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With: Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, Moultrie Kelsall, Terence Morgan, James Kenney, James Robertson Justice, Denis O'Dea, Richard Hearne, Michael Dolan, Stanley Baker, Alan Tilvern, Alec Mango, Christopher Lee, John Witty, Michael Goodliffe, Eugene Deckers, Ingeborg Wells, Amy Veness, Kynaston Reeves, Ronald Adam
Written by: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, Aeneas MacKenzie, C.S. Forester, based on a novel by C.S. Forester
Directed by: Raoul Walsh
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 117
Date: 04/10/1951

Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

War Breeds Strange Allies

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Captain Horatio Hornblower showed the 64 year-old director Raoul Walsh still able to conjure up a rousing good action picture, even in color and with a largish budget. Gregory Peck stars as the title character, a famous Napoleon-era British captain created in the novels of C.S. Forester (who also wrote The African Queen). As the film begins, the good captain is on a secret mission to supply arms to a megalomaniac dictator who has declared war against Spain. Unfortunately, Hornblower does not know that just one week prior, Spain joined Britain as an ally against France. So Hornblower must storm back into battle, risking everything to stop the madman. From there, he winds up transporting the beautiful Lady Barbara Wellesley (Virginia Mayo), a released prisoner in Panama, back to England, where she will be married. Unfortunately, she and the captain (also married) fall in love during the trip. (He nurses her back to health from a terrible fever.) Pining away for each other, the captain goes back to war, and figures out just how and where several missing French ships have gone. He's captured, but escapes, returning home in time for a happy ending. Walsh was clever enough to know that this kind of episodic storytelling works without a constant plot thrust, and it allows time to relax and get to know the characters -- as well as the ship, the ocean and the air. The color cinematography by Guy Green is deluxe, but never feels too pompous or ornate for the film's masculine gusto. And, at 117 minutes, it never feels too long. It's a lot of fun, and a perfect companion piece to the equally fun Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). Christopher Lee apparently appears as a Spanish captain, but I did not spot him.

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