Friday, September 7, 2012

Old Ironsides - 1926

Country: United States
Director: James Cruze
Writers: Laurence Stallings (story), Harry Carr (suggested and adapted by), Walter Woods (suggested and adapted by), Rupert Hughes (titles), Dorothy Arzner (uncredited)
Oliver Wendell Holmes (poem - uncredited)
Stars: Charles Farrell, Esther Ralston and Wallace Beery
Release Date: 6 December 1926 (USA)
Also known as: Fragata Invicta (Portugal); Havets Befrier (Denmark); Korsaren (Austria); Old Ironsides (Spain); Schrecken der Meere (Austria); Sons of the Sea (UK); Tan i epi tas (Greece - transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title); Trípoli (Spain)
Filming Locations: Santa Catalina Island, Channel Islands, California, USA
Production Co: Paramount Pictures
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Sea | Epic
WHAT A YARN! (original print ad - all caps)
A farmer lad shipped to sea for adventure -- and finds it -- and romance, too! On the blood-stained decks of Old Ironsides!
Two seafaring roughnecks, always ready for a fight! They find a mutual friend in "Loud Lucy," that six-pound gun on the quarterdeck!
PRISONERS---held for ransom!---lovers at the mercy of Barbary pirates! Captives on an American vessel, with the frowning guns of Tripoli threatening the outlet to the sea and freedom! Then came ---- "OLD IRONSIDES"
Genres: Drama | History
Early in the 19th century, the USS Constitution is launched as part of an effort to stop piracy in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, a young man determined to go to sea is befriended by the bos'n of the merchant ship Esther, and he joins her crew. When the Esther reaches the Mediterranean, she too, along with the Constitution, becomes involved in the battle against the pirates.
With plenty of action, an interesting story, and a cast headed by Wallace Beery and George Bancroft, this works well as an adventure movie. It adds good shipboard atmosphere, and it also includes the re-enactment of some of the history that is used as background to the story. Although the historical setting is stylized to some degree, it seems to give a pretty good feel for what it was like in the days when ships from the young USA did battle with the coastal pirates of the Mediterranean.
Beery and Bancroft work quite well together, and they are entertaining, too. Beery's boisterous style can work particularly well in silent movies, since the personality of a character is more prominent than the dialogue. Charles Farrell, as the young man who sails with Beery and Bancroft, is usually rather bland, but then again his innocent, reserved character serves as a contrast to the other two. Esther Ralston is an appealing heroine, and a few of the other characters also get some good moments.
The story is interesting, with most of it following characters on "Old Ironsides" and other ships as they sail, maneuver, and battle. The shipboard atmosphere is convincing, showing the crews both in tense times and in lighter moments. It's enjoyable to see the recreation of the old sailing ships and the ways they worked. Between the details of the ships, and the interesting crew members, there are times when you almost feel as if you're aboard with them.
"Old Ironsides" is one of the many silent movies that deserve to be better known and remembered. It's worthwhile both for the story and for its recreation of the age of the great sailing ships.
Trivia: This was the first film to be shown using the Magnascope system.
A real ship (the S. N. Castle, built in 1886) was burned and sunk for the movie.
Referenced in Hollywood's Magical Island: Catalina (2003) - poster shown.
Featured in Hollywood (1980) (TV Mini-Series)
Spoofed in Old Tin Sides (1927) (Short), Young Ironsides (1932) (Short)
PS= This is an excerpt of a battle scene of the film. 

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