Sunday, July 08, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Yankee Buccaneer (1952)

This afternoon I was catching up with some favorite blogs when I happened across a two-part series at Greenbriar Picture Shows on early '50s Universal pirate films.

I was thus inspired to get out my copy of YANKEE BUCCANEER (1952), one of the films featured in Greenbriar's great photographs, and I enjoyed it very much. It's a typical Universal film of the era, with wonderful color and a deep cast, making perfect light entertainment for a Sunday afternoon.

Commander David Porter (Jeff Chandler) and Lt. David Farragut (Scott Brady) are officers in the U.S. Navy in the 1800s. Their ship is on a secret mission for the U.S. government, with the officers and their crew posing as pirates. The story gets a tiny bit convoluted, involving a lovely Countess (Suzan Ball) and a dastardly Count (Joseph Calleia), but even when the plot is a bit murky, a good time is still had by all.

The film has a nice sense of humor, such as the moment when the very proper Commander Porter sheepishly appears for the first time in pirate garb. (Of course, being Jeff Chandler, he looks quite handsome dressed as a pirate!) Scott Brady brings a dashing charm to his role as the junior officer, a seeming ne'er do well who actually is always looking out for others, even when it makes him look bad. In real life, Brady was the younger brother of actor Lawrence Tierney.

Suzan Ball, a relative of Lucille Ball, was just 18 when YANKEE BUCCANEER was released. YANKEE BUCCANEER cast members Jeff Chandler and David Janssen would attend her wedding to actor Richard Long in 1954. Sadly, Ball died of cancer at the age of 21, just one year after her wedding. She had had a cancerous leg amputated prior to the wedding, and her final role, as Victor Mature's wife in CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (1955), was likewise performed after the amputation; I've seen part of that film and noted that Ball's character is frequently seen in a seated position. She was a lovely young woman.

The supporting cast of YANKEE BUCCANEER includes the aforementioned David Janssen, along with Michael Ansara, Jay Silverheels, Rodolfo Acosta, and George Mathews. Hugh O'Brian is the opening narrator.

The movie was directed by Frederick De Cordova and filmed in Technicolor by Russell Metty. The story and screenplay were by Charles K. Peck, Jr. The movie runs 86 minutes.

YANKEE BUCCANEER is available in the four-film Universal DVD set Pirates of the Golden Age. The other films in the set are AGAINST ALL FLAGS (1952) with Errol Flynn and Maureen O'Hara, BUCCANEER'S GIRL (1950) with Yvonne DeCarlo, and Donald O'Connor in DOUBLE CROSSBONES (1951). This set is currently priced at less than $2 a movie at Amazon, a real bargain.

Update: YANKEE BUCCANEER is now also out as a single-title DVD release in the Universal Vault Series.


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