Released – May, 1937
Directed By – Victor Fleming
Starring – Spencer Tracy (Manuel Fidello), Freddie Bartholomew (Harvey Cheyne), Lionel Barrymore (Disko Troop), Melvyn Douglas (Frank Burton Cheyne).
Description – Again – as in the stirring Mutiny On the Bounty – you live the roaring drama of men against the sea. You share the struggles, the heartaches, and the laughter of courageous souls who leave the women they love to dare the wrath of the angry waves…
Harvey Cheyne is the spoiled son of his business tycoon and absentee father Frank Burton Cheyne. Shipped off to a private school, where he is shunned by his classmates, young Harvey is suspended due to his bad behavior.
Realizing that his son needs closer attention, his father decides to take Harvey along on a trans-Atlantic business trip. During the voyage Harvey displays arrogance to all around him, and during a prank gone wrong falls overboard off the coast of Newfoundland.
He is rescued by Portuguese-American fisherman Manuel Fidello and taken aboard the fishing schooner. Harvey tries to convince the captain of the schooner, Disko Troop, that he is wealthy and should immediately be taken to shore.
Captain Troop, not believing his story, refuses and puts Harvey to work at a low paying job for the three month duration of the voyage. Also on the schooner is the captain’s son Dan who gradually develops a friendship with Harvey as the young man begins to learn the ways of working on a ship.
With the guidance of Manuel, and the influence of the other tough crew-mates, young Harvey begins to learn a hard lesson. His former habits of demanding special treatment, lying, cheating, and whining to get what he wants are of no value at sea where every man, young or old, must pull their own weight.
Slowly, Manuel begins to become the father figure that Harvey had always wanted and needed. But, the hardest life-lesson is yet to be learned as tragedy looms in the near future for young Harvey.
NOTABLE: Captains Courageous received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy), and was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing, Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
This motion picture would become the first MGM film to be shown on television, in 1955.
Spencer Tracy hesitated before finally accepting the role of Manuel Fidello because the role required him to sing in several scenes and to have his hair curled. Tracy’s new hairdo prompted a great deal of kidding from his actor friends with Joan Crawford referring to him a Harpo.
Captains Courageous was one of Lionel Barrymore’s last films. Degenerative arthritis was beginning to cripple him. The next year in You Can’t Take it with You, Barrymore hobbled around with crutches and shortly after that film was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
When Spencer Tracy was presented his Oscar for this film he was shocked to find that the statue was inscribed to Dick Tracy. The very embarrassed Academy replaced the statuette.