Captain Kidd (1945)

 

 

 

Director:      Rowland V. Lee.

Starring:     Charles Laughton (Capt. William Kidd), Randolph Scott (Adam Mercy/Blayne), Barbara Britton (Lady Ann Dunstan), Reginald Owen (Cary Shadwell), John Carradine (Orange Povey), Gilbert Roland (Jose Lorenzo), Sheldon Leonard (Cyprian Boyle).

Low-budget film about Captain Kidd, a 17th-century British privateer and pirate, celebrated in English literature as one of the most colorful outlaws of all time. Fortune hunters have long sought, in vain, to find his buried treasure.

 

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

"Madagascar.  For centuries the bloodiest cocktail of all the seas where the infamous brotherhood of the damned waited to plunder the treasure-laden galleons of India and Cathay, then return drunk with slaughter to their Pirate stronghold, The Lost Hope.  Most ruthless of all was Captain William Kidd.  He encountered the great London galleon The Twelve Apostles commanded by Admiral Lord Blayne and approaching unsuspected  in the guise of a peaceful merchant by a sudden treacherous salvo he reduced her to a burning hulk.  When night fell The Twelve Apostles was only a blazing funeral pyre on the placid surface of a Madagascar lagoon."

Captain Kidd and some of this men, among them Orange Povey, watch the burning ship.  They have to hurry and bury a chest filled with treasure.  Before they bury it, the men want to see what's inside it to make sure that what they put in it is still there.  Kidd opens up the chest.  They place the chest at the bottom of the hole.  One of the men questions the Captain's intentions and Kidd shoots him dead.  The body is thrown into the hole in the ground with the chest and covered with dirt. 

London, 1699.  Captain Kidd employs a servant named Shadwell who will teach him how to act like a gentleman.  He will go to sea with the Captain. 

"Upon the solicitation of my Lord Bellomont, His Majesty is graciously pleased to order him to attend upon him at Hampton Court, upon the morning of November 13, a nine of the clock, Captain William Kidd, shipmaster, of New York, with intent to discuss a voyage of portent, to the waters of India and Madagascar."

Hampton Court Palace.  King William speaks with Capt. Kidd.  He wants the captain to give safe conduct to a ship called the Quedagh Merchant to the waters of Madagascar. Kidd comes in. The King will have him protect the treasure ship, that is heading from India by Madagascar to England.  What the Captain wants in return is the castle and lands of the pirate Blayne.  Kidd's ultimate goal is to become an English Lord.

Kidd recruits his crew from the imprisoned pirates waiting for execution.  Among them is Adam Mercy.  He is always escaping so they keep in chains.  Kidd introduces his captains Jose Lorenzo and Cyprian Boyle to the jailor.  Kidd asks the men if they would prefer going to sea with him rather than doing the gallows's dance.  Of course they want to go with Kidd.  If they do go, they each will receive a Royal pardon.  He then asks who knows the waters of Madagascar?  Adam Mercy says he does, so Kidd takes him.  Kidd then has the jailors through ropes down to the men so they can climb out of the large cell. 

Down by the ship the men get their irons taken off and they make their mark to sign up for the crew.  Mercy can actually sign his own name, which impresses Kidd.  The man says he was a master gunner on Captain Avery's ship.  Kidd tells his men to keep an eye on Mercy.  He has an honest face.  Orange Povey arrives.  Kidd says he thought he was dead.  He had abandoned the man on a coral reef.  Kidd decides to take Povey to his cabin.   Povey believes he was abandoned because that way Kidd would only have to share the treasure between three people.  Kidd corrects him.  The treasure will be divided among two people only.  Lorenzo and Boyle are dull fellows and they are out of the deal. 

Kidd is angry that Povey showed up.  He wants all the money and wants Povey dead. 

The ship sails for Madagascar.  Kidd eats with his four officers:  Povery, Lorenzo, Boyle and Mercy.  Mercy refuses to toast to the King of England.  Kidd wonders if the king didn't put Mercy in with them as a spy.  The Captain sends Shadwell to find out about Mercy's background.  Shadwell talks with Mercy and tells him that he knew right away that Mercy was a gentleman.  He also tells Mercy that Kidd told him to find out about his background.  Mercy says that strange.  Why would the captain of a merchant ship be afraid of being spied on? 

When Kidd sees Shadwell he wants a report. Shadwell says the man is a nobody. He has good speech and manners only because he was employed by people of quality. Kidd relaxes about the subject.

The ship is off the islandk of St. Paul in the South Atlantic. Mercy is giving his men artillery instruction. Kidd comes over and asks a trick question about a safe place to put in at. Lorenzo nearly spoils it, but Kidd steps on his foot. Later he tells Lorenzo that his presence is becoming particularly irksome to him.

They are off the island of St. Helene and heading for tip of south Africa. Kidd tells his officers the plan. They will be meeting the Quedagh Merchant with treasures worth half a million English pounds off the northeast coast of Madagascar. They are to give the ship "safe passage" to keep them from harm from the pirates. Povey brings up the name of Blayne and Kidd gets angry saying that no one is to say that dead manís name in his presence.

Kidd tampers with the lines and he sets up an "accident" for Cyprian Boyle. A bunch of rigging falls on Boyle killing him. Mercy knows it was no accident.  Kidd appoints Mercy as master and has him move into Boyleís old room.

Kiddís ship reaches Madagascar. Mercy learns from Shadwell that Kidd has copied the family crest of the Blayne family to use as his own. Mercy waits until the Captain is on deck and searches though Kiddís desk. He finds the diary. Kidd comes downstairs again. Mercy finds the pirate flag and a map.

Kidd comes in with his pistol trained on Mercy. Mercy stays very cool and asks him what ship went down here? The Twelve Apostles? Kidd asks him why does he say The Twelve Apostles? Mercy replies because here is Blayneís ring on the desk. Mercy says he wants in on an equal share of the loot. Kidd laughs to learn that the man with proper manners is not proper himself.

Kidd tells his two conspirators that he wants to know more from Mercy. Mercy seems to know a lot about The Twelves Apostles and Kidd wants to know why.

The ship is sighted. Kidd tells Mercy to fire one across the shipís bow. Kidd and his officers get dressed up and then board the other ship. Kidd and the others meet Captain Rossum and Lord Fallsworth. Kidd then asks if they could have some gun powder kegs. Permission is granted. Lorenzo goes down to the ammunition storage area. Down there he sets up a device to detonate the gunpowder.

Now Kidd and his officers meet the daughter Anne of Lord Fallsworth. She is certain that she has met Mercy somewhere, but she just canít remember. Mercy says they never met before.

The men agree to transfer the treasure chests to Kiddís ship until they are out of any danger. Lady Anne and Lord Fallsworth will also go with Captain Kidd. Kidd goes down to see the many treasures. Lorenzo lights the candle. When it burns to the right height it will light the fuse.

Shadwell shows Lady Anne the way to her quarters. The explosion goes off. Lord Fallsworth goes over to the side of the ship to see what happened. Kidd orders a heavy treasure chest swung over to knock the nobleman off his feet. Lord Fallsworth is hit by the chest and he falls overboard and lands in the rowboat.  He is dead. Lady Anne is very upset about the death of her father and the loss of the merchant ship. She seems to realize something sinister is going on.

Desperate, Lady Anne turns for help to Shadwell. She says she is very frightened, especially of the evil-smiling Spaniard Lorenzo. Shadwell recommends Mr. Mercy to her. He tells her that he will ask Mr. Mercy for his assistance.

Lorenzo asks Kidd if he can have the woman. He says he wants her and he will take her regardless of what Kidd wants. He says it would be easy to ignite the dissatisfied crew. Kidd draws his pistol on him and says he is talking mutiny. And he has his own plans for Lady Anne.

Lorenzo has to leave. He hangs around Lady Anneís door. Lorenzo sees Mercy be let into the Ladyís room. Mercy now tells Anne that his real name is Blayne. Anne says she knew his name wasnít Mercy. He explains to her that his father was killed on his ship and then accused of being a pirate. He discovered it was Captain Kidd who killed his father. Blayne tells Anne to play up to the Captain and that way she will be safe.

Povny tells Kidd that Lorenzo is going to be trouble. Kidd says that he plans to deliver Anne and some of the treasure to the King and the peerage he wants will be his.

Lorenzo gets himself into Anne's room. He starts forcing himself on Anne and Blayne hears her scream. There is a sword fight between the two men. Kidd and Povey Watch but donít care which man is killed in this fight. Blayne is able to push Lorenzo through one of the large windows in the captainís room and into the sea.

After the fight Kidd finds the Blayne medallion on the floor of his room. Blayne himself realizes that he lost his medallion in the fight.

The ship stops off the coast where the cave is that holds the buried treasure. Kidd, Blayne and Povey go to retrieve it. Blayne finds the skull of the man killed by Kidd. He continues digging until he finds the chest. He sees the Blayne crest inside the chest.

Kidd tries to kill Blayne, but Blayne stops him. With his own pistol, Blayne shoots Povey, but the bad man is able to get up later and knock out Blayne with the butt of his pistol. Blayne falls into the ocean.

Back on ship Kidd forces Lady Anne to eat with him and Povny. He gives her the bad news that Blayne fell into the ocean and was lost. She excuses herself from the table.  Shadwell talks with a friend of Blayne about Blayne being killed deliberately by the Captain. At this very time, Blayne appears at a large porthole. They help Blayne come in. Blayne tells Shadwell to tell Lady Anne to get some of her things together and be ready to leave. Later Blayne comes to her. He and she are going to get away from Kiddís ship. They are spotted rowing away from the ship.  The sailors grab a small cannon to fire at the row boat.  Shadwell stops them from firing and gets shot dead by Captain Kidd. The first shot misses, but the next shot splits the boat into two pieces. It kills Blaynesís sailor friend. The two survivors swim to the island. Kidd and his men examine the remains of the boat and figure they are all dead.

Back in England. Captain Kidd shows up to make his entrance before the King of England. The King asks him what happened to Lady Anne and Mercy?  Kidd says that fearing for his own life he had to dispatch them both. The King now asks Kidd about the treasure chest with the Blayne crest on it.  His officers found it on his ship. Kidd starts getting spooked saying thereís something queer going on here. His Majestyís trump card is then used.  He brings out Lady Anne and Lord Blayne. Blayne accuses Kidd of piracy and murder. The guards take him away.

Kidd is hanged. The King gives Blayne a frigate named appropriately  the Lady Anne for his service to his country.

 

Just an o.k. movie.  Very little real history here.  Charles Laughton as Capt. Kidd is entertaining, while Randolph Scott as Adam Blayne is honorable, but a little stiff, but isn't he always? 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:


1645 c. --  born, William Kidd, Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland.  Went to sea as a youth.

after 1689 --  a legitimate privateer for Great Britain against the French in the West Indies and off the coast of North America.

1690 --  sea captain and shipowner in New York City, where he owns property.  Both New York and Massachusetts use him to rid their coasts of enemy privateers.

1695  --   in London, he receives a royal commission to apprehend pirates who molest the ships of the East India Company in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

1696, Feb. 27  -- Kidd sails from Deptford on the Adventure Galley and calls at Plymouth.

1696, July 4  --  arrives at New York City to take on more men.

1697, Feb.  --  arrives at the Comoro Islands off East Africa. Failing to take a prize ship, he turns to piracy.

1697, Aug.  --  takes several small ships. He narrowly averts a mutiny after he refuses to attack a Dutch ship by mortally wounding his gunner, William Moore.

1698, Jan.  --  Kidd takes the valuable Armenian ship Quedagh Merchant and scuttles his own unseaworthy vessel.

1699, April --  reaches Anguilla, in the West Indies; learns he is now considered a pirate. Possibly scuttles the Quedagh Merchant at the island of Hispaniola; sails in a newly purchased ship, the Antonio, to New York City. He tries to persuade the earl of Bellomont, then colonial governor of New York, that he is not a pirate. Bellomont sends him to England for trial.

1701, May 8-9  --  found guilty of the murder of Moore and piracy. Important evidence is suppressed at the trial.  

1701, May 23  --  Kidd hanged.  Some of his treasure is recovered from Gardiners Island off Long Island.

 

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