Captains Courageous

This one presented a problem to me; it is based on Rudyard Kipling's book and was filmed in 1937. It is a black-and-white classic, starring Freddie Bartholomew, Spencer Tracy, John Carradine, Lionel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney and others you would recognize. My problem: I didn't see it available in my catalogs but now it's available on DVD. ...please, please avoid the remakes! The original is a four-star dandy that is guaranteed to excite you with the fishing boat activities, put a lump in your throat on occasion and make you want to shake that selfish little brat when you first meet him! It is an ultimate morality tale and a wonderful lesson in child rearing!

This is the story of a spoiled rich boy (Bartholomew) who is demanding, imperious, conniving and mean. He throws his father's wealth and power in his opponents' faces and is completely out of control. His classmates at his private school "Send him to Coventry" (shunned) because he is such a pill. This results in his being suspended from school for the rest of the semester. While crossing the Atlantic with his businessman father, he falls overboard in the fog and is picked up in the Grand Banks Cod Fishery by good-hearted Portuguese fisherman Tracy, who plays a hurdy-gurdy and sings!

The boy's imperious ways have no weight on a hard-working fishing boat (Barrymore is the captain) and they have to finish out the season before taking him to shore. Little by little, he learns the business and it is obvious that he is uncommonly bright, but he has certainly been spoiled! There are no villains in this movie, only the bad habits he himself has accumulated.

You will come to respect what the actors went through while filming this piece: cold, wet, rowing boats, handling both live and dead fish, baiting hooks, carrying slops up a ladder, heaving the catch up into a hold with pitchforks, spitting into the wind ...smile..., etc., etc.

From a technical point of view, please watch and appreciate how long some of the scenes are, lengthy conversations between Bartholomew and Tracy in ONE TAKE! Amazing! Group shots with Barrymore, Carradine and Tracy, long, single takes! Tracy and the cook chatting in Portuguese!

The adults in this movie are intelligent, caring, and clearly want the best for the boy. The lessons he learns about fair play, hard work and honor are good ones that you are convinced will stay with him for the rest of his life.

This is a great movie for youngsters: No bad language, one death at sea that has already been "softened," wonderful lessons about cheating, keeping one's word, etc. It is a good "discussion" movie AND my DVD from Amazon has closed captions!

I agree with Leonard Maltin's four stars! ****