The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

The Buccaneer (1958) Classic Movie Review 68

The Buccaneer (1958)

The Buccaneer (1958)

When a man loses everything else, he still has the sea. This deck is the only country we have.

This movie has so many great actors it can’t help but be good. This movie is a remake of the The Buccaneer (1938) which I will refer to simple as the original. The original was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and had Anthony Quinn in the role of Boluche. This movie had Anthony Quinn as the director and Cecil B. DeMille as the producers. Both movies tell basically the same story with only minor variations and they are both great.

I don’t really know if I mentioned it before but the Battle of New Orleans actually took place after the peace treaty had been signed and there is a debate about how important it was to the peace.

I will briefly cover the actors we have talked about in other episodes.


Charlton Heston played the second role of Gen. Andrew Jackson in this film. However, he turned it into a more powerful than Sothern did in the original even using some of the same lines. Heston was first introduced in Episode 44 – The Omega Man (1971).

Inger Stevens also did a far better job playing the female lead. This time she was the daughter of the governor, Annette Claiborne. Stevens was introduced in Episode 43 – The World, The Flesh, and the Devil (1959).

Sir Lancelot played the role of Scipio, one of the pirates. There was a Scipio in both movies but his role was slightly larger in the remake. Sir Lancelot was introduced in Episode 42 – I Walked with a Zombie (1943).

Woody Strode played the role of the mute pirate Toro. Strode was introduced in Episode 61 – Stagecoach (1939).

Guess who’s back? Madame Sul-Te-Wan played the good luck charm vendor. Madame was introduced in Episode 14 – Band of Angels (1957).

Yul Brynner was the star as Jean Lafitte complete with a full head of hair. Yul Brynner was a foreign mystery man sometimes claim to be half Japanese and half Swedish. In. Actuality he was born in Vladivostok, Russia in 1920. After his father abandoned the family his mother moved them to Manchuria. Sounds nice. In 1934, his mother moved the family again, this time landing in Paris, France. Yul eventually began performing music in nightclubs with Russian gypsies. He also worked for a time as a trapeze artist.

He traveled to the US in 1941 and began studying with Michael Chekhov. He started working on stage making his film debut in Port of New York (1949). Two years later he took the stage lead in “The King and I.” Of course when they made the movie The King and I (1956) he was naturally selected to play that role. He won the best actor Oscar for that film.

It shocked me to see that he had less than 50 movie and television credits because I remember so many of his films. He was in Anastasia (1956) with Ingrid Bergman. That same year he was masterful as Pharaoh Rameses in the epic The Ten Commandments (1956) opposite Charlton Heston and under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille. 1960 brought The Buccaneer (1958) and The Brothers Karamazov (1958).

The one that stands above them all is The Magnificent Seven (1960) which is a remake of Seven Samurai (1954) but set in western times. Yul is cool as ice as the leader of the gunfighters, Chris, dressed in black with a shaved head. Unfortunately, he appeared in The Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966). Not so magnificent. That same year he appeared as an Israeli commander fighting for independence in the star-studded Cast a Giant Shadow (1966).

The Buccaneer (1958)

The Buccaneer (1958) Claire Bloom and Yul Brynner

In 1973, he physically resurrected Chris from The Magnificent Seven (1960) in the wonderful sci-fi Westworld (1973) where he was a malfunctioning gun fighting robot. He returned to this role in Futureworld (1976). He did not make any movies after 1976, dying in 1985 of lung cancer after making some pretty powerful anti-smoking commercials.

Claire Bloom played Bonnie Brown. Bloom was a dark-haired actress who was born in England in 1931. Primarily a stage actress Bloom has had a long career and continues to work. Her first film was Limelight (1952). This was followed by many other films including Richard III (1955), Alexander the Great (1956), The Buccaneer (1958), The Haunting (1963), The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965) with Richard Burton, The Illustrated Man (1969) with her husband Rod Steiger, Clash of the Titans (1981), and The King’s Speech (2010).

Charles Boyer was masterful as Jean Lafitte’s second in command/brother, Dominique You. His performance was nuanced and is really the highlight of the film. His first film was in 1920 in France. Many of his movies were silent and hid his wonderful voice. Probably his most famous film was Gaslight (1944) with Ingrid Bergman. But what is really important is that he was the model for cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew, the date-rapey skunk.

Henry Hull played a relatively minor role in this film of Ezra Peavey. However, he is memorable as he winds his way through the movie trying to get General Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston) to drink his milk and his aching power.

Born to a drama critic in 1890, Hull intended to become an engineer. However, he was acting on Broadway before he was 21. Two years later after working on stage with John. Barrymore, he chucked it all and went gold prospecting. After failing to make a fortune gold mining, Hull returned to stage acting.

Hull made his acting debut in Rasputin, the Black Monk (1917). The next year he was in the second film version of Little Women (1918). Through the 1930s he was in about a dozen movies but remained primarily a stage actor. But when he played Magwitch in Great Expectations (1934) he became more committed to film.

The following year he appeared in the first mainstream Hollywood werewolf movie, Werewolf of London (1935). Hull had a very cultured voice, and during these golden years of Hollywood, he became much in demand as a supporting actor.

Films that followed include Boys Town (1938) with Spencer Tracy, The Return of Frank James (1940), High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, he was great as a spoiled millionaire in John Steinbeck’s Lifeboat (1944), and of course my personal favorite as Erza Peavey in The Buccaneer (1958). His final film was The Chase (1966). He passed away in 1977.

E.G. Marshall played the role of Gov. William Claiborne. Marshall had 150 credits mostly from television. His most famous roles include juror 4 in Twelve Angry Men (1957), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). And we should never forget that he did a great job as the prosecutor in The Caine Mutiny (1954).

Robert F. Simon played Capt. Brown. Simon had almost 200 roles. The tall, slender, craggy-faced actor was a well-respected character actor. Some of his bigger films, not necessarily roles are The Buccaneer (1958), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Operation Petticoat (1959).

Robin Hughes was one of the British officers and is noted for playing Brian O’Bannion in the great Auntie Mame (1958) with Rosalind Russell.

Majel Barrett had an uncredited role as a townswoman in this movie. She played number one in “The Cage” 1965, the original Star Trek pilot. However, the role she received was as nurse Chapel and as the Enterprise computer. She went on to marry Gene Roddenberry and was in many of the Star Trek series and movies.


By the time this movie came out producer Cecil B. DeMille had to come out at the beginning and explain the Louisiana Purchase and how Pirate Jean Lafitte and Barataria fit into the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans. Just for the record, he showed the wrong British route towards New Orleans. Sigh!

This movie opens not in Washington but on a private on Guard duty. General Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston) comes and chews on him for not being a good guard. Back at the main men prepare for battle. As soon as Jackson enters the camp, Mr. Peavy (Henry Hull) pounces upon him to give him warm soup.

Jackson receives word that the capital has been burned and the President has fled with the Army. He is also told that the British with 16,000 troops are heading to New Orleans. He is also told the Pirate Jean Lafitte (Yul Bryner) controls the south approaches to New Orleans.

The scene switches to Barataria where the pirates are selling their stolen goods to the people on New Orleans. General Dominique You (Charles Boyer) is there keeping order among the pirates. A fight breaks out because Bonnie Brown (Claire Bloom) doesn’t want to share the profits from her father’s boat with the boss, Jean Lafitte. She is a real wildcat fighting with knives and broken bottles. Probably from Savannah. Lafitte comes with his silver-tipped cane and beats the crap out of the fighters.

At this time Annette Claiborne (Inger Stevens) the governor’s daughter comes to the sale. It is not long before you see that she and Lafitte are deeply in love. He also mentions that he does not attack American ships because of her. Governor Claiborne  (E.G. Marshall) comes to arrest Lafitte with the tax collector. As the troops approach the pirate fade into the swamps and get ready to resist. Lafitte stands up to the governor.

Back at the docks the American ship the Corinthian is getting ready to sail while Captain Brown ( Robert F. Simon ) engages in drunken brawls. He sees the gold chest get loaded on the Corinthian And gets ideas. Madame Sul-Te-Wan tries to sell him a long life charm. The cabin boy Migs and his dog sound the visitors off the ship.

Annette comes down and finds her sister Marie ready to sail away to get married. Marie mentions that she has taken Annette’s new dress to get married in and their dead mother’s locket.

Because of the war, the captains are coming in without cargo. They want a captains council to choose a new leader. Scipio (Sir Lancelot) reads from the American Declaration of Independence. Bonnie Brown rages on Annette and said her father has gone after the Corinthian.

Lafitte heads out in the Raven to catch Captain Brown but is too late. Mouse is on the burning ship looking for his friend Toro (Woody Strode). Toro comes running through the flames with a large bag and makes it back to Brown’s ship.

Lafitte and his men slip on board and put a rope around Brown’s neck. Lafitte makes Gramby (Bruce Gordon) who is looking a lot like Gilbert Roland but the rope up. Gen. You finds the boy and dog. The crew wants to kill him because he is a witness, but they take him back. Of course Bonnie Brown throws a knife at Lafitte when she finds out he hung her father. Migs moves in with Lafitte.

Just at this the British sail into the bay and the pirates get ready to fight. A small party of officers comes ashore to negotiate with Lafitte. They offer land and money for help. Lafitte says he will reply to them in one week.

Gen. You gets drunk and ligaments the tricks countries play on men. Lafitte heads into New Orleans To make a deal with the Americans. Lafitte and Claiborne meet and shows the British offer and then he agrees to help in exchange for a pardon. Annette comes in and it is very awkward.

Led by Mercier (Loren Greene) they turn against Lafitte. When Lafitte returns to Barataria it has been destroyed. He believes it was the British until Bonnie Brown comes and spits the truth in his face that the American’s double-crossed him. Then she confesses her true love for Lafitte. The pirates were killed, captured, or escaped.

The Claiborne’s have a reception for Jackson. When Jackson retires to his private room Lafitte sneaks in and holds a gun on him. Mr. Peavy sneaks in behind Lafitte and gets the drop on him. Lafitte tells him he has powder and flints to exchange for the release of his men. As the two men argue a French-speaking young man comes in to tell him the British are at the DeVarie plantation. Jackson decides to form on the Rodriguez Canal in the front, the Mississippi River on the right, and a cypress swamp on the left. Very accurate to the real events.

Lafitte goes to the jail and asks for Gen. You. He gives him the release and tells Gen. You that every man who fights will receive a pardon. Meanwhile on the American lines at Chalmette, the troops ready for the Battle of New Orleans by piling up cotton bales.

The British form up and it seems like they have a hundred just beating drums. The morning was very cold and foggy. The American’s are waiting on powder and flints from the pirates. The British open up with Congreve rockets. Finally Lafitte and his men show-up with the excuse that they are not accustomed to traveling by land.  Gen. You sends Beluche and another man up the tree to get bearings and distance on the rocket. He takes them out with one shot and makes a nice fourth of July display.

The British began to cross the field. In the movie, the American’s can’t fire because they can’t see through the fog. During the real battle, the fog cleared as the British were coming across.  Lafitte, Mouse, and Indian go out to mark the British position with a flaming arrow so the American’s can fire. When they get the signal they give Lafitte 40 seconds to return and then open fire. The advancing British never had a chance against the rifles. They go down with the last squeak of the bagpipes.

Following the victory, Lafitte and the Pirates are all big heroes. Everything is going fine for a while at the big party.  Gen. You comes in with Bonnie Brown decking out in Annette’s dress the Marie took on the Corinthian. He confesses to Jackson that he was really a corporal in Napoleons Army. Jackson tells him he was a general at the Battle of New Orleans. Annette seems to recognize the dress. Bonnie Brown tells Lafitte that she could love a man who killed her father. When Migs also shows up to say goodbye and the whole thing falls apart. They ask Lafitte if he had in part in the sinking of the Corinthian, and he says he was their boss. He later says he was responsible. Odd legal phrasing.

The men, led by the coward Mercier, want to hang him on the spot but Jackson stops them. Lafitte asks only for a one hour head start. Lafitte leaves his true love Annette behind and heads to his ship the Raven.

Of course Bonnie Brown is there ready to take her place beside Lafitte as they sail away to more pirating adventures.

World-Famous Short Summary – Wildcat lands a sailor through luck and circumstances.

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Beware the moors

How much do the earrings pirates wear cost? A buck an ear.

What kind of socks do pirates wear? Arrrrgyle.

The Buccaneer (1958)

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