Captains Courageous Suite (1937)
(arr. Christopher Palmer, trans. J. Durward Morsch)
In a superb adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poignant sea classic, Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for Best Actor of 1937 as Manuel, a Portuguese fisherman who teaches human valutes to a spoiled young millionaire’s son. In a characterization ranging from grave to jolly, mystical to courageous, this is one of Tracy’s finest and most colorful roles ever.
Freddie Bartholomew is 12-year old Harvey Cheyne who falls overboard while bound for Europe with his father (Melvyn Douglas). The boy’s transformation begins when he is saved by Manuel and brought aboard a New England fishing schooner captained by Disko (Lionel Barrymore). There, he is instantly put to work alongside Dan (Mickey Rooney), the captain’s son. Through the slow and difficult and mastery of skills, the boy is changed from brat into a gallant, brave apprentice. He also learns to appreciate the fishing life and to adore his stalwart friend, Manuel.
Captains Courageous was the second of seven Spencer Tracy films that Waxman would score between 1936 and 1942 while under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (Some of the other films are Fury, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Tortilla Flat, and Woman of the Year.)
The Manuel theme for Tracy is based on a traditional Catalan folk song “El Noy de la Mar” originally arranged for guitar in the 1850s by Miguel Llobert and frequently recorded in our own time by such artists as Andre Segovia.
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