Thursday, February 25, 2021

Against All Flags ( 1952 )

On the coast of Madagascar lies a pirate's hideaway - Diego Suarez - a fortress for thieves. A narrow harbor is the only entrance to the city and this is heavily defended by cannons. The British Royal Navy wants to destroy this base and capture every pirate on it but they cannot find a way to enter the harbor without damaging their fleet. Lieutenant Brian Hawke ( Errol Flynn ) has a plan: he poses as a deserter and hopes to gain entrance to the base by joining their band and gaining the trust of the pirates. Captain Roc Brasiliano ( Anthony Quinn ) is suspicious of this new recruit but "Spitfire" Stevens ( Maureen O'Hara ), another pirate leader, approves of him. She dislikes men in general but this handsome rogue intrigues her. She gives him the use of one of her ships and even agrees to marry him ( who wouldn't! ), but Hawke's plan backfires when he is discovered by Captain Roc signaling to the British fleet and is captured. As the British warships are just about to enter the bay, Hawke must find a way to free himself and save the fleet from destruction. 

Against All Flags is a grand little pirate flick. The story, by Aeneas MacKenzie and Joseph Hoffman, is easy to follow and packed with action and a dash of humor. George Sherman's direction is taut and the settings are colorful, looking gorgeous in Technicolor. The film also boasts a strong supporting cast that includes Mildred Natwick, Harry Cording, Phil Tully, and Lester Matthews. Robert Warwick has a great part as the infamous pirate Captain Kidd. However, it is the three leading stars that make this film special. 

Against All Flags was made seventeen years after Errol Flynn became famous as a swashbuckling hero in Captain Blood ( 1935 ). He wasn't as youthful but he certainly was just as dashing. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was originally slated to star in the film but when Universal Pictures purchased the rights to the script they managed to snag Errol Flynn for the lead instead. This turned out to be Flynn's last Hollywood swashbuckler. 

Anthony Quinn signed on early to play the villain. He was probably delighted to find out that Maureen O'Hara was going to star in it as well. This was the fourth time these two cronies would be united - and the third pirate-themed film they would make together. Quinn is wonderful as the jealous Captain Roc. He wanted to make Spitfire Stevens his woman but could never arouse romantic feelings from her, hence he becomes doubly jealous when the handsome Lt. Hawke not only earns her admiration but her love as well. 

Maureen O'Hara was initially hesitant to star opposite Errol Flynn after he made an amorous advance towards her years earlier, but "he had won me over. I respected him professionally and was quite fond of him personally. Father Time was slowly calming his wicked, wicked ways, and deep within that devilish rogue, I found a kind and fragile soul."*

Her character is aptly named Spitfire Stevens because she has a fiery temper and a jealous streak, too. O'Hara always had a knack for playing women who were very strong and independent and yet still feminine with not a trace of tomboyism. She looks particularly dazzling in this film. 

Against All Flags premiered on Christmas Eve in New York and was a great success at the box office. Variety wrote that it "takes a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the plotting at times without minimizing the story's chief concerns with swashbuckling movement." The plotline really took a comedic turn when it was later remade as The King's Pirate in 1967 ( starring Doug McClure and Jill St. John ). 

Hamlette's Soliloquy is hosting a pirate's party - We Love Pirates Week - running from February 22-26th. If you want to be reading more posts about pirates matey, then be sure to head over here and check out the entries! 

* 'Tis Herself - A Memoir by Maureen O'Hara. Thorndike Press ( 2004 )


  1. Against All Flags is a familiar title but the movie doesn't seem to be clanging around my memory banks. I know I am in for a treat. Thanks so much!

  2. A delightful swashbuckler with a good story and great chemistry between Errol and Maureen. It truly deserves greater recognition. Some nice humorous touches, too, especially between Flynn's hero and the princess.

  3. A fun film that needs more attention.

  4. Wow, I really want to see this now as it sounds like it has all the things that I enjoy!

  5. Oh, how cool that you reviewed this too! I agree, it has excellent pacing and cast, and so many fun swashbuckling moments. I like your little behind-the-scenes tidbits -- always so fascinating to me.

    Thanks for joining the party :-)

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