Starring Milton Sills, Enid Bennett and Wallace Beery
September, 1924

One of the best pictures ever made is "The Sea Hawk." It is big and it is intimate, it has romance and color, it has sweep and it has moments that are vitally thrilling. Rafael Sabatini wrote the novel from which it is adapted, and, therefore, such things as romance and color and sweep were to be expected. Frank Lloyd directed it. Therefore it was expected that such ingredients as the original work contained would be transferred to the screen gracefully.

Mr. Lloyd, with this production and his previous efforts with Norma Talmadge, has been heralded by the second guessers as a great director. He is. And, ten yeas ago, we knew it. At that time, Mr. Lloyd, just a "heavy" man with Otis Turner's Universal company, one day took charge of affairs as director when Mr. Turner left the studio for the East. The difference in the product of the company was remarkable. And Mr. Lloyd has been developing ever since. Today he stands with Messrs. Niblo, Ingram and Griffith. The triumvirate is a quartet. Mr. Lloyd has come into his own, that own which opportunity has been so long in awarding him.

'"The Sea Hawk" is a tale of olden days, when Spain was ruler of the sas, when galleons, manned by hundreds of panting, sweating slaves were the craft of the waves, when chivalry was determined by boats locking oars, their men fighting hand to hand, bow and arrow to bow and arrow, instead of miles apart and by explosion of TNT. Yes, "The Sea Hawk" revives the days of romance and adventure. That seems a trite observation, but it is true. Watching it, we are strangely tempted to forget the commercial present and to live ourselves with the romantic past -- even tho it often does appear romantic to us because we are so remotely removed from it.

Milton Sills covers himself with glory in the name part of the production. Wallace Beery duplicates Mr. Sills' endeavor in the character comedy role. Enid Bennett is a satisfactory heroine, and Lloyod Hughes a sympathetic villain. J.G. Hawks prepared the scenario and, from all appearances, prepared it excellently.

Starring Milton Sills, Enid Bennett and Wallace Beery
August, 1924

This romantic yarn by Rafael Sabatini -- of the corsairs who swept the seven seas in the good old Elizabethan days -- has reached the screen with considerable more vitality than most costume efforts of the silversheet. Indeed, "The Sea Hawk" achieves some genuinely fine moments.

The story itself is of conventional fibre. Sir Oliver Tressilian is kidnapped from his home and sweetheart through the machinations of his weak younger brother. He is sold as a galley slave, comes through many adventures, returns to kidnap his loved one just as she is being forced into a loveless marriage and becomes the terror of the Barbary Coast as the "hawk of the seas." Of course, he returns to England finally and to vindication and happiness. "The Sea Hawk" achieves its novelty through its maritime element. The hand-to-hand combats between the fighting ships of the day are done with spirit and skill by Director Frank Lloyd. These moments, in fact, seem to be the best he has given the screen since he made "The Tale of Two Cities."

These galley moments are remarkable. The huge battle craft with their masses of almost naked humanity chained to the oars, sweltering under the hot Mediterranean sun, are graphic in their realism. Here Milton Sills is at his best as Sir Oliver, a helpless prisoner chained to his task.

"The Sea Hawk" has varying qualities. It is too long. The sea battles tend to lose through repetition. But the picture has strength and holds the interest. Mr. Sills has the fattest role of the screen year as the Hawk and he probably does as well as any one in the films could with the part. It never falls below being adequate, anyway. There are times when Wallace Beery comes very close to stealing the picture in the serio-comic role of a freebooting scoundrel.

starring Milton Sills, Enid Bennett and Wallace Beery
August, 1924

The golden days of the sixteenth century when pirates sailed the high seas are unfolded in a richly romantic picture, "The Sea Hawk" (First National), adapted with fidelity and appreciation for its surging dramatic quality from Rafael Sabatini's stirring novel. To watch the film unfold is to be transported to a glorious yesterday. As a novel it offered limitations in so far as the speaking stage is concerned. Its drama covers spaces far too wide to be confined within the proscenium arch of a theater. But translated into celluloid, it presents unlimited opportunities for expression ­ expression that has been taken the fullest advantage of by an imaginative and sympathetic director.

The program offers all kinds of statistics. We have read them before. But the promise is kept ­ and these statistics are fully realized and stand for something substantial. It is easy to see that months were occupied in designing the piratical craft ­ and the costumes specially fashioned to fit with the period of the story and the characters who wore them. These explanatory words of publicity could be uttered in behalf of a poor picture ­ but reading them here and then having them substantiated, one can appreciate that Frank Lloyd has created something that stirs the pulse and stimulates the imagination.

In scenes crowded with action and incident, reaching from the coast of Cornwall to the Barbary coast, from England to Africa, there is presented a pulsating drama ­ that is always picturesque, always pertinent to it subject matter. But the story does not begin to show its vigor until its theme, plot and characters are fully planted. And this takes some time ­ with the result that the early episodes become tedious. When it introduces its sea chapters, it becomes a vivid play of action. We are drawn at that point right into the story and live it.

It's the most stirring ­ most fascinating sea story every told by a camera. Up to the moments when the sails are being lifted for Sabatini's romance, it is conventional and uninspired. Which is excusable to plant the favorite formula of costume stories ­ that of swordplay dividing a house and splitting a romance asunder. Once Milton Sills, the English baronet, falsely accused of murder, is shanghaied by a freebooter bribed by the nobleman's guilty brother ­ the real assassin ­ and carried out to sea, the adventure and romance mount and we sit back enthralled by it all. The ship is captured by the Spaniards, and the nobleman is condemned to be a galley slave. He becomes disillusioned ­ a figure of hate toward the ways of Christendom. And the memory of his sweetheart does not soften him.

The action soars with thrilling high lights ­ reaching the crest with an unusually realistic scene as the shanghaied baronet toils at the oars. The scene is positively breath-taking and it is finely executed ­ and the result is one of the most stirring moments ever experienced in watching a motion picture. There he is chained naked to the oar of this Spanish galleon with his unfortunate comrades ­ all of them composing a mass of writhing, sweating bodies. The scene engenders deep sympathy ­ and at the same time one catches the dramatic significance ­ the surging pathos of it all. When his rescue is effected by the Moors who board the galley from a vessel of their own, he becomes their leader, the scourge of the Spanish Main.

There are other scenes nearly as compelling as the slaves at the oars ­ but that one scene alone is enough to attract anyone to this absorbing picture.
Thru various vicissitudes the story progresses until the baronet is vindicated, wins the girls of his heart and returns to his Cornwall manor. But before the conclusion is reached, we see naval battles featuring merciless attacks by boarding parties that are novel and picturesque ­ and we see them at dawn, and at twilight projected thru marvelous photography. We follow the Sea Hawk's triumphal return to Algeria ­ we follow his daring adventure into his own England and the kidnapping of his beloved ­ we follow the auction of the slaves ­ with his sweetheart coming to him as the highest bidder. To save her from the high potentate, he weds her according to Mohammedan law. To balance the sea shots we are offered street scenes in Algiers rich in atmosphere and background.

The story is told in sweeping colors - and easily outdistances all photoplays of adventure by its majestic scope, its thrills, it settings ­ and best of all its daring sea pictures and sea fights that suggest the glamour of the days of Sir Francis Drake. The director has overlooked nothing in making he story accurate and picturesque. The action and individual episodes hold us in suspense. The later scenes become repetitious, but it carries such graphic incident ­ such conflict and adventure, that we become oblivious of our surroundings.

Frank Lloyd has made a rich picture indeed, one that enters the charmed circle of better things. He has shot his action from every angle to catch the full dramatic values. Whether he is on the high seas or ashore, he handles his scenes artistically, dramatically ­ and with complete confidence in himself. And the amazing part of it ­ the picture was made in the vicinity of Catalina Island off the coast of California. His Algerian episodes are much more suggestive than many actual exteriors of that country which have been captured by the camera.

So compelling is the action here that one is unmindful of authentic backgrounds. The characters (none of them stereotypes ­ that's how well they are played) dominate the plot, and the plot moves vigorously after a slow start straight thru to its climax.

The interpretation is excellent ­ and among the cast six or seven stand out prominently for their portrayals. Milton Sills has never done anything so well as his performance of the Seat Hawk. Come to think of it, he never had such a dramatic role to play as this one. His familiar scowl is entirely in place here ­ as the scenes call for a grim intensity except for some occasional quiet romantic moments when his expression is softened. Wallace Beery, as the colorful freebooter, gives one of his best performances. He has the comedy relief that the picture affords ­ and he makes the rough old seadog a lovable scalawag. He is a pirate by trade ­ a scoundrel by nature ­ and yet one extends him the glad heart

The other characters are finely portrayed. We mention Enid Bennett, Marc MacDermott (who has a new lease on life with these costume affairs ­ and who must have stepped right out of the Pickford picture into this one), Frank Currier and Albert Prisco. The latter has but a few moments as a galley slave ­ but his performance of a Moorish captive will be remembered.

The entire characters are finely grouped ­ and the backgrounds and costumes lend color to them. We recommend "The Sea Hawk." It glorifies the adventurous yesterdays on the Spanish Main. You will enjoy it ­ for it contains appeal.

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