Film Review: The Black Swan (1942)

Release Date: December 4th, 1942 (USA)
Directed by: Henry King
Written by: Ben Hecht, Seton I. Miller
Based on: The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini
Music by: Alfred Newman
Cast: Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara

20th Century Fox, 85 Minutes


Not to be confused with that movie where Queen Amidala turns into a lesbian mutant bird ballerina, this is the much superior film to carry the name Black Swan. And sure, Aronofsky’s film was fine and dandy but this is swashbuckling! Swashbuckling always wins!

The Black Swan stars the always magnificent Tyrone Power. Another great swashbuckling actor who died way too soon like Errol Flynn. I guess they didn’t choose the swash life but the swash life chose them.

This film sees Power’s character Jamie Waring leave the life of piracy in an effort to help another former pirate, Captain Morgan, clean up the British waters around the Caribbean. This leads Waring into a situation where he must go head-to-head with the Black Swan and Captain Leech, his once friend.

Maureen O’Hara plays Lady Margaret, who is the daughter of the former governor. Waring takes a liking to Margaret but she is set to marry English gentleman Roger Ingram. Ingram however, is feeding information to the pirates. Waring abducts Margaret to save her from marrying Ingram and because he is smitten with her. This leads to Waring and Margaret finding themselves having to work together to outwit the sinister Captain Leech.

The Black Swan won an Oscar for cinematography. It was also nominated for best special effects and the best musical score. All three of those things were great in this film. The cinematography was beautiful. The attention to detail and set design was perfect while the lighting and atmosphere were awe-inspiring for the time. The final battle between the ships was executed marvelously and holds up today.

The sword fighting scenes were also well-executed and some of the best I’ve seen in classic swashbuckling pictures. The only complaint about it, was that the fighting sequences were sped up and the action felt rushed and a bit unnatural. I think it would’ve played better had it been edited in at normal speed. Then again, speeding it up a bit hides imperfections. Also, this was common practice in Hollywood, at the time.

The Black Swan is a fun movie but that’s the whole point of swashbucklers. Tyrone Power is just as good of a leading man in this genre as Errol Flynn. Also, Tyrone Power certainly likes running around with his shirt off a lot more than Flynn.

Rating: 9/10

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