The Making of a Swashbuckler: Captain Blood

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Captain Blood took the careers of two Hollywood unknowns, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, and made them stars.

For the male lead, the studio considereded Fredrich March, Leslie Howard, and Clark Gable, but they were unavailable. For the female lead, Bette Davis and Anita Louise actually tested for the part.

“It was Jack Warner who had the foresight or the hunch to cast Olivia and me in this film,” Flynn said. “He had the guts to take a complete unknown and put me in the lead of a big production.”

Flynn actually tested with Havilland, whom he called “a young woman of extraordinary charm”.

According to Flynn, the part paid $300 a week, but the lasting effect of the film was much more.

“Overnight I found myself a star. The film made millions for Warner Brothers,” he said.

Jack Warner proudly stated, “Together these two amateurs set the screen on fire.”

The pair acted in eight films together. They both appeared in one more film, but they didn’t share the screen together.

While Captain Blood launched his career, Flynn had mixed feelings about its shadow on his later career.

“The direction of Captain Blood was assigned to Michael Curtiz. I was to spend five miserable years with him, making Robin Hood, Charge of the Light Brigade, and many other films,” Flynn said. “In each he tried to make all scenes so realistic that my skin didn’t seem to matter to him. Nothing delighted him more than real bloodshed.”

Despite Flynn’s excellence at telling the swashbuckling or action tale, he was never nominated for an Academy Award.

Olivia said, “Unfortunately, at the time when Errol enjoyed his greatest success, the adventure film, as a genre, was not sufficiently appreciated and therefore his appearances therein were not as highly regarded as they might.”

Recognition or not, Flynn certainly left an impact on cinema – one that Olivia de Havilland honored every June 20th on his birthday by raising a glass of Champagne to her former co-star.