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Captain Blood: A Film is Born

February 16, 2012

There are many ways to illustrate how Captain Blood is a production of the old Hollywood studio film system.

Movie poster for the film Captain Blood, 1935.

The first major indicator in defining Captain Blood as a Hollywood studio system film production is through its release date of December 1935. The release occurred at the height of the Studio Era, which lasted for fifteen years from 1930 to 1945. During this time, studios in Hollywood employed vertical integration controlling the way films were made from production to distribution. It was a method employed to maximize profits. This is one sure way to categorize Captain Blood as a Hollywood studio system film.

Due to its popularity and success, Errol Flynn, who plays the lead, and Olivia de Havilland, who portrays Arabella Bishop, became overnight sensations for their performances in Captain Blood. Shortly thereafter, Warner Brothers began pairing Flynn and de Havilland in more movie projects.

Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in Captain Blood, 1935.

According to, this resulted in seven other films: The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four’s a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941).

They Died with Their Boots On is the only Flynn-de Havilland film that was not directed by Michael Curtiz. It was directed by Raoul Walsh, who directed Flynn and de Havilland in other films, as well, and separate from each other. Nevertheless, it was still a top-grossing film when it was released in 1941. The public had really embraced Flynn and de Havilland as a Hollywood screen couple. This is another big indicator that Captain Blood became part of a formula that the Hollywood picture-making machine quickly embodied.

A third indicator that Captain Blood is a Hollywood studio system film is the Hungarian-American film director Michael Curtiz, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Aside from pairing Flynn and de Havilland as actors in the same films, Warner Brothers made sure to factor in Curtiz as the director. This became a formula that Warner Brothers continued to implement, as long as the pictures were successful.

Captain Blood was the first time that Curtiz, Flynn and de Havilland worked together in a film. Needless to say, Warner Brothers took note of how profitable the film became. Warner Brothers soon realized this and continued to write and produce films to include all three talents. It was not just the pairing of the actors but of the actors with Curtiz, as well.

In about seven years, Curtiz, Flynn and de Havilland completed seven films together from 1935 and 1941. This does not include a few other films during the same time period that do not include each other. The way in which Warner Brothers kept Flynn, de Havilland and Curtiz working with each other and with other talents is indicative the old Hollywood studio system, where actors, writers and directors were considered to be more like property than artists. Their contracts were exclusive to one studio.

The lifetime gross for Captain Blood was not available on, although lists a budget of $1.2 million.


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