Cast & Crew
James Robertson Justice
In 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars, British Capt. Horatio Hornblower sets sail from England on the H.M.S. Lydia , carrying a cargo of muskets and ammunition. Known only to Hornblower, the Lydia 's mission is to deliver the arms to a group of Central American rebels led by Don Julian Alvarado, hoping that they will distract French ally Spain from an attack on England. Hornblower is a strict disciplinarian and brooks no disrespect from his crew, but his scrupulous fairness has won the love and admiration of the men who sail with him. Before the Lydia reaches her destination, the ship is becalmed and the men become ill from scurvy. Although Gundarson, the ship's surgeon, begs Hornblower to land and take on fresh supplies, Hornblower refuses to jeopardize his mission. Eventually, as Hornblower had predicted, the wind returns, and the ship reaches its destination, where Hornblower meets with Alvarado, called El Supremo by his ragtag followers. Although shocked by the deranged Alvarado's behavior, Hornblower delivers the weapons to him. When the Spanish ship Natividad anchors nearby, Hornblower and his crew board the ship at night, and after a brief fight, the Spanish surrender. After placing the Spanish officers in the Lydia 's dungeon to save them from being killed by Alvarado, Hornblower gives the ship and its cargo to the rebels. Later, off the coast of Panama, the Lydia encounters a Spanish ship flying a white flag and learns that Spain and England are now allied against Napoleon. On board the Spanish ship are the Duke of Wellington's sister, Lady Barbara Wellesley, and her maid Hebe, who are escaping a yellow fever epidemic. With great reluctance, Hornblower agrees to convey the women to England, but not before he recaptures the Natividad . This time, there are many casualties and the Natividad is completely destroyed. During the fighting, Barbara cares for the wounded and wins Hornblower's respect. As the Lydia continues her return journey, Barbara becomes ill with fever. Hornblower nurses the sick woman himself because he fears a yellow fever epidemic on board. Barbara's illness proves to be the less serious swamp fever, and she recovers completely. Soon, Barbara and Hornblower have fallen in love. Although Barbara is engaged to Rear Adm. Sir Rodney Leighton, she reveals her feelings to Hornblower, who discloses that he is married. On the Lydia 's return to England, the crew is greeted by a jealous Leighton, who chastises Hornblower for failing to capture the Natividad . When Hornblower arrives at home, he learns that his wife has died giving birth to his son. Barbara's wedding to Leighton takes place as planned and in due course, Hornblower is assigned to a ship under Leighton's command. Defying Leighton's orders, Hornblower captures a French ship, and then deduces the location of a small fleet of French ships, which he manages to disable. However, as Hornblower leaves the cove, his own ship is demolished by the French land forces, and his crew swims ashore, where they are captured. Hornblower and the badly wounded Lt. William Bush, accompanied by seaman Quist, are taken to Paris to be tried as pirates. On the way, the men manage to escape. After disguising themselves as Dutch soldiers, they discover a ship carrying English prisoners. With the prisoners' help, Hornblower, Bush and Quist take over the ship and sail for England. Later, Quist tells Hornblower that he will open a pub with his prize money, which he intends to name in Hornblower's honor, and Bush is promoted to captain. When Hornblower returns home to visit his son, he is surprised by a visit from the widowed Barbara, whom he heartily embraces.
James Robertson Justice
M. [moultrie] Kelsall
Cmdr. I. T. Clark R.n.
C. S. Forester
Arthur S. Rhoades
Captain Horatio Hornblower
Hornblower is given the task of delivering weapons to a Central American dictator who's a British ally in the fight against Spain. When England and Spain make peace, Hornblower is stuck in a desperate fight against a tough shore fort and the dictator's warship (captured from the Spanish). He's also trying to protect Lady Barbara (Virginia Mayo), the Duke of Wellington's sister who is quite sick with a tropical illness and must be taken back to England. To make matters worse, the war with France has not eased at all, and Hornblower soon finds his ship drawn into that conflict, as well.
Gregory Peck had been attracted to the character of Hornblower because he's not the usual hero. "I thought Hornblower was an interesting character," Peck has said. "I never believe in heroes who are unmitigated and unadulterated heroes, who never know the meaning of fear." Much of the supporting cast is British, the result of the Warner Brothers' decision to film in England because they had money in that country that couldn't be exported. (The studio had originally tried to get a Hornblower film going in 1940, even considering William Wyler and John Huston as directors, but had to wait until after the war and thus the frozen funds.) The sea scenes, though, were shot off the coast of southern France, using old ships that were found rotting away in a harbor and then refurbished. Lady Barbara was also supposed to be played by a British actress but studio chief Jack Warner decided to go with Virginia Mayo instead, because he thought she was more attractive. For such a complicated shooting schedule, there couldn't have been a better choice for director than Raoul Walsh, a wonderful action specialist who also had a smart side. You can spot future Dracula Christopher Lee in an early role as a Spanish captain.
During filming, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret decided to stop by and observe the production. Unfortunately, they chose a day when Gregory Peck was off but instead, were able to watch an excitingÐand loudÐbattle scene. The production received a letter of thanks from the royal duo.
Director: Raoul Walsh
Producer: Gerry Mirchell, Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Ivan Goff, Aeneas MacKenzie, Ben Roberts, based on the novel by C.S. Forester
Cinematography: Guy Green
Editor: Jack Harris
Art Direction: Thomas N. Morahan
Music: Robert Farnon
Cast: Gregory Peck (Capt. Horatio Hornblower, R.N.), Virginia Mayo (Lady Barbara Wellesley), Robert Beatty (Lt. William Bush), Moultrie Kelsall (Lt. Crystal), Terence Morgan (2nd Lt. Gerard).
by Lang Thompson
Captain Horatio Hornblower
Irish actor Denis O'Dea's first name is listed as "Dennis" in the onscreen credits. C. S. Forester's novel Captain Horatio Hornblower was comprised of the novels Beat to Quarters, Ship of the Line and Flying the Colours, all of which were published independently at earlier dates. According to Cue, a replica of the Lydia was built on a sound stage and forty members of the Jock Easton Stunt Team were hired to enact sailors. Contemporary sources add the following information about the film: Parts of the film, which was based in England so that Warner Bros. could use funds frozen by the British government, were shot on location in the South of France, in the Mediterranean and in Rye, England. A sequence was shot aboard Lord Nelson's flagship, H.M.S. Victory, in Portsmouth, England.
Virginia Mayo's casting was protested by British critics, who believed that the role of "Lady Barbara" should have been played by a British actress. According to modern sources, Gregory Peck's choice for "Lady Barbara" was English actress Margaret Leighton, but Jack Warner vetoed her in favor of the more voluptuous Mayo. Captain Horatio Hornblower marked the motion picture debut of Australian-born actress Diane Cilento, who was not seen in the film but provided the offscreen voice of Hornblower's wife. Cilento's first onscreen appearance was in the 1952 film Wings of Danger (see below).
Peck and Mayo reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre production of Captain Horatio Hornblower on January 21, 1952. A television movie based on the Forester novels ran on British television in 1963, and Hornblower, a four-part series also based on the novels, was broadcast over British television network ITV in 1998. In 1998, a British television series, Horatio Hornblower, starring Ioan Gruffudd, was released and began airing on the United States cable network A&E in 1999. As of spring 2005, eight episodes have been produced.