Against All Flags
Against All Flags is a 1952 American pirate film starring Errol Flynn as Brian Hawke, Maureen O'Hara as Prudence "Spitfire" Stevens and Anthony Quinn as Roc Brasiliano. The film's plot is set in 1700, when British officer Brian Hawke infiltrates a group of pirates located on Libertatia on the coast of Madagascar, and falls in love with pirate captain "Spitfire" Stevens.
|Against All Flags|
1952 movie poster by Reynold Brown
|Directed by||George Sherman|
|Produced by||Howard Christie|
|Written by||Joseph Hoffman|
|Music by||Hans J. Salter|
|Edited by||Frank Gross|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$1.6 million (US)|
1,993,068 admissions (France)
Lieutenant Brian Hawke, an officer aboard the British merchant ship The Monsoon, volunteers for a dangerous mission to infiltrate the pirates' base at Diego Suarez on the coast of Madagascar. He is to pose as a deserter, and to make his disguise more convincing, he is given twenty lashes. When he arrives in Diego Suarez, he arouses the suspicions of the pirates, especially Captain Roc Brasiliano. Brasiliano orders him to appear before a tribunal of the Coast Captains to decide his fate. If they do not like him, he will be executed. Meanwhile, Hawke has caught the eye of Spitfire Stevens - the only woman among the Coast Captains - who inherited her position from her father.
At the tribunal, Hawke duels one of the pirates with boarding pikes, managing to outfight him. Hawke is therefore allowed to join Brasiliano's crew to prove his worth. While cruising the shipping lanes, they come across a Moghul vessel crammed with luxuries and vast wealth. After a tough battle, it is taken and looted. Captured aboard is Patma, the daughter of the Moghul Emperor, who is disguised by her chaperone as just another ordinary woman. She falls in love with Hawke after he rescues her from the burning ship, admitting he is only the third man she has ever seen.
When they return to Diego-Suarez, Spitfire becomes jealous of Patma. When Patma is put up for auction, she outbids Hawke (who had wanted to protect her from the other pirates) and takes the Indian woman into her service. In a candid moment, Spitfire tells Hawke she is planning to leave for Britain via Brazil, where she can catch a legal ship. She wants Hawke to accompany her there, after which he can take ownership of her ship. Brasiliano's hatred of Hawke grows, as he has a fancy for Spitfire himself.
Hawke has slowly been gathering information on the base, and has acquired a map of the defences. It is planned that the Royal Navy ships will sail into the harbour, with Hawke disabling the cannons. Hawke gives a signal to the British ships with a flare, and makes sure the Moghul princess is ready to be rescued. Unfortunately, Hawke's plans are uncovered by Brasiliano. Hawke is tied to a stake on the beach, to be drowned and eaten by crabs. Spitfire pretends to cut his throat to end his suffering, but instead cuts the ropes binding him to the stake.
At that moment, a British warship enters the bay. The pirates hurry to repel it, expecting to easily sink it as they had a Portuguese warship that recently attempted to storm the harbour. To their surprise, the cannons have been double-shotted and explode. Faced with imminent defeat and hanging, Brasiliano tries a final gamble to escape. He places the princess at the front of his ship, as he sails past the British warship, knowing they will not dare fire on her. However, Hawke has slipped aboard and manages to reach the hostage, escorting her to safety. Hawke and Brasiliano then square off for an epic final sword duel on the decks of the ship.
- Errol Flynn as Brian Hawke
- Maureen O'Hara as Prudence 'Spitfire' Stevens
- Anthony Quinn as Captain Roc Brasiliano
- Alice Kelley as Princess Patma
- Mildred Natwick as Molvina MacGregor
- Robert Warwick as Captain William Kidd
- Harry Cording as Gow
- John Alderson as Jonathan Harris
- Phil Tully as Jones
- Lester Matthews as Sir Cloudsley
- Tudor Owen as Williams
- Maurice Marsac as Captain Moisson
- James Craven as Captain Hornsby
- James Fairfax as Cruikshank - Barber
- Bill Radovich as Hassan
The film was originally written by Aeneas MacKenzie and director Richard Wallace as a vehicle for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who had just made Sinbad the Sailor with Wallace. However, the film was not produced and Aeneas MacKenzie sold his original script to Universal in July 1950. Alexis Smith and Yvonne De Carlo were mentioned as possible female leads and Jack Gross was assigned to be the producer.
Under his contact with Warner Bros., Flynn was allowed to make one film a year for an outside studio. His contract with Universal meant Flynn was entitled to a percentage of the profits. The script was rewritten by Joseph Hoffman and Anthony Quinn signed early on as the villain. Eventually Howard Christie became producer, George Sherman director and Maureen O'Hara the co-star.
Filming was done on a stage at the Universal Studios in Los Angeles with some location footage shot at Palos Verdes, California. It was Flynn's last Hollywood swashbuckler, as the further three he starred in were all made in Europe.
Flynn exercised a degree of authority on set as changes in his contract meant that he was entitled to a percentage of the film profits and ordered that the days of shooting end at 4.00pm, by which time he would become inebriated. 
Flynn broke his ankle during filming in February, delaying the last few days filming for two months. The ship which had been used in the film had been transformed for the film Yankee Buccaneer and had to be converted back.
In April Flynn returned to shoot the remaining sequences over two days. Because director George Sherman was working on Willie and Joe Back at the Front by then, the scenes were shot by Douglas Sirk.
The film was remade in 1967 as The King's Pirate.
- Against All Flags at the American Film Institute Catalog
- 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
- 1953 French box office figures at Box Office Story
- Drama: Pirate Picture Shapes for Fairbanks; Wyman May Do Lawrence Story. Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif.] 20 January 1950: 23.
- 'Against All Flags' New Pirate Story Purchase; 'Wolf Pack' Deals Looms Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 July 1950: B7.
- PRODUCTION CHIEF QUITS PARAMOUNT: Henry Ginsberg Resigns Post as Vice President at Studio-- Freeman Heads Operations Schenek Yields Post By Thomas F. Brady. Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 06 July 1950: 31.
- UNIVERSAL IN DEAL WITH ERROL FLYNN: STUDIO GETS WARNER STAR FOR 'AGAINST ALL FLAGS,' A DRAMA ABOUT MADAGASCAR PIRATES HOLDEN TO PLAY NEWSMAN AGEE WRITING "BLOODLINE" By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Aug 1951: 14.
- Thomas Pryor, 'ERROL FLYNN ENDS PACT AT WARNERS: ACTOR AND STUDIO AGREE TO PART -- STAR MADE 35 FILMS IN 20 YEARS ON LOT', New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Mar 1954: 10.
- 'Pilate's Wife' Slated at RKO Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif.] 09 Sep 1951: D9
- STUDIO BRIEFS Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif.] 09 Nov 1951: B8.
- Reid p.7
- McNulty p.250
- Flynn Marches On! Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Apr 1952: g10.
- WILLIAMS WRITING NEW MOVIE SCRIPT: ' STREETCAR' AUTHOR ADAPTING PLAYS FOR 'MISSISSIPPI WOMAN' -- ELIA KAZAN WILL DIRECT By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 02 Feb 1952: 10.
- Reid p.7-8
- Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer & Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 180
- FILM MEN GALLOP TO POLITICAL POLL: ' TOP ECHELON' SURVEY MADE TO SEE HOW MANY ON COAST ARE 'FRIENDS OF THE GENERAL' By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 Apr 1952: 21.
- McNulty, Thomas. Errol Flynn: the life and career. McFarland & Company, 2004.
- Reid, John Howard. Hollywood's Miracles of Entertainment. Lulu.com, 2005.