Blackbeard the Pirate (1952)

 

 

 

 

Director:    Raoul Walsh.

Starring:    Robert Newton (Edward Teach / Blackbeard), Linda Darnell (Edwina Mansfield), William Bendix (Ben Worley), Keith Andes (Robert Maynard), Torin Thatcher (Sir Henry Morgan), Irene Ryan (Alvina, a lady in waiting), Alan Mowbray (Noll), Richard Egan (Briggs), Skelton Knaggs(Gilly), Dick Wessel (Dutchman), Anthony Caruso (Pierre La Garde), Jack Lambert (Tom Whetstone), Noel Drayton (Jeremy), Pat Flaherty (Job Maggot).

Edward Teach (Blackbeard) captured in November 1718

 

 Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

The Armchair Pirate

"The meeker the man, the more pirate he

Snug in his armchair, far from the sea,

And reason commends his position:

He has all of the fun and none of the woes,

Masters the ladies and scuttles his foes,

And cheats both the noose and perdition!"

 

"During the 17th Century the Spanish Main was over-run with pirates, foremost of whom was Edward Teach, the evil and immortal Blackbeard. Sir Henry Morgan, who was then in the services of the king, had been sent to clear the seas of the very pirates he once had led."

Robert Maynard says: "One night when Morgan was at sea the ship of the pirate Charles Bellamy came creeping into the harbor and passed unharmed under the guns of the fort. I, Robert Maynard, disguised as a down-at-the-heels surgeon, had been haunting the Port Royal waterfront waiting for something like this to happen. For the Governor of Jamaica believed that Morgan was a pirate still and had a quick fortune ready for the man who could prove it. I wanted that quick fortune."

Maynard runs into two men who are also after Morgan. He tells the men that he will prove that Morgan is in cahoots with Bellamy. He adds that he will prove this true as soon as he gets onboard the ship as the ship's surgeon.

A bunch of men and two women get into a row boat. They push off from the dock as a horseman reaches the end of the dock. He demands that the boat of the smugglers come back to the dock or he will blow them sky high. They open fire on the boatmen to no avail.

Ben Worley is in charge of the boat and he has a man put a light up to one of the women's faces and shouts that they better stop shooting or they will hit Edwina Mansfield. So the soldiers stop their shooting.

The two women are put aboard a ship. The servant for Edwina sees a man hanging by the neck on the yardarm. Ben Worley tells the prisoners to go below deck. With the two women goes a male prisoner, Robert Maynard. They are taken to see Captain Bellamy.

Edwina was expecting Captain Bellamy, but gets Blackbeard the pirate instead. He likes Edwina and comes over to manhandle her, exposing her low-cut dress. She demands to see Captain Bellamy, but Bellamy was the man hanged from the yardarm. Edwina grabs Worley's dagger, calls Blackbeard a loathsome beast and throws the dagger at him, but misses. Worley removes the women from the captain's cabin.

He tells Maynard to get to working on his neck because there is a bullet in it. The pirate ship sails out under the guns of the fort. Maynard starts working on Blackbeard. Blackbeard tells the strange looking Gilly to stand behind the doctor and be prepared to thrust his knife into the doctor's back at the first sign of the doctor trying to harm Blackbeard. Gilly, however, wants the doctor to kill Blackbeard.

Blackbeard is suspicious of Maynard saying that he thinks Mansfield is a "sea spy" because he knows that Maynard was never on the ship the Swallow as he claimed.

Belatedly the cannon start firing on Bellamy's ship. But the fellow commanding the soldiers down at the dock tells the men to stop firing for the Mansfield woman is on that pirate ship. The cannon go silent again.

Out on deck Gilly wants to know why the surgeon didn't kill Blackbeard. Maynard says that he's not after Blackbeard, but after Morgan. He wants to get into Blackbeard's office. He has the two helpers make a diversion to get Blackbeard out of his cabin and onto the deck so he can find some incriminating papers on Morgan.

The doctor throws a rope over the side of the boat and climbs down on it. He gets into the captain's cabin by going through an open window.

Blackbeard sees the rope. He tells Worley to stand on deck and get the culprit if he tries to come up this way. Blackbeard goes below. Maynard goes down through a trap door in the cabin floor giving him access to a small room known as the lazerette. Blackbeard figures he has the culprit caught now, but Gilly opens a side door in the compartment, letting Maynard out. Blackbeard can't capture the culprit.

On deck Blackbeard asks Maynard who took the captain's log out of the captain's cabin and chucked it into the lazeret? He says he knows that the doctor is working for that Morgan fellow.

Mansfield changes the topic of discussion by coming up on deck. She starts to walk around the deck, but the men are all lusting after her. One man won't let her pass. Blackbeard tells Maynard to go to the woman's rescue. Maynard knocks the man down with his fist. The fellow grabs a sword and goes after the doctor. Gilly gives the doctor a sword to defend himself. It's quite a fight, but the doctor wins in the end. The dead body is thrown over the side of the ship.

Maynard says he thought Mansfield was eloping with Captain Bellamy. No, says she. She had more of a business proposition for him. She also adds that no, she is not the mistress of Morgan either. She says she is Edward Manfield's daughter.

Now she drops a bomb on Maynard, telling him that she has Morgan's treasure aboard this ship. She says: "I found it and I took it." She then tells the doctor that she is telling him all this because she may need his help.

Blackbeard is trying to get Edwina's assistant Alvina drunk so he can get some information out of her. She says she has to go watch the baggage, so Blackbeard tells Worley to bring all of Mansfield's baggage into the captain's cabinet.

The luggage is brought into the captain's cabinet. Worley starts going through it, much to the disgust of Edwina, who tries to stop Worley from discovering too much in her baggage. Worley finds Edwina's letters to Captain Bellamy. Blackbeard starts reading the letters and finds out that Edwina and Bellamy were quite close with each other and that Henry Morgan had armed Bellamy's ship for him. He says he knew that Bellamy and Morgan were in cahoots with each other.

Edwina tries to stop Blackbeard by grabbing a pistol on the table and firing it at Blackbeard. The old pirate just laughs because the pistol was only charged with powder. In the confusion of the moment, Maynard puts one of the letters in his shirt. But Blackbeard is on the ball and asks Maynard for the other letter. Actually, Maynard put two letters underneath his shirt. So he gives only one of the letters to Blackbeard.

Blackbeard now tells Maynard that he fully believes that Maynard is not after him, but after Morgan at the behest of the Governor of Jamaica. What Blackbeard is worried about is if Morgan is hanged, then all his treasure goes back to England.

Edwina speaks with Maynard about her plans. She hoped to use the treasure and use Captain Bellamy to get her out of Port Royal, Jamaica. Bellamy never meant anything to Edwina. She wants to become Maynard's ally to get her freedom. Maynard says the ship will have to put in at a port for fresh water soon. He means to escape from Blackbeard and she can come with him.

While Edwina and Maynard talked about escape, Blackbeard was getting Alvina drunk again. The couple on deck now hear Alvina screaming her head off. They rush down to the captain's cabin and find Blackbeard has found the treasure with the help of loose-tongued Alvina.

Edwina says she will split the treasure with Blackbeard, but, of courses, the pirate wants it all for himself. Edwina tries to grab another pistol, but Blackbeard stops her.

Later Maynard asks Edwina if she is now ready to give up the treasure and escape with him? He says he has to know what her intentions are in order to arrange his plans for escape. She tells him that he already knows what she wants. He asks: "Do I?" They now embrace and kiss each other.

They are interrupted by Blackbeard's calling out for Maynard. Edwina asks if Maynard will take her with him when he escapes? He says he can't take her dressed in the gown she now wears. So Edwina asks him to unlace her in the back and she will change her clothes. While unlacing, Edwina says she doesn't want to go back to Port Royal because Morgan wants to marry her.

Maynard laughs at the "old goat" and this upsets Edwina because she says Morgan is one of the kindest men she has ever known. She is fond of and admires Governor Morgan. Maynard tells her that she shouldn't even concern herself about Morgan for the man is going to be hanged for piracy. He has enough proof of his piracy in her letter to Bellamy and because he has information from the ship's log.

Now Edwina says Maynard was just using her to get at Morgan. "Well, I'll stop you if I have to kill you!" He replies: "Well, that's what it will take. Good luck."

Blackbeard now comes to Edwina's room to find Maynard, who quickly goes out a window. Blackbeard opens the door to discover Edwina changing her clothes. She denies that Maynard was with her.

With his accomplice Briggs, Maynard is ready to swim to safety and freedom. But Maynard tells the accomplice that he will have to swim to the fishing fleet by himself. Briggs says that Maynard must have gone mad. Maynard gives him the proof of the cozy relationship of Captain Bellamy with Morgan to give to Governor Vaughn. Again Briggs says that Maynard has gone crazy because of that Mansfield woman. Maynard says everything will work out as long as the governor sends out his war ships after Blackbeard.

And now it's time for the accomplice to go overboard. He drops into the sea and swims for the nearest fishing vessel. Meanwhile, Maynard goes below deck and hammers a hole in the side of the ship allowing sea water to rush into the ship.

Blackbeard talks to the whole crew saying that now there's four feet of water in the ship. He asks where is that Briggs fellow? The answer is that Briggs just disappeared without a trace. So now Blackbeard goes to ask Maynard what happened to his buddy? And Blackbeard quickly accuses Maynard of being the scuttler of the ship. So Maynard gets flogged and then has salt thrown onto his back.

Blackbeard now lands on an island. He has fourteen cannons set up on the island to fire on any British ship coming after his ship. He also will have the treasure buried on the island. A ship is spotted in the distance, but it's heading away from the island.

Edwina and Maynard sit on the beach as the pirate's prisoners. Gilly tells the prisoners that the Morgan ship missed the island altogether.

Blackbeard has Maynard help him get his treasure chest up out of the lazarette. When the chest is up, both men see Worley holding a pistol aimed at Blackbeard. The man accuses Blackbeard of trying to steal the treasure all for himself and none for Worley. Blackbeard starts acting like Worley and his accusation has hurt him deeply in his heart. He even says that Worley can take all the treasure. Worley tells Blackbeard not to loose heart for the two of them can share the treasure.

Blackbeard, Worley and Maynard go out to bury the treasure. When they arrive the digger has already dug a deep hole. Worley and Blackbeard start arguing about the treasure and soon the men are sword fighting. Maynard sees the boat being pulled off the beach by the waves and runs to secure it. Worried that Maynard may leave without them, Worley stops his sword fighting and goes after Maynard. Meanwhile, Blackbeard kills the digger so he will never tell where the treasure is hidden. He then hides the treasure among the rocks near the beach.

Worley and Maynard secure the boat. Now Worley tells Maynard to stop looking for a way to do in old Worley. He says he's the best friend Maynard's got. Worley will need a navigator and he's heard that Maynard knows how to navigate a ship. He will protect Maynard as long as Maynard serves as his navigator.

The next morning Worley runs onto the beach to tell Captain Teach (Blackbeard) that some of the men are missing. Blackbeard figures something's wrong and calls out all the men to get the cannons ready. He takes his telescope and looks to see Morgan's men coming for the pirates. Blackbeard now plans to steal Morgan's ship while he is battling the pirate troops on land.

Maynard was put in a room by himself, while Edwina and Alvina were put in a room next door. The rooms are guarded by a couple of pirates. The pirate guards don't do a good job and soon Maynard escapes. He then tries to use a large tree branch to break an escape hole in the wall of Edwina's room. The banging brings a guard rushing to find out the source of the noise. Maynard gets rid of that guy but now has to sword fight the other pirate guard. He is able to knock the man out with his fist.

Blackbeard sees that his prisoners have escaped. He then sees a somewhat crazy man who resembles himself. So Blackbeard sends everyone on the beach to help Worley. Alone with the nitwit, who thinks he is the King of Spain, he dresses the man like he is Blackbeard.

Worley starts firing the cannons at Morgan's men, but his position is soon overrun. The pirates swordfight with Morgan's men. The pirates are pushed back and Morgan surveys the cannons on the beach.

Maynard tells Edwina to follow a certain trail which will lead her to Captain Morgan. He is not going with her because he is still after Morgan. Edwina calls Maynard a fool, but that doesn't stop her from embracing and kissing Maynard. They part after that.

Blackbeard now sends his body double out to call the pirates to gather around their captain. The nitwit gets a short distance away when Blackbeard shoots the poor man in the back. He then runs up into the attic of the building where he was staying.

Captain Morgan discovers the body and recognizes it as Blackbeard. He cuts the head off the pirate to take home as proof that Blackbeard is dead. The other pirates are taken prisoner. Morgan now sails back to Port Royal.

Maynard is also at Port Royal. He sees Blackbeard's head swinging in the breeze. There he bumps into his uncle. The uncle tells him to stay undercover or his head will be swinging from a rope like Blackbeard's head. Uncle tells him to go over to the tavern and he will meet him there.

In the tavern uncle says that Briggs was arrested and sent back to England. And Governor Vaughn is also gone, replaced by now Governor Morgan. Morgan's men are now all looking to find Maynard. Uncle wants to send Maynard back to England to get him away from Jamaica.

Maynard asks where is Edwina? She's up in the governor's palace held there as a virtual prisoner of the governor.

Edwina reproaches the governor for putting up reward announcements of 250 pounds for the capture of Robert Maynard. She calls the governor a pirate himself for taking Spanish ships by force in a time of peace. But Morgan sees himself as a great English hero.

Morgan now tells Edwina that she will be going back to England at the request of the King to be a lady-in-waiting for the Queen of England. Edwina says she would hate that job, but Morgan wants a woman in the court to keep him informed of what's going on. The Governor's great ambition is to become Lord Henry Morgan. Edwina says that Henry will be waiting for a long time for her to ever become a lady-in-waiting. She marches out of the room.

Alvina tells Edwina that Maynard is here. Edwina is very worried because she thinks Maynard will fall into Morgan's hands. She runs out into the garden and Maynard calls to her. They hug and kiss, but then Edwina says he has got to get out of Port Royal because Morgan wants to kill him. Maynard asks if Edwina will come with him and she says: "Oh yes, darling, anywhere." They arrange a meeting place at midnight. A guard comes along and locks Edwina into the palace.

It's passed midnight and Edwina still has not arrived. His uncle demands that he get in the boat. As they prepare for Maynard to leave, Edwina appears. Edwina apologizes for being late. Maynard rows the two of them to the ship heading for England.

On board ship the couple is very worried because no one is on deck. They go to the captain's cabin and find the captain dead on the floor. They decide to get back on shore, but now they hear the footsteps of the pirates who have just boarded the ship.

They try to hide but run right into Blackbeard.

Apparently, Blackbeard rescued all his men from prison. When Captain Morgan is told, he says that's impossible because Blackbeard is dead. But the jailor says it was Blackbeard for sure.

Morgan figures that Blackbeard got his men out of prison to give himself a sailing crew. And now he has probably already taken the ship in the harbor. So he decides to use a Spanish ship and let Blackbeard try to grab the ship for himself. That will be the undoing of Blackbeard.

Blackbeard has the captured ship sailing along nicely. He now decides to let his two prisoners come up on deck. He calls for the couple to come up on deck but Maynard asks him to come and get him himself. Blackbeard sends down one of his sailors, who Maynard shoots dead. Blackbeard has a laugh. Maynard now tells Blackbeard to come and get him.

Blackbeard is about to start down the steps when a sailor tells him there's a Spanish galleon ahead. Worley is told to get the cannons ready. The battle soon starts. It's then that Blackbeard sees the flag of Henry Morgan flying on the Spanish ship. So he calls for the Mansfield woman to come up. She comes up to prevent the sailors from killing her protector Maynard.

Blackbeard has her tied up so Morgan will be able to see her. The problem for Blackbeard is that the woman won't keep her head up so Morgan can see her face. The pirate gets her to hold her head up because Blackbeard is now set to flog Maynard. Morgan sees the Mansfield girl, Maynard and Blackbeard together.  Morgan gives the order to cease-fire. The firing stops and Blackbeard is relieved. But Morgan has another approach to capturing Blackbeard. Meanwhile, Blackbeard's gunnery crew keeps on firing at the Spanish ship. The masts of the ship start splintering and sails are falling down onto the ship's deck.

The ships come extremely close to each other and the pirates jump over onto Morgan's ship. The whole deck is full of men trying to kill each other. Morgan has a surprise for the pirates for now he brings up his reserves. They rush out onto the deck and start overwhelming the exhausted pirates.

Blackbeard and his pirates now start the return to their own ship because there are just too many men on the Spanish ship. Now Blackbeard threatens to kill Edwina. Morgan gives the order to stop fighting and get away from the pirate ship.

The pirate crew threatens mutiny if Blackbeard won't let them retrieve the treasure on the island. So Blackbeard tells Worley to take some men and go get the treasure and bring it back to the ship.

When the diggers only find a dead man in the hole, they grab Worley and Maynard. They are just about to burn Maynard with a heated pistol barrel, when Gilly finds the treasure under the rock.

The pirates return and put the chest on the deck of the ship. They now tell Worley to go kill Blackbeard as he says he would do after their return to the ship. So Worley goes to shoot the captain. Blackbeard, however, is way ahead of Worley. Native islanders surround Worley who quickly goes into the captain's cabin. A little later a shot is heard.

Thinking Blackbeard dead, the pirates are very happy. When they start to open the treasure chest, Blackbeard kills the man trying to hammer off the locks on the chest. He then tells the men to step away from the treasure. His islanders now force the mutineers down into the hold.

Maynard goes into Edwina's room. He says they will have to swim to the shore. He will help her if she has any trouble with the swim. He goes out the window first.

Meanwhile, Blackbeard is trying to steal the treasure again for himself. He puts it on a hoist and suspends it in the air to later lower it down to a row boat. The mutineers are free from the hold because of Gilly's extensive knowledge of every nook and cranny of the ship.

They attack Blackbeard who lets go of the rope and the chest falls into the sea. The pirates are really infuriated with the captain. They take him prisoner and then take him onto the island where they tend to bury him in the sand up to his neck.

Blackbeard gets his hands free and the broad-shouldered captain starts knocking down all his men. That is, until a pirate throws sand in Blackbeard's eyes. Now the men surround the captain. The men stab, cut and finally shoot Blackbeard. They drag the captain over to the hole.

Edwina sees the boats are not guarded. As the men fill in the hole with sand, the couple makes a run for one of the two boats. An older pirate tries to stop them, but he decides not to try to sword fight with Maynard. He tells the other pirates and two of them rush after the boat. They, however, cannot catch up to the boat.

Blackbeard is buried up to his chin in the sand. The waves start coming closer and closer to his head until they start completely obscuring Blackbeard's head. Blackbeard does not look at all happy about this.

Maynard takes a look through the telescope at Blackbeard's fate. He hands the telescope to Edwina but she says she doesn't want to see Blackbeard's death. Instead, she hugs and kisses Maynard.

 

The film is an action flick mainly with a little love story in it. It's kind of funny that they use the name Maynard because he was the naval officer who defeated Blackbeard in battle. Maynard was send by Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia to capture Blackbeard. It seems that Blackbeard had taken Charleston, South Carolina and held its inhabitants for ransom and the state had to pay the money to the pirate. In 1718 Maynard found Blackbeard on Ocracoke Island off the central North Carolina coast. Blackbeard badly damaged Maynard's two smaller ships, but his luck changed when he boarded one of the sloops. Maynard sword fought with Blackbeard, who was doing better than Maynard, until Blackbeard was killed by Maynard's men. Maynard checked Teach's body and found that it had been shot no fewer than five times and cut about twenty times.

Henry Morgan retired in 1683 and died in 1688, way before Blackbeard died in 1718.

Robert Newton made for a good Blackbeard character. Pretty Linda Darnell was good as Edwina Mansfield. I thought Keith Andes as Robert Maynard was a bit stiff in his role.  Irene Ryan (Alvina, as a lady in waiting) played the role of granny in the Beverly Hills Hillbillies (which ran nine seasons, 1962-1971).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

 

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