Impressive water-splashed, three-dimensional title work opens Captains Courageous, joined by rousing orchestral music by Franz Waxman, for this famous Rudyard Kipling adventure. The acting is sublime, with Spencer Tracy earning an Academy Award for Best Actor as a poignant role model for a snobbish child who must learn respect, responsibility and purpose, and for a tycoon who must learn to be a better father. It’s a memorable film filled with drama, seafaring action and heartbreak.
Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew), an incredibly wealthy, spoiled child, basks in the luxuries his father provides. He relishes in showing off to his friends during Easter vacation, but also uses his monetary persuasions and connections for blackmail - to bully other kids into doing things for him. The limitless source of cash hasn’t dulled his intelligence with extortion, even though his book smarts are lacking. When he resorts to bribing adults too (the history teacher Bob Tyler, played by Donald Briggs), it’s evident a serious lesson is in order. His father, Frank (Melvyn Douglas), is too busy with work to give proper instruction to the boy, but is incredibly understanding when it comes to being told he isn’t raising his son correctly. Instead, he takes the advice from the school and Mr. Tyler with open arms, deciding to get closer to his child and be a better parent. It’s an odd turn, considering stories like these generally result in the parenting decreasing in quality.