Writers: Rudyard Kipling, John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly, Dale Van Every
Stars: Spencer Tracey, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Mickey Rooney.
Let me start of by saying this is one of my favorite films of all time. Spencer Tracey's world class acting and Freddie Bartholomew's lovable charm combine to make this such an entertaining, heart-wrenching and beautiful piece of cinema. I was just a child when I first saw this film, and it has stayed with me through all the years as one of the best. After watching Captains Courageous again, it is sealed in my mind as one of the greatest films ever made.
Young teen Harvey (Freddie Bartholomew) is a wealthy spoilt brat that is dislikable right off the bat when we first are introduced to him. When on a cruise with his Dad, he falls overboard and is rescued by Portuguese fisherman Manuel (Spencer Tracy) who takes him to Captain Disko's (Lionel Barrymore) fishing ship. The differences between the two are immediately established, as Manuel is hardworking, honest, kind and caring, whereas Harvey is lazy, rude, unappreciative and inexperienced with the world. Manuel can't afford to go give up his fishing to take the arrogant kid back to land, and so Harvey is forced to spend three months with the crew. Through many life lessons and events such as teaching Harvey to catch his first fish, Manuel slowly molds Harvey into a nice boy and helps him evolve into a rugged and strong kid as their friendship grows into a father-son relationship.
If there's one thing that can be taken out of this film, it's that kids need the attention and wisdom of their parents in order for them to become good people. Harvey didn't get that from his albeit kind and caring father, which turned him into a snotty brat that had everything handed to him on a silver platter. When Manuel took over the role of father figure and taught him all of his knowledge of life with kindness and love, Harvey grew into a better person.
The chemistry between Tracey and Bartholomew is magical. I could not think of a better pair of actors to play these roles. Tracey gave the performance of his career as Manuel, clearly showing that he has such a broad range of acting skills and sealing him as one of the greatest actors of all time. The scene that always stays with me from Captains Courageous is the ending, which I guarantee will leave you in tears. I also happen to think this is Bartholomew's greatest performance... it sealed him as one of the greatest child actors of all time.
Captain's Courageous is entertaining, beautiful, and one of the most tear-jerking films you'll ever see. It will always hold a special place in my heart, for Tracey and Bartholomew seemed so remarkably real as Manuel and Harvey. All I can say is that this is definitely one of the greatest films of all time.