Thursday, April 7, 2011
“The Black Pirate” (1926)
“The Black Pirate” (1926) is a silent action drama starring Douglas Fairbanks, Billie Dove and Donald Crisp. Directed by Albert Parker and written by Douglas Fairbanks, this film is a particular favorite of many of Fairbanks’ loyal fans.
The story begins with a lot of treacherous pirates having just captured and looted another ship. They then tie their captives to the mast and use the powder to blow up the ship. However, a father and son, played by Douglas Fairbanks, escape. When the father dies, the son vows revenge on the murderers responsible for his father’s death. Becoming the Black Pirate, he joins the crew and becomes their leader. However, his plans for revenge become more complicated when he meets his first captive, Princess Isobel, a beautiful Spanish princess, played by Billie Dove.
“The Black Pirate” was a huge hit, receiving both critical raves and box office patronage. The film is greatly enhanced by its beautiful two-strip Technicolor photography. The underwater photography sequences were spectacular in their day, and are still highly effective. Fairbanks looks terrific in “The Black Pirate.” He is amazing, especially when he executes a grand stunt in which he slides down a ship’s sail. Fairbanks was an accomplished boxer, gymnast, fencer, and horse rider offscreen, and his onscreen stunts presented few problems. With its impressive stunts by Fairbanks, sword fights, a damsel in distress and a last minute rescue, this silent gem is definitely worth discovering.
Born Lillian Bohny,Billie Dove was born in New York City on May 4, 1903. Billie was an exceptional beauty, and her brown hair lightly streaked with gray added to the dramatic effect. In 1927, Billie starred in a feature titled “The American Beauty” and became known by the nickname. Billie worked as an extra at Fort Lee, New Jersey, before receiving her first screen credit, “Get-Rich-Quick-Wallingford” (1921) and came to prominence with “All the Brothers Were Valiant” (1923). Billie was featured in two early Technicolor features, “Wanderer of the Wasteland” (1924) and “The Black Pirate” (1926), where she is “doubled” in the final love scene by Mary Pickford, who probably did not want her husband too close to the sultry Billie Dove. By 1926, Billie had become a star, but as she would be the first to admit, she was not a great actress. Billie credited director Lois Weber as the woman who taught her to act. For Weber, Billie starred in “The Marriage Clause” (1926) and “Sensation Seekers” (1927). Neither is a great film and does little to enhance Weber’s reputation as the major directorial talent that she was. Billie made in all 45 feature films, starring in 23 after she left Weber. As Howard Hughes’ mistress, Billie starred in two films, “The Age for Love” (1931) and “Cock of the Air” (1932). Billie was not particularly good in either film, and Hughes lost interest in her. Following the breakup with Howard Hughes and completion of “Blondie of the Follies” (1932), Billie married wealthy rancher Robert Kenaston in 1933 and settled down to a life of luxury. Billie died on December 31, 1997. She was 94 years old.