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A Field Day for Flynn

06 Aug

August 6, 1953

H.H.T.
New York Times
Master of Ballantrae at the Paramount

With plenty of good, old-fashioned muscularity crowding a highly pictorial Technicolor frame, at least three-fourths of “The Master of Ballantrae” makes a rousing, spectacular outlet for a pair of estimable adventurers, Errol Flynn and the master himself, Robert Louis Stevenson. In the new Warner Brothers arrival at the Paramount yesterday, Mr. Flynn is leading a fine, predominantly British cast through one of the liveliest, handsomest and most absurd screen free-for alls ever to leave the Victorian talespinner’s pen. If the excessive length and staggeringly heroic exploits can be pinned on Warners and Mr. Stevenson, respectively, no one, assuredly, should question the lavish elasticity of the proceedings. It is played well by the entire cast, and seasoned throughout with some brazen drollery. The film was gleamingly authenticized in such locales as Scotland, England and Sicily. Herb Meadow’s adaptation fittingly charts a cluttered, tumultuous odyssey for the indefatigable protagonist, leader of the fiery Durisdeer clan and fugitive champion of the Stuart Restoration, as he engineers a magnificent career in high-seas piracy and returns home, a wiser, if no less boisterous, rebel. The direction of William Keighley is equally alert and scenic, whether scouring the craggy, heather-strewn battlegrounds of the clansmen or capturing the lusty barbarism of the pirates’ island sanctuary. And since the dialogue is more often pungent than standard, the motivations and characterizations retain a surprising air of conviction, for all the flying kilts, sabers and sails. Mr. Flynn is, in turn, bold, roguish and forgiveably self-satisfied in his best swashbuckler since “The Sea Hawk,” thirteen long years ago. The featured players, a spanking round-up, are crisp, restrained and forceful, one and all, particularly Roger Livesey and and Anthony Steel, and the ladies in the case, Beatrice Campbell and Yvonne Furneaux. Last but not least, the truly stunning color photography of that British ace, Jack Cardiff, provides a canvas that stands as a model of its kind and fully rates the classic archive reserved for Mr. Stevenson, long, perhaps, after Mr. Flynn and company are forgotten. Meanwhile, Mr. Flynn is having himself, as well he might, a field day.

THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE, screen play by Herb Meadow, based upon the Robert Louis Stevenson story directed by William Keighley and presented by Warner Brothers. Jamie Durisdeer . . . . . Errol Flynn, Col. Francis Burke . . . . . Roger Livesey, Henry Durisdeer . . . . . Anthony Steel, Lady Alison . . . . . Beatrice Campbell, Jessie Brown . . . . . Yvonne Furneaux, Lord Durisdeer . . . . . Felix Aylmer, MacKellar . . . . . Mervyn Johns, Arnaud . . . . . Jack Berthier, Mendoza . . . . . Charles Goldner, Maj. Clarendon . . . . . Ralph Truman

— Gentleman Tim

 

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