Today, you say Black Swan and images of a crazed Natalie Portman come to mind, but there was an earlier film by that name, a swashbuckler that has been forgotten by many. The first Black Swan is a 1942 adventure starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara based on Rafael Sabatini’s novel. Having already succeeded with adaptations of Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, this seemed a natural followup for 20th Century Fox.
Out on Blu-ray from 20th Century Home Entertainment, The Black Swan tells the story of the infamous Captain Morgan (Laird Cregar), attempting to lead a more virtuous life. He is appointed as Governor of Jamaica, charged with ridding the waters of his former brigands. No one trusts the notorious former pirate, complicating his work although he’s successful using his personal relationships to convince Captain Jamie Waring (Power) and Tom Blue (Thomas Mitchell) to end their criminal work. Others, including Captain Billy Leech (George Sanders) and Wogan (Anthony Quinn) do not agree with Morgan’s pleas.
(Yes, this is the captain Henry Morgan of history and the famous rum, but the film takes incredible liberties with the facts.)
While Morgan is doing his duty, Waring is now on land, and falls for Lady Margaret (Maureen O’Hara), daughter of the former governor, Lord Denby (George Zucco). She’s also involved with Roger Ingram (Edward Ashley), an English gentleman who provides a sharp contrast with Waring. Things get complicated when no one believes Morgan as piracy continues and Waring takes it upon himself to figure things out leading to intrigue, betrayal, and a few flashy sword fights. An early color film, it provides a visual impact the earlier adaptations lacked, which is why Leon Shamroy won the Academy Award for cinematography. Power, on the other hand, lacked the charisma of Errol Flynn, his action rival of the day, and the film lacks a verve the others provided. Still, this is most watchable and worth a look. The film transfer is nicely done and sounds great.
There is an interesting commentary by film critic Rudy Behlmer and O’Hara along with the original Theatrical Trailer.