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4.4 out of 5 stars22
4.4 out of 5 stars
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**********CONTAINS SPOILERS**********

"Captains Courageous" made in 1937 was directed by Victor Fleming, and is based on the book of the same name written in 1897 by Rudyard Kipling. Both the book and the film have survived remarkably well and still seem fresh today. It is one of the earlier examples of the coming of age films, and is still arguably the finest.

The film concerns the story of 15 year old Harvey Cheyne, the spoilt son of an often absent business tycoon father played by Melvyn Douglas. The boy due to over indulgence on the Fathers side, is a rude inconsiderate individual who cares for no one but himself. But all this changes dramatically when he falls overboard from a cruise ship into the Atlantic near the rich fishing waters of the Grand Banks. He is fortunate to be picked up by Manuel, played by Spencer Tracy a fisherman of Portuguese descent from the fishing boat "We're Here", captained by the wily old veteran Disko Troop played by Lionel Barrymore, in one of his most colourful roles. Harvey soon finds that all his money is of no use whatsoever on the boat and he is unable to persuade the Captain to return to port. He eventually has to work long hours and toil hard for his keep in a low paid job. Harvey also has to learn a few hard knocks in a sharp learning curve, but gradually he earns the grudging repect of the crew and is accepted into their hard bitten fraternity. He becomes great friends with Manuel as they fish the dangerous waters for halibut, and he is grief stricken when Manuel tragically dies at sea. On return to shore his Father finds the spoilt brat has changed to a considerate, mature young man who places high value on his new found cameraderie.

The film has a wonderful cast that also includes John Carradine as a crew member who Harvey struggles to win over. Spencer Tracy won the academy award for best actor in his role. His fair hair was darkened and his piercing blue eyes were not detectable in black and white so he was able to plausibly play a man of Portuguese descent. The film is also a fitting tribute to the many fishermen who have lost their lives on the ocean going "down to the sea in ships". The final scenes in the church are a fitting tribute to these brave people.

The film is a good morality fable. Money is certainly not everything as Harvey finds out. We are shown that there are far more important things in life. A good reputation is worth more than gold or silver. Perhaps we too should think of others before ourselves, as the crew demonstrated. I would happily have thrown all my three children into the ocean if I knew they would have been picked up by the gallant crew of the "Were Here". I would thoroughly recommend this film which has a real heart.
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on 6 January 2010
We all get used to CGI and surround sound,with their bells and whistles.This film stands on it'own merits:Great story,warm,sensitive acting of the finest kind,feel good, feel sad.It's not mushy nor sentimental(True Mr Traceys' accent does not come from the Algarve)but what a performence,not just from the leads,but all the cast.This should be watched on a Sunday afternoon with goodies and a sturdy hankerchief, but it will set you up for the week,and should remind all what storytelling must be about.
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This was a joy to watch again after so many years;some films never lose their impact and quality.

Fisherman Spencer Tracey plays the surrogate father to a spoilt brat(Freddie Bartholomew)who he fishes from the ocean after the boy is lost overboard from a passing liner.The fishing vessel is at sea for 3 months so boy must knuckle under and work for his keep until port is reached.

The ocean fishing scenes are filmed breath-takingly and any sailing enthusiast will love the virility of the montage: you can feel you're there on board the boat.And not a CGI in sight!

Tracey's simple home-grown philosophy clashes with Bartholomew's spoilt,cheating rich mans son but slowly advances the boy to a higher level over the season.It's somewhat improbable,but director Victor Fleming makes it work with clever use of simple life-lessons while showing the rigors of life on board the fishing boat.

Superb acting from all the cast,many of them big stars of the 1930's through to the 1950's.

Special mention to Freddie Bartholomew:born in England,his diction was perfect and a fine example of how to speak the English language perfectly.Although a child star,sadly partly due to court battles and litigation over many troubled years his acting career didn't flourish into adulthood.

To me its astounding how a film originating in 1937 can still bring a tear to the eye three-quarters of a century later.

As per usual the dvd jacket has a prominent colour illustration: the film is in black/white.
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on 27 December 2010
This show has a lot of meaning and the stars performed well in this classic, The story is fabulous and a show that can be watched over and over again. Spencer Tracy gives a brillant performance and so does freddie Bartholomew its an action and suspensed wraped up in one. Worth buying and keeping to treasure even in black and white.
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on 16 January 2014
Love old films? Then this one's for you, I remembered watching this as a child and enjoyed it just as much as an adult, a bit expensive for an old film but worth spoiling yourself for, Spencer Tracy sings "don't cry little fish" although his Portuguese accent is a bit dodgy, Classic!
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on 4 April 2009
A film about a rich spoilt young boy washed overboard a luxury liner whilst on holiday with his rich and inattentive father. He is rescued by a portuguese fisherman (Spencer Tracy) who is working on a whaling boat on their way to the fishing grounds for three months. It is a story of a boy becoming a man, and understanding those values that ultimately matter in life, of discovering what it is to love and be loved. You will need a box of tissues by your side so be warned. An excellent family film not to be missed.
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A rich brat (Freddy Bartholomew) is dysfunctional due to his environment. There is always Sheryl Temple type stories of some kid being orphaned and mistreated. Luckily this is not one of those movies. Everyone except the kid has a full understanding of the problem and good solutions. The school authorities say that he has good potential, His father takes a direct interest and it was just unforeseen circumstances that changed his life. He falls off the ship and is rescued by a fisherman. He must stay on board for the duration of the season. This makes a natural environment to learn bonding and character.

It is not the outcome, but the process, which intrigues us and some unforgettable acting by Spencer Tracy.
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on 7 September 2011
I have always liked this film and remember watching it as a child with my father.
Spencer Tracey is great in quite an unusual role.
A spoilt child (Freddie Bartholemew) learns the hard way about how to treat people.
It's a great story, well acted- so please buy and enjoy it on a dark evening curled up by the fire with a glass of wine or two. But keep a few tissues handy- it always makes me cry!
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on 14 July 2014
I love this film because it reminds me of happy times with my late father it was one of his favourite films. The story and actors are brilliant. My son watched it for the first time and i noticed tears. If you've not seen this i would recommend it.
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on 14 April 2011
I remember seing this film many many years ago; when I saw it on Amazon
I had to have it. Needless to say, I cried as much as I did on the first viewing.
A must for Spencer Tracy fans.
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