AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Captains Courageous
Alternate Title: Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous
Director: Victor Fleming (Dir)
Release Date:   25 Jun 1937
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 11 May 1937
Production Date:   mid-Sep 1936--late Feb 1937
Duration (in mins):   115, 116 or 118
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Freddie Bartholomew (Harvey [Cheyne])  
    Spencer Tracy (Manuel [Fidello])  
    Lionel Barrymore ([Capt.] Disko [Troop])  
    Melvyn Douglas (Mr. Cheyne)  
    Charles Grapewin (Uncle Salters)  
    Mickey Rooney (Dan [Troop])  
    John Carradine ("Long Jack")  
    Oscar O'Shea (Cushman)  
    Jack LaRue (Priest)  
    Walter Kingsford (Dr. Finley)  
    Donald Briggs (Tyler)  
    Sam McDaniel ("Doc")  
    Billy Burrud (Charles)  
    Billy Gilbert (Soda jerk)  
    Leo G. Carroll (Burns)  
    Christian Rub (Old Clement)  
    Dave Thursby (Tom)  
    William Stack (Elliott)  
    Charles Trowbridge (Dr. Walsh)  
    Richard Powell (1st steward)  
    Jay Ward (Pogey)  
    Kenneth Wilson (Alvin)  
    Roger Gray (Nate Rogers)  
    Gladden James (Secretary Cobb)  
    Jimmy Conlin (Martin)  
    Tommy Bupp (Boy)  
    Wally Albright (Boy)  
    Katherine Kenworthy (Mrs. Disko)  
    Philo McCullough (Member of crew)  
    James Kilgannon (Member of crew)  
    Bill Fisher (Member of crew)  
    Dick Howard (Member of crew)  
    Larry Fisher (Member of crew)  
    Gil Perkins (Member of crew)  
    Jack Sterling (Member of crew)  
    Stubby Kruger (Member of crew)  
    Dave Wengren (Lars)  
    Murray Kinnell (Minister)  
    Goldie Sloan (Black woman)  
    Dora Early (Appleton's wife)  
    Gertrude Sutton (Nate's wife)  
    Frank Sully (Taxi driver)  
    Don Brody (Reporter)  
    David Kerman (Reporter)  
    Billy Arnold (Reporter)  
    Bobby Watson (Reporter)  
    Lester Dorr (Corridor steward)  
    Lloyd Ingraham (Skipper of ship)  
    Art Berry Jr. (Fisherman)  
    Captain C. E. Anderson (Fisherman)  
    Edward Peil Sr. (Fisherman)  
    Jack Kennedy (Captain of Flying Swan)  
    Monte Vandergrift (Sailor on Flying Swan)  
    Charles Coleman (Butler)  
    Wade Boteler (Skipper of Blue Gill)  
    Herman Ainsley (Robbins)  
    Myra Marsh (Chester's wife)  
    Myra McKinney    
    Lee Van Atta    
    Gene Reynolds    
    Sherry Hall    
    Henry Hanna    
    Betty Alden    
    Reggie Streeter    

Summary: Harvey, the spoiled son of millionaire Cheyne, is suspended from his private boarding school for attempted bribery. Mr. Cheyne, although a well-meaning and loving father, is a widower who has been too busy to notice his son's increasing bullying and snobbishness. Hoping to change things, Mr. Cheyne decides to take Harvey with him on a boat trip to England, but on the first day out Harvey falls overboard, sickened by drinking too many chocolate sodas in a childish dare with two other boys from the ship. He is picked up by a happy-go-lucky Portuguese fisherman named Manuel Fidello who brings his "little fish" back to the We're Here , a schooner out of Gloucester. Because the boat has no radio, they cannot contact Mr. Cheyne and Harvey must stay aboard until the summer catch is complete. The men at first dislike Harvey, and call him a "Jonah," but gradually, under Manuel's gruff guidance, Harvey becomes a hardworking, friendly shipmate. The affection between Manuel and Harvey grows and Harvey looks forward to being with his friend when they return to land. On their return to port, however, during a race with a rival ship, Manuel is critically injured when one of the riggings falls, pulling him into the water. Because Manuel knows that he cannot survive, he orders Captain Disko to cut the ropes and let him go under. When the ship is back in Gloucester, Mr. Cheyne comes for Harvey, but the disconsolate boy prefers to cry alone in Manuel's dinghy than talk to his father. When a monument to men who have died at sea is dedicated, Harvey throws a wreath into the water for Manuel, and as his father does the same, the two clasp hands. Finally, Harvey relates some fishing stories to his father as their limousine pulls Manuel's dinghy along on a trailer. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Production Text: Victor Fleming's Production
Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.  
Director: Victor Fleming (Dir)
  James Havens (Marine dir)
  Jack Conway (Fill-In dir)
  Richard Rosson (Loc dir)
Producer: Louis D. Lighton (Prod)
  Sam Katz (Supv)
Writer: John Lee Mahin (Scr)
  Marc Connelly (Scr)
  Dale Van Every (Scr)
  Tom Kilpatrick (Contr to trmt)
Photography: Harold Rosson (Photog)
  Harold Morzorati (Fill-in photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Arnold Gillespie (Art dir assoc)
  Edwin B. Willis (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Elmo Veron (Film ed)
Music: Franz Waxman (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Production Misc: Ewing Scott (Prod mgr)
  Howard Dietz (Press rep)
Country: United States

Songs: "Ooh What a Terrible Man" and "Don't Cry Little Fish," music by Franz Waxman, lyrics by Gus Kahn; "Blow the Man Down" and "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?" traditional; and traditional melodies with original Portuguese lyrics by Z. Yaconelli.
Composer: Z. Yaconelli
  Gus Kahn
  Franz Waxman
Source Text: Based on the novel Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling (London, 1897).
Authors: Rudyard Kipling

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. 21/4/1937 dd/mm/yyyy LP7187 Yes

PCA NO: 2951
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Adventure
  Drama
  Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Death and dying
  Fathers and sons
  Fishermen
  Friendship
  Millionaires
  Reconciliation
  Ships
  Transformation
 
Subjects (Minor): Expulsion
  Hurdy-gurdies
  Priests
  Racing
  Razors
  Rivalry
  Servants
  Sea captains
  Soda fountains
  Students
  Teachers
  Wagers

Note: The opening title reads, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Victor Fleming's Production of Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous ." Reviews pointed out the fact that the character of "Harvey" was nineteen in Kipling's novel, but was changed to twelve in order to accommodate Freddie Bartholomew. According to pre-production news items in DV and HR , backgrounds and exteriors for the film were shot on location in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Shelburne, Nova Scotia in Canada, and Gloucester, MA in Oct and Nov 1935. Principal photography was set to begin on 14 Sep, then 19 Sep 1936, but, due to the death of M-G-M production chief Irving Thalberg on 13 Sep, the production was delayed for several days. Additional location shooting was done by second unit crews in the Florida Keys and off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico, where the storm scenes were filmed. In mid-Jan 1937, shooting was temporarily halted due to the slow recovery of director Victor Fleming after minor surgery. Jack Conway subsequently took over for Fleming until 1 Feb. Photographer Harold Rosson was briefly replaced by Harold Morzorati in early Feb 1937 while Rosson was ill with the flu.
       Melvyn Douglas was borrowed from Columbia for the picture. The exterior of the building used for the Cheyne manion at the beginning of the film is located on Washington, Blvd. in Culver City. The structure, which initially housed the offices of the Thomas H. Ince Corp., became the headquarters of Selznick-International, and also served as its corporate logo. A HR news item on the Los Angeles premiere noted that, for the first time in Hollywood history, pickets dressed in evening clothes manned a picket line. Although not specifically stated in that news item, the protest was linked to strikes within the industry that began in early May. According to various front page news items in HR from 1 May to 14 May, a general, industry-wide strike was averted on 12 or 13 May, but some studios had not yet signed pertinent agreements. M-G-M apparently was one studio that had not yet signed. According to a news item in MPD on 18 Nov 1938, Federal Judge Harry Hollzer awarded a $30,000 judgement against M-G-M to Mrs. Helen Gonmesen, the widow of Kristen Gonmesen, a seaman who was swept overboard in the Pacific Ocean during shooting. The suit was based on the contention that the ship used was unsafe and unseaworthy.
       Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, the first of two back-to-back awards. The second was for Boys Town (see above). Captains Courageous was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly and Dale Van Every were nominated for the Best Screenplay award. According to a news item in HR , Mahin did not accept his Oscar nominaton certificate until 1939 because, at the time of his nomination, he had been on the board of the Writer's Guild and there was a dispute between the Guild and the Academy about possible discrimination in the writer's branch award committee. FD , the National Board of Review, and NYT all named the picture one of the ten best films of the year. A television movie adaptation of Kipling's novel was made in 1977, starring Jonathan Kahn, Ricardo Montalban and Karl Malden. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   7 Oct 35   p. 9.
Daily Variety   6 Nov 35   p. 8.
Daily Variety   24 Mar 37   p. 3.
Film Daily   29 Mar 37   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Oct 35   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Oct 35   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Oct 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Nov 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 36   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Sep 36   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Nov 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Dec 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 37   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 37   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jan 37   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jan 37   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 37   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 37   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Feb 37   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Feb 37   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Mar 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Apr 37   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   17 May 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   15 May 37   p. 1, 3
Motion Picture Daily   25 Mar 37   p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily   16 Jun 37   pp. 12-13.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Nov 38   p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald   19 Dec 36   p. 39.
Motion Picture Herald   3 Apr 37   p. 37.
New York Times   12 May 37   p. 27.
Variety   19 May 37   p. 22.

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