Morgan the Pirate
Cast & Crew
In the late 17th century, a freeborn Englishman, Henry Morgan, is enslaved by the Spaniards in Panama and sold to Doña Inez, daughter of the governor. Morgan falls in love with his mistress, and her father punishes him by sentencing him to a life of hard labor aboard a Spanish galleon. Morgan leads his fellow slaves in mutiny, takes over the ship, and becomes a pirate. Before long his daring exploits on the Spanish Main arouse the interest of King Charles II of England, and Morgan agrees to attack only Spanish vessels in return for English ships and men. In one raid he captures Doña Inez, but when she spurns him he permits her to return to Panama. Once there, she warns her father of Morgan's planned invasion of Panama, and the pirate ships are easily sunk or routed by the alerted Spanish. Undaunted, Morgan leads his men overland and attacks the city from the rear. The maneuver succeeds, Panama falls to the pirates, and Doña Inez finally admits her love for Morgan.
Franco Delli Colli
Tonino Delli Colli
Joseph E. Levine
Morgan the Pirate
While Reeves's physique was clearly his best asset, his acting talent, though extremely limited, was serviceable for the low brow fare he made for the action-adventure market. You certainly won't find any cinematic masterpieces in his filmography but some of his movies still hold an undeniable appeal for their exotic kitsch appeal and colorful art direction and Morgan the Pirate  is one of his most lavish productions. Co-directed by Andre de Toth and Primo Zeglio, the film is based on the exploits of the famous Welsh buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan, who built the largest private war-fleet in history, ravaged the Cuban and American coasts in 1670 and defeated Spanish forces in the Caribbean. One of his most famous achievements was the daring capture of Panama in 1671 and although he was eventually caught and sent to England to be tried on piracy charges, he was instead proclaimed a hero and knighted. He spent his final years as the acting governor of Jamaica.
Morgan the Pirate, produced by Joseph E. Levine, plays fast and loose with the historical facts, introducing dual love interests, Dona Inez (Valerie Lagrange), the aristocratic daughter of Spanish Governor Guzman (Ivo Garrani), and Concepcion (Chelo Alonso), mistress of rival pirate L'Olonnais (Armand Mestral). The movie also presents Morgan and his scruffy, fun-loving companions as devil-may-care action heroes and avoids any suggestion that in reality they were little more than brutal criminals, raping, pillaging and committing heinous acts that would make any infamous pirate proud.
Veteran director Andre de Toth (Pitfall , House of Wax ) had just completed a long stint with Warner Bros. television, working on TV series such as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Bronco, The Westerner and others, and wanted a break when he received an offer to direct Morgan the Pirate. Although he had no illusions about the type of film he would be making or that it would enhance his career, de Toth saw the film as an opportunity to enjoy the good life in Italy and be paid for it...and he was right. He had such a good time, he remained there for a few years, following up Morgan the Pirate with two more costume spectacles, The Mongols  and Gold for the Caesars . In order to qualify for government subsidies on these three productions, de Toth had to share screen credit with other Italian directors even though he was the actual director but he didn't mind. In fact he viewed this chapter in his life with both amusement and cynicism in his biography Fragments: "With the enormous world-wide success of Hercules with Steve Reeves, a legion of steroid pumped-up American strong men invaded Italy and roamed the jungle led by a new breed, the so called 'fly-by-night' producers who sneaked onto and pirated other productions' sets at night and - if they weren't caught and chased off in a few hours - actually finished their epics. Tatars met the Vikings, chasing girls, and if it was nudey enough, they were successful. Blood covered the incredibility...Rome became the film capitol of the world and Italy the international tax dodgers' heaven, where tax evasion always had been considered an honorable sport."
De Toth doesn't mention Joseph E. Levine by name, but his mention of 'fly-by-night' producers could easily apply to the self-made mogul whose shark-like business dealings and often crude behavior are as legendary as infamous Hollywood despots such as Harry Cohn. Reeves had first hand knowledge of Levine's exploitive nature ever since the first Hercules film. In an interview with Roy Frumkes in The Perfect Vision Magazine, Reeves recalled one memorable confrontation with Levine: "On Morgan, if the picture did over a certain amount at the box office, I would get an extra $50,000. The picture made well over what it was supposed to, and he wouldn't come up with the money. So I sued him, and in the pre-trial his lawyer advised him to pay me, so I got what I was owed from him that way. Then he came to Rome and threw a big party in his suite at the Excelsior Hotel. And he served something like spaghetti and meatballs. Now in show business you have to protect yourself, and what I always did, for prestige, would be to have my name above all other names, 70 percent the size of the film's title. Otherwise they could put it at the bottom under 20 other names, at 10 percent the size of the title. So I did that...Joe Levine wanted his name as big as mine or bigger, and I said, 'No way. You made the contract, I'm the star of this picture.' So he got ticked off and threw his spaghetti up in the air, and it was hanging off the crystal chandelier. If he didn't get everything his way, he got angry."
Largely due to de Toth's direction, Morgan the Pirate is a lively, fast-paced entertainment with moments of tongue-in-cheek humor that is several notches in quality above the usual turgid, Italian-made spectacle. The striking cinematography, filmed in garish Eastmancolor, is by the award-winning Tonino Delli Colli who has lensed such art house classics as Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew , Marco Bellocchio's China Is Near , and Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West . And the amusing, Ravel-inspired score by Franco Mannino strikes the perfect mock-epic tone. Among the more memorable set pieces are an exotic voodoo dance performed by Cuban sex bomb Chelo Alonso (a former dancer at the Folies Bergeres in Paris), a battle at sea in which Morgan's men, disguised as women, storm a Spanish galleon in full drag, and the bloody, climactic sacking of Panama with shootings, stabbings and explosions galore.
Hollywood has yet to make the definitive screen biography of Sir Henry Morgan but his legend obviously inspired author Rafael Sabatini (Scaramouche, The Sea Hawk) to model his fictional hero Captain Blood after him. Sabatini's 1922 novel became the basis for several film adaptations including a 1924 version starring J. Warren Kerrigan, the 1935 remake with Errol Flynn (and the most famous), Andre Hunebelle's 1960 rendition with Jean Marais, and various spinoffs such as Fortunes of Captain Blood  and The Son of Captain Blood , featuring Sean Flynn, son of Errol, in his father's famous role.
Producer: Joseph E. Levine
Directors: Andre De Toth, Primo Zeglio
Screenplay: Filippo Sanjust, Andre De Toth, Primo Zeglio
Cinematography: Tonino Delli Colli
Music: Franco Mannino
Film Editing: Maurizio Lucidi
Cast: Steve Reeves (Henry Morgan), Valerie Lagrange (Dona Inez), Ivo Garrani (Governor Don Jose Guzman), Lydia Alfonsi (Dona Maria), Giulio Bosetti (Sir Thomas Modyford), Angelo Zanolli (David), Giorgio Ardisson (Walter), Dino Malacrida (Duke), Concepcion (Chelo Alonso).
by Jeff Stafford
Fragments: Portraits From the Inside by Andre de Toth (Faber & Faber)
de Toth on de Toth: Putting the Drama in Front of the Camera - A Conversation with Anthony Slide (Faber and Faber)
"Steve Reeves Interview" by Roy Frumkes from www.drkrm.com/reeves.html
The Hollywood History of the World by George MacDonald Fraser (Fawcett Columbine)
Morgan the Pirate
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Copyright length: 95 min. Opened in Rome in November 1960 as Morgan il pirata; running time: ca105 min; in Paris in June 1961 as Capitaine Morgan; running time: ca95 min.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States 1960