Rowland V. Lee’s Captain Kidd, starring Oscar Winner Charles Laughton in the title role, is a highly dramatized take on the demise of the Scottish sailor sentenced & put to death in 1701 for piracy & murder. Although in the film he is clearly depicted as a pirate, a contingent of contemporary historians challenge the evidence supporting that reputation and, by extension, his execution. William Kidd never denied being a privateer – essentially a marine mercenary enterprise – but went to the gallows denying all charges: The murder of his gunner, William Moore, and 5 counts of piracy. He was actually hanged twice because the first rope broke. Upon his death, his corpse was suspended over the Thames River for 3 years as warning of the punishment for piracy by King William III’s court.
As for the movie, it opens with Captain Kidd plundering & laying waste to British Lord Blayne’s ship, The Twelve Apostles, off the coast of Madagascar. He buries its bounty, a treasure chest, and schemes to retrieve it on a later mission. Kidd employs gentlemen’s gentlemen Cary Shadwell (Reginald Owen) to teach him proper etiquette. He then presents himself to & convinces King William III (Henry Daniell) that he’s an aristocratic seaman whose ship fell prey to an attack by Admiral Lord Blayne’s ship, The Twelve Apostles, after the King’s ship turned pirate. He persuades the King to commission him to escort the treasure ship Quedagh Merchant en route from India back through the pirate waters of Madagascar to England in exchange for Lord Blayne’s forfeited estate. On board the Merchant are Lord Fallsworth (Lumsden Hare in an uncredited role) & his daughter Lady Ann (Barbara Britton). The King is so swayed by Kidd’s ruse that he even agrees to allow Kidd to man his ship with imprisoned pirates awaiting death. Included in this lot is Adam Mercy, portrayed by the dashing Randolph Scott. And Kidd’s mate Orange Povey (the great John Carradine), who helped bury The Twelve Apostles treasure, joins on.
Among composer Werner Janssen’s 5 Oscar nominations was his nomination in 1946 for Best Score for a Drama or Comedy for Captain Kidd at the 18th Academy Awards. You could say he had a very good Oscars year in 1946, since he was also nominated for the same Oscar for his scores for the films Guest in the House (44) and The Southerner (45).
[In pirate voice] “Now then, me bullies: Would you rather do the gallows dance & hang in chains ’til the crows pluck your eyes from your rotten skulls or watch Captain Kidd?” Well, which is ye pleasure? ARR maties, you’d better watch the link to the full movie below if ye know what’s good for ya! I give it 3 Jolly Rogers!