Captains Courageous Poster

Captains Courageous (1937)

Adventure | Family   
IMDB Rayting:   8.0/10
Country: USA
Language: English | Portuguese

A spoiled brat who falls overboard from a steamship gets picked up by a fishing boat, where he's made to earn his keep by joining the crew in their work.

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Ron Oliver 12 January 2002

A spoiled rich boy falls overboard & emerges from the sea into the world of the CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS, the rough & honest fishermen who ply the waters of the North Atlantic for months on end.

Rudyard Kipling's classic novel of maturation & responsibility has been expanded & updated and turned into a wonderful film by MGM. The production values, especially those dealing with the fishing boat sequences, are exceptional.

After the first half hour, where we are introduced to the boy's bad behavior at home, school, father's office & aboard the luxury liner, the film arrives at the heart of the matter with the introduction of the fisherman and their rough, dangerous way of life.

Freddie Bartholomew, luminous face & shining eyes aglow, is the very picture of boyish innocence. The fact that MGM gave him top billing over the powerhouse cast shows the kind of confidence they had in their child star. Although his proper English accent is a bit out of place and his sweetness makes his initial bratty behavior a bit of a stretch, once he's firmly ensconced on the trawler and his life lessons are being learned, it is difficult to think of any other young actor of his era in the role.

His lessons come mainly from Spencer Tracy, who is beyond praise as Manuel, the stalwart Portuguese fisherman. Noble, earthy, lighthearted, honest, these were attributes Tracy could sink his teeth into & he delivers a performance of heroic proportions. Good-natured & loyal, singing joyously to his hurdy-gurdy, his Manuel is still fiercely protective of his `liddle fish,' seeing at once the qualities the boy has to offer, once he shapes up. Audiences surrender to Tracy completely (fake accent and all) and his scenes with young Bartholomew are especially tender. The subsequent Best Actor Oscar for his performance here was very well deserved.

Lionel Barrymore, as the crusty, wise old captain of the fishing boat, is a delight. In one of the last roles in which he had the use of his legs, he is completely believable as a Massachusetts seaman. Like Tracy, he inhabits his part, giving an over-the-top performance that is completely appropriate. He embodies the kind of man anyone would feel confident to have at the helm during a sea storm.

The excellence of the cast is evidenced by having Charley Grapewin, John Carradine & Mickey Rooney all on board as crew members; each is given a chance to display their talents, as is Melvyn Douglas as Bartholomew's preoccupied father.

Movie mavens will recognize Billy Gilbert as a soda fountain jerk, as well as Christian Rub & Jimmy Conlin as fisherman, all uncredited.

mik-19 28 February 2005

I dare anyone to sit through this film with dry eyes! Especially people of the male persuasion. There is simply no way it can be done.

Young teen Freddie Bartholomew is a snotty, spoilt brat, and on a cruise with his dad he falls overboard and is rescued by Portuguese fisherman Spencer Tracy who takes him to Captain Lionel Barrymore's commercial fishing ship. They can't afford to go give up their fishing to take the arrogant kid back to land, and so Freddie is forced to spend three months with the crew, gradually mellowing into a nice boy and evolving into a rugged, no-nonsense kid who dotes on Tracy's rough and ready Manuel.

Victor Fleming was never the most subtle of directors, and this adaptation of Kipling's story does not thrive on its wealth of detail or the ambiguity of emotion, but its sweep is epic and its heart so real that you feel you have been on a roller-coaster-ride. I loved the reels of the men fishing and preparing the fish, it had a nice documentary feel to it, akin to the silent 'Down to the Sea in Ships' that 'Captains Courageous' resembles a lot at times. The cinematography is beautiful, the mist and fog captured with finesse.

But this film is all about acting. Spencer Tracy got an Oscar for his acting as Manuel, cast against type. And although his performance verges on the sentimental, it never actually tips over. But the film belongs to Freddie Bartholomew who surely must have been tempted to overboard with emotion, but, miraculously, never does. This boy was an astute and intuitive actor, and he never sets a foot wrong. Mickey Rooney shines in an itsy bitsy part as the captain's son. He never tries to steal any scenes from Bartholomew (as one suspects he might, and could!), but concentrates on a brisk, matter-of-fact performance of this young pro of the sea, every movement he makes seems exactly right, again almost documentary-like.

Watch this film if you get the chance. They don't come much better, and yes, it will make you bawl and sob. Be warned.

Exploding Penguin 9 September 2002

A movie like this could only have been made in the early days of cinema. Before the days when fancy camera angles, careful editing, and computer-effects combine to make any pretty-boy a big star, movies had to rely on genuine talent on the part of child actors.

Nowhere is this more evident than with Freddie Bartholomew. The character he plays is a spoiled rich-kid, used to getting his own way and obnoxious with everyone he meets. Yet he plays the role in such a way that we can sympathize with him, rather than detest him. We understand the character, but we do not hate him.

Watch any similar movie made today, and the child actors will whine and sneer and have smart-mouthed replies to everything. In this movie, however, the character is not taken to that extreme, and when he makes his transition in the film we are able to love him, and are able to forget how horrid he was before.

The boy can truly act. When he cries for his loved ones, we cry with him. When he is happy, we are able to smile. And when he does something foolish, we do not get the urge to punch him in the face. The character is attractive by the end of the film, and that is a quality which few (if any) child actors possess today.

If you want to see a touching movie with superb acting and genuine emotion, this is the one.

bkoganbing 5 November 2005

That was quite a catch that Spencer Tracy made that day in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Young Freddie Bartholomew the spoiled son of tycoon Melvyn Douglas falls overboard off an ocean liner. By the merest chance, Spencer Tracy is in his dory fishing and reels in young Bartholomew. After his catch is made, Tracy returns to the boat that captain Lionel Barrymore is commanding.

It's quite a culture shock to the lad. He's fallen in literally with a bunch of people who work for a living and have no real interest in him because his Daddy's the richest guy around. Truth is Melvyn Douglas has been neglecting the kid for business and young Bartholomew is not really as bad a kid as originally thought. He joins the crew and becomes close to Tracy.

Of Tracy's two Oscar winning performances, the part of Manuel the Portugese fisherman, transplanted to New England is a bit more showy than Father Flanagan. It's a good blend of the roughneck characters Tracy was used to playing and the new father figure persona he adopted in San Francisco.

By necessity Tracy had to adopt an accent if for no other reasons than to distinguish him from the other members of Lionel Barrymore's crew and their clipped New England speech. The Portugese are a hearty, seafaring group though and I certainly never heard any complaint that his performance was in any way demeaning. Manuel's a simple guy, but with a good way of life and an appreciation for the important things life has to offer. That is what he imparts to Freddie Bartholomew.

Melvyn Douglas does not get enough recognition for this film. Just as Freddie Bartholomew is not a bad kid at heart, Douglas is not a bad man either. His performance as a man who lost his only child and then had him miraculously returned from the dead is touching. And the scenes where he tries to repair his relationship with young Bartholomew are poignant.

Lionel Barrymore is the perfect conception of a hearty New England fishing boat captain. As Freddie Bartholomew watches the interaction between Barrymore and Mickey Rooney, father and son, sharing not just playtime, but the father's profession, he realizes what he and Melvyn Douglas have missed out on.

Of the crew also pay close attention to John Carradine who resents and then accepts Bartholomew with the crew.

The fishing scenes are well done and Director Victor Fleming gives you a good picture of life on a commercial fishing vessel.

Captains Courageous is a fine family film in every sense of the word.

xalf18 28 November 2002

This is my favorite movie of all time. I have seen thousands of movies but none can come near Captains Courageous for its warmth, compassion, drama and meaningfulness. A wonderful story of single-parent bonding and hero worship.

Spencer Tracy as Manuel the Portugese fisherman was absolutely fantastic. Just looking at the sparkle in his eyes when mentoring Harvey (Freddie Bartholomew) was beautiful. I have shown this film to my senior class in Strategic Management and they all loved it. And what a supporting cast, Lionel Barrymore, Melvin Douglas, Mickey Rooney, John Caradine. It was also one of the first Hollywood movies to treat a black character with dignity and respect. The ship's cook was even bilingual, speaking both English and Portugese, and was a respected member of the crew, not just an Uncle Tom.

They don't make them any better than this--and not a single word of profanity, no sex or sexual episodes, must a wonderful story, well acted, sad but uplifting.

Beaurega 21 April 2000

I saw this for the first time, just last night, on American Movie Classics. After watching the film, I couldn't help but wonder where it's been all my life. What a beautiful film! Robert Osborne made a few opening remarks to the film, as he usually does on this channel. I didn't know that Spencer Tracy won his first Oscar for this film, but it was certainly well deserved. His portrayal of Manuel is really pivotal to the success of the film, I think. I'm not too sure about his accent, but it wasn't really distracting or anything. If you haven't seen this, watch it! You won't be disappointed -- especially if you enjoy pictures where ships and the sea are the setting for the action.

petangi 5 January 2006

A wonderful film I only discovered about ten years ago. A low key beginning, hardly anything to attract the viewer to sympathize with the predicament that befalls young Harvey. With a wonderful cast, fairly average story but told and beautifully understated brings a wonderful balance and heart-tugging restoration for young Harvey, plucked from the sea by Spencer Tracy, a Portuguese fisherman. Having to become a fisherman for two months, young Harvey finds out what he has not known in life. He begins the story as a spoilt young irritating brat but ends it restored to life and his father. A message for us all, begun and ending in eternity. Poignant, sad and enriching. Great cinema.

lee_eisenberg 11 August 2005

Some people don't know selflessness until they experience something extreme, like what happens in "Captains Courageous". Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew) is the most spoiled kid whom anyone could ever imagine. After falling off of a ship, he gets picked up by Portuguese fisherman Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy), who teaches him selflessness and various other life lessons.

Spencer Tracy won a well deserved Oscar for his performance. Manuel is a person who, while not having much materially, has a lot to teach. He humbly improvises songs and just loves to go fishing, a stark contrast to Harvey's life of luxury. It doesn't suffice to call "Captains Courageous" a morality lesson; it's about life in general. 10/10.

monniewood 16 January 2005

this has to be one of my favorite films ever. I loved it as a kid and the last time I happened to catch it on TV, i loved it just as much and cried just as hard. Freddy Bartholomew! what a fantastic little actor this kid was! and of course, the unparalleled Spencer Tracy as Manuel the fisherman we all love so much, is simply fantastic. i did not realize that this was a Fleming film, that explains a lot. All of my favorites from this era seem to have had this man at the wheel. He sure knew the right combination of sentiment, humor, melodrama, and reality to come up with a winner most of the time. I'm glad to see so many other votes and comments that echo (i guess i'm the echo tho, huh?) my own feelings about this film Its nice to know others also feel as strongly and as warmly about it as i always have. it sure deserves it.

I sing "Yo, ho little fish, don't cry, don't cry, Yo ho little fish don't cry, don't cry" to my kids at night thanks to Manuel. It always works too!

Lamia7609 3 July 1999

Freddy Bartholomew is brilliant in the role of this spoiled manipulating young boy. I love this movie. I think any film where the character makes some sort of change in themselves or in the world around them has a special quality. Some attempt this and fail miserably, gaining only my enmity. (i.e Mr Holland's Opus) Visually this movie reminds me of "The Net" by Winslow Homer. I used to stare at the painting while laying under my grandmother's sewing machine. Lionel Barrymore is as endearing as ever. Spencer Tracy does a wonderful job if you can get around the accent. Please see this film when you can.

gavin6942 8 July 2016

Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew) is a spoiled brat used to having his own way. When a prank goes wrong on board an ocean liner Harvey ends up overboard and nearly drowns. Fortunately he's picked up by a fishing boat just heading out for the season. He tries to bribe the crew into returning early to collect a reward but none of them believe him. Stranded on the boat he must adapt to the ways of the fishermen and learn more about the real world.

Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times called the film "another of those grand jobs of movie-making we have come to expect of Hollywood's most prodigal studio. With its rich production, magnificent marine photography, admirable direction and performances, the film brings vividly to life every page of Kipling's novel and even adds an exciting chapter or two of its own." This really is a great film. I went in knowing nothing about it, and came out really impressed. For the first quarter or so of the film, I was increasingly annoyed with the spoiled boy, and did not now where things were going to go. But once it shifted gears, that build-up of annoyance paid off. In fact, it would not have been nearly as effective if they didn't convince me of how awful this boy was. Perfect execution.

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