Captains Courageous (1937): United States – directed by Victor Fleming
Not rated by the MPAA – contains some mild mature themes and brief mild violence
Captains Courageous is a film like many others, whose popularity decreased after perhaps the late 1950’s, when cliches had become so rooted in film culture that the only way to move an audience was to shock them, mildly at first then rather strongly as the 1960’s gave way to the 1970’s. But Captains Courageous is a gentle reminder that there used to be a different kind of movie, one that told a solid story with interesting characters. Some of it may be dated now, and some of it may be cliche today, but it still works, and rather well at that.
The first half hour of the film is occupied with the setup of Harvey Cheyne’s (Freddie Bartholonew) life. He is a young boy, and his father (Melvyn Douglas) is fabulously wealthy. A tower in downtown New York City has the Cheyne name on it. Harvey’s mother died some years past, and his father does the best he can. His best, unfortunately, is not very good, as he caters to Harvey’s every whim. Or, if he’s not present to cater to each whim personally (which he often isn’t) there are numerous servants ordered to dote on him.