The 1940 version of Sea Hawk takes it’s name from the 1915 novel by Raphael Sabatini.
There was a 1924 silent film of the same name.
The 1924 version is faithful to Sabatini’s book. Except for it’s title, the 1940 version has very little if anything to do with Sabatini’s novel.
Errol became an overnight superstar starring in Sabatini’s “Captain Blood”.
An original plan was for Errol to star in a faithful production of Sabatini’s novel, as a follow-up to Captain Blood, but delays changed plans.
Seton Miller, a prominent screenwriter, who worked on several Flynn films, including Robin Hood, wrote “Beggars of the Sea”, based somewhat on Francis Drake. It’s that story that formed the non-Sabatini film in which Flynn eventually starred.
Though Errol Flynn’s character is known as Geoffrey Thorpe, he was actually predominantly a representation of Sir Francis Drake.
The Sea Hawk was deliberately designed to help rally support for the defense of Britain against Nazi Germany.
It was co-written by anti-fascist (some say pro-Communist) screenwriter, Howard Koch, who was later blacklisted and used the alias Peter Howard. Koch was also a writer for Sergeant York (1941) and Casablanca (1942).
It was one of Winston Churchill’s two most favorite movies, the other Being “Lady Hamilton”.
Philip of Spain is portrayed in a manner evoking Adolf Hitler.
The Spanish Armada is an allusion to the Nazi War Machine.
The film uses Nazi symbolism during the Inquisition scene.
This was Michael Curtiz’s tenth movie with Flynn, who hated making movies with Curtiz.
Curtiz knew and directed Errol’s wife Lili Damita in Europe, years before Errol met her.
Sea Hawk has strong plot similarities to the 1937 film, Fire Over England, starring Flora Robson, Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh.
Flora Robson plays Elizabeth I in Fire Over England, also.
Her performance in Fire Over England helped Vivien Leigh secure her role as Scarlet in Gone with the Wind.
Brenda Marshall’s real name was Ardis Ankerson. She was born in The Phillipines. She was married to William Holden for thirty years and was Matron of Honor at the Wedding of Nancy & Ronald Reagan.
Olivia De Havilland turned down the part of Dona Maria to avoid Type-Casting, and because she was at odds with Warner Bros. over Gone with the Wind.
Basil Rathbone turned down the part of Lord Wolfington, also to avoid being type-cast.
Claude Rains played in ten feature films, and one short, under the direction Michael Curtiz. He received four Best Supporting Actor nominations.
Henry Daniell, who played the villainous Lord Wolfington, is nowhere in the league of Basil Rathbone as a fencer. Fencing legend Fred Cavens thus handled much of the famous duel between Flynn and Daniell. Errol’s cutting of the candles helped obscure that Fred Cavens stood in as Wolfington.
This is one of Erich Korngold’s greatest and most exciting scores. He was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Alfred Newman, who scored “Tin Pan Alley”.
The title music of the cartoon Peter Pan & the Pirates is derived from Korngold’s Sea Hawk.
The scene where Errol is knighted on the Albatross replicates a famous depiction of Queen Elizabeth I knighting Francis Drake.
Scenes from the 1924 silent film version of The Sea-Hawk were used in this 1940 version of Sea Hawk.
Sol Polito’s black and white cinematography is very highly regarded by film experts and historians. He worked with Curtiz 14 times.
The Sea Hawk was re-released by Warner Bros. in 1947 on a double bill with The Sea Wolf. Fifteen or so minutes were cut from the original film for that re-release, mostly footage with Donald Crisp.
Elizabeth’s speech at the end of the movie was in obvious reference to the threat of the Third Reich against England and the world.
There was a plan to end the movie with a clip of WWII British ships, but ultimately that was abandoned.
Production costs were approximately $1.7M, with possibly double that taken at the box office.
Some regard Errol’s Sea Hawk the greatest “pirate” movie ever made. Others regard Captain Blood as such.
The film received four Oscar Nominations: Art Direction (B&W) – Anton Grot; Original Musical Score – Erich Korngold; Sound recording Nathan Levinson; Special Effects – Byron Haskins & Nathan Levinson
The 1947 release of The Sea Hawk in France was a huge success.
— Gentleman Tim