Saturday, June 25, 2011

Captains Courageous (1937) at The Somerville Theater

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.

Does your local theater have this kind of variety? I doubt it!

Please, sir. Could you show me the way to the main theater?

The Somerville Theater recently kicked off their Classic Film Series with two screenings of Captains Courageous (1937). I was a bit surprised that this movie was even in the line-up. Surprised, yet very, very happy. Captains Courageous is a film I've been meaning to watch for quite a while and getting a chance to see it for the first time and on the big screen to boot was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. And I went by myself! I've been to a lot of social gatherings lately so it was really nice to be able to watch this on my own. And although I always encourage people to share classic films with others, sometimes it's nice to have a movie all to yourself. It's a very intimate and personal experience and I recommend it if you ever need a break from being social butterfly.

Captains CourageousDirected by Victor Fleming, Captains Courageous stars Freddie Bartholomew as Harvey Cheyne, a spoiled little motherless brat whose father, Frank Burton Cheyne (Melvyn Douglas), sends him off to boarding school each year. Off Harvey goes with pockets full of cash and false sense of entitlement. The father is neglectful of his son and without any guidance Harvey is a poor excuse for a boy. With the power of his dad's money, Harvey tries to bribe and trick his way into things. The other kids start to dislike Harvey and he wants out of school so he tells his dad that the school masters are abusing him and accepting bribes. Once the father finds out Harvey's real problem, he pulls him out of school and takes him on a cruise to Europe for some dad-son bonding time. But oops! Harvey falls off the boat. No worries! He gets rescued by a Portuguese fisherman named Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy). Manuel brings Harvey back to the fishing Schooner. Lionel Barrymore  plays the captain, Mickey Rooney  plays the captain's son, John Carradine  plays Long Jack and there is a motley crew of other seafaring men on board. Harvey is stuck on the schooner for the 3 months the fisherman will be out at sea before they head back to Gloucester, MA with their catch. Reluctantly on both their parts, Manuel and Harvey start a friendship. Manuel becomes the father figure Harvey never had. The situation is too good to be true. You just know something bad is going to happen.

Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy) is curly-haired, Portuguese and lives in Massachusetts. Who does that remind me of?

Oh yeah. ME! But I have a better accent than Spencer Tracy did. The man could not speak Portuguese!

Having seen as many classic films as I have I can usually place a film in a certain time period by observing a few things. If I can, I try to guess the exact year. If I'm off, it's only ever by a little bit. So having forgotten that this film is from 1937, I looked at a few things to guess that the film was from the late 1930s. For one thing, Lionel Barrymore is up and walking. After his accident and with his problems of arthritis, Lionel Barrymore was wheel chair bound from the 1940s until his death in the mid 1950s. A youngish Mickey Rooney looked young but not too young. Spencer Tracy, who didn't age very well and always looked older than he was, did not serve as a point of reference to me at all! Neither did Freddie Bartholomew because frankly this is the first of his films I've ever seen and I wouldn't have been able to guess from his age. In the beginning of the film I spotted a lot of Art Deco fixtures and furniture. That definitely places is it in the 1930s. The content of the film places it post pre-Code (so after 1934). Ultimately, I guessed 1937 or 1938.

I had a wonderful experience at the Somerville Theater! I sincerely wish I brought a few tissues as I really needed them and my shirt sleeve wasn't cutting it. I want to say thank you to them for taking a chance and showing this wonderful theater on the big screen!


  1. I must say I am surprised by the Somerville. The only theatre with that kind of variety around here is the Ragtag, which alternates between classic films, art films, and independents (so Hangover 2 would not be showing at the Ragtag, but The Black Swan did). Anyhow, I'd love to see Captains Courageous on the big screen.

  2. What a great idea. I love watching classic films on the big screen. And yeah, sometimes it's best to go by yourself.

  3. Classic films on the big screen...ya just can't beat that! I would venture to see any old movie that shows around here. Even if it's not one of my favorites. I had that very opportunity last week. I saw "The Wizard of Oz." The Somerville looks fab. I checked out their classic film line-up. I hope you get a chance to see all of those!


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