It’s so nice to be seeing a film from this era of cinema again. It’s even better for me because it wasn’t even me who decided this pick, but my increasingly well trained husband. Off the bat, it’s easy to see why this film has appeared on the 1001 list. At this time in Hollywood you had a number of child stars making pictures, as was apparently the fashion of the time.
Captains Courageous is one of two films of this ilk to appear on this list, the other being It’s A Gift whose appearance is more down to it being a W.C. Fields film rather than because a literal toddler has second billing. In any event, Captains Courageous is one of the most decorated and better reviewed Hollywood films of the 1930s that featured a preteen as the lead. It is also an interesting offshoot of the swashbuckling trend that led to the earlier Best Picture win for Mutiny on the Bounty.
I am pretty much on board (nautical pun unintended) for any film with Spencer Tracy in a major role. The fact that this is the film where he won the first of his two consecutive Oscars (despite a piss poor accent) made this one of extreme interest for me. Thankfully, unlike The Hustler, I really enjoyed this one. Helped that child actor Freddie Bartholomew was excellent as the spoilt brat-turned fisherman.
The story is a pretty simple one – spoiled boy is expelled from school and, en route to Europe with his tycoon father, falls overboard and has to cope with a few months on a fishing vessel after being picked up by Spencer Tracy with a suspicious ‘Portuguese’ accent. It’s one of those classic family films from this era where lessons and humility are learned. Perfect for a slightly grey Wednesday afternoon after you’ve come home from the dentist.