The Black Pirate (1926)
I like to think of Errol Flynn as the definitive on screen swashbuckler but before Flynn hit tinsel town Douglas Fairbanks really had no equals when it came to on screen swordplay mixed with rousing adventures and fair maidens.
This is a magnificently filmed technicolor adventure on a grand scale with Fairbanks assuming the title role while in reality he is of noble heritage.
The film opens with scenes of torture and brutality that far exceed what will be shown on screen in the coming years. A pirate ship has overtaken it’s prey and murders all those on board. After removing all the valuables they blow it up thus condemning it to Davey Jones’ locker.
A sole survivor makes his way to a deserted island where our pirates just happen to bury their treasures. Our lone survivor is of course Mr. Fairbanks.
This affords the viewers their first chance to see our hero spring to action as he fights and wins a duel with current pirate leader Anders Randolf. This allows him to be welcomed in to the fraternity and it isn’t long before he commands the lot of scalawags.
Complications arise after the capture of another vessel. Beautiful Billie Dove is aboard and the untrustworthy Sam De Grasse has set his lusty sights on her as well as doing away with Fairbanks to take over command of the ship.
Can Fairbanks and his faithful friend Donald Crisp save the lady’s virtue and bring this group of cutthroats to justice?
This is first class production that Fairbanks had a hand in. The use of technicolor adds to the overall adventure of this classic silent film.
Fairbanks does all of the expected stunts in a pirate film from swinging on ropes to descending from the top of the sails by slitting them with a knife and riding his way to the deck below.
He makes a spirited hero on screen with a rogue’s attitude. For trivia buffs, his wife Mary Pickford steps into Dove’s character momentarily as a bit of an in joke at the fade out.
Long time character actor and future Oscar winner Donald Crisp is hidden under a beard as a one armed pirate reformed by Fairbanks. His fatherly instincts then take over in protecting Dove from the clutches of evil De Grasse. Crisp would claim his golden statuette for his role in How Green Was My Valley.
Our main villain Sam De Grasse who forces our hero to walk the plank had also played Price John opposite Fairbanks in the 1922 version of Robin Hood.
I don’t claim to watch a great deal of silents but do try to catch the bigger titles of the era. This one makes for fun viewing and surprisingly, it’s in color!