Louis Jourdan has to create a sense of mystery around LaRochelle, and manages to do so very well. It’s also not hard to accept that his dashing mystery man could capture Anne’s heart (he is gorgeous! 🙂 ). James Robertson Justice is observant and reliable as the loyal Dougal. Thomas Gomez is larger than life as the fearless and fun loving Blackbeard. Herbert Marshall is gentle and likeable as Doctor Jameson.
While I love this film for the story and setting, I love it even more for the psychological approach it takes towards the character of Anne. That is quite a unique angle for a pirate film to take, and it’s also quite unusual to have a woman pirate Captain as the main character. These two make this film very different from so many other films of this genre.
My favourite scenes are the following. Anne asking LaRochelle where he has been (after he leaves the Blackbeard party.) Jameson tending to Anne’s injury. Anne and LaRochelle sharing a kiss on the beach. Anne looking out to sea and finally accepting that she and her men have been betrayed. The final scene between Jameson and Anne. Anne and Blackbeard’s play swordfight battle.
This is a film that deserves to be much better known today. It lasts for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, and packs a great deal into a fairly short running time. I hope my post will encourage those of you who have never heard of this one to seek it out. I’d love to hear what you think of this film. Please leave your comments below.
I’m also listing below my five favourite pirate films.
1- The Black Swan
2- Treasure Island
3- Anne of the Indies
4- Pirates of the Caribbean
5- Captain Blood