Blackbeard the Pirate

"They took what they wanted ... and they wanted the world!"


"Swashbuckling Sons of Satan!"

"The thunder of their plundering shook the earth, the seas, the sky!"



Plot ~ Images ~ Trivia ~ Credits

The Plot

"During the 17th Century the Spanish Main was overrun with pirates, foremost of whom was Edward Teach, the evil and immortal 'Blackbeard.' Sir Henry Morgan, who was then in the service of the king, had been sent to clear the seas of the very pirates he once had led," reads the introductory narrational text. A voiceover continues: "One night when Morgan was at sea, the ship of the pirate Charles Bellamy came creeping into the harbor and passed unharmed under the guns of the fort. I, Edward Maynard, disguised as a down-at-the-heels surgeon, had been haunting the Port Royal waterfront, waiting for something like this to happen. For the governor of Jamaica believed that Morgan was a pirate still and had a quick fortune ready for the man who could prove it. I wanted that quick fortune."

Seeking evidence that Morgan (Torin Thatcher) is secretly in league with pirates, Maynard (Keith Andes) finagles his way aboard Bellamy's ship, along with the beautiful Edwina Mansfield (Linda Darnell)—Bellamy's financée and daughter of Morgan's late associate, Captain Edward Mansfield—and her "lady in waiting," Alvina (Irene Ryan), only to discover that the dreaded Blackbeard (Robert Newton) has taken over the ship in this confusing and historically impossible tale of adventure, romance, and piratical double-crossing on the high seas. The first half is fraught with corny attempts at humor perpetrated primarily by the utterly miscast William Bendix in the role of Blackbeard's buffoonish mate/boatswain/gunner/etc., Worley, who seems to have been shanghaied off the set of a gangster movie and given his lines by cue card. However, in rare moments when acting alone—as when he petulantly whines for the doctor, bellowing, "Maynyard! I got a pain in my innards!" whilst continuing to devour the offending meal —or when playing off another character actor equal to the task, Robert Newton displays his fine comedic talent and elicits some good chuckles. Irene Ryan's jittery performance as Blackbeard's "little chicken" really is a "cackle," while Newton's brief scene with Alan Mowbray, in which he prepares Blackbeard's loony lookalike to battle Morgan in his stead, is, thanks to the performances, one of the most memorably comical in the film. But Blackbeard the Pirate was not intended as a comedy, as evidenced not only by the taglines above, but by the relentless sentimental soundtrack to the love story that competes with Blackbeard for the focus of attention, and the film abruptly takes on a more serious tone when the pirates finally encounter Morgan and the nefarious title character demonstrates why his own crew secretly want him dead.

In this film, Blackbeard's well-documented true story has been almost completely ignored, and instead he is inexplicably transported back in time at least thirty years to be pitted against Sir Henry Morgan, about whom the writers seem to have done considerably more research. (Although the fictionalized "Blackbeard" is undoubtedly the star of the show, the German translation of the title is far more descriptive of the plot: Kampf um den Piratenschatz, or "Battle for the Pirate Treasure.")

It is primarily Robert Newton's wildly over-the-top yet always-entertaining hamming that has endeared this film to audiences. Though his performance is basically a less inhibited reprise of his innovative approach to the role of Long John Silver just two years before in Disney's Treasure Island, Blackbeard the Pirate is a story for grown-ups, with suggestive humor, adult situations, and grisly violence. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to make it appropriate for younger audiences, an edited 85-minute version has been released on video as a Hollywood Classics "collector's edition" by Modecy Entertainment (whose misleading packaging neglects to mention this censorship). Instead the effect of the missing scenes (which include Irene Ryan's funniest moment) is to muddle the story even further for disappointed adults expecting to see the true story and popular legends of the most notorious, fearsome, and colorful pirate in history brought to towering life by the one actor who seemed born for the role. (The complete film runs an hour and 40 minutes.)

copyright © 2006 by Susan Dauenhauer Ciriello
All rights reserved

Plot ~ Images ~ Trivia ~ Credits




"Four feet o' water in the 'old an' still risin'! Ar. She sails like a brick smoke'ouse right now. You'll pay for this with your lives if Morgan comes! ... Aye, here be your scuttler without a doubt! ..."

"Get the rope!"

"No. Ha-harr. Truss 'im up for the cat first. Ar, then stripe 'im till 'e falls, an' dowse 'im with salt. Arrr, an' when 'e comes to, let 'im have it again."



"Where's Maynyard? ... I want no connivin' between you an' 'im."


"Ar, my glistenin' darlin's, heh heh heh."


"Now off you go, my little rabbits. Scamper."


"Here, where're you goin'?"

"He's run through the gizzard. He doesn't know anything."

"Well, drop him an' get back t' yer guns!"



"We got him trapped, Worley, trapped!"


"Ar, lash 'er t' the mizzen pinrail so that Uncle 'Arry can take a good look at 'er!"



Plot ~ Images ~ Trivia ~ Credits


  • In the film, Blackbeard twice sings a version of the following lyrics to himself:

    "There was a jolly miller,
    Lived on the River Dee.
    He looked beneath his piller,
    And there he found a flea.
    Ho ho ho ho hee hee, he cried with glee."

    This is a variation on a children's nursery rhyme dating back at least to the early eighteenth century. The first verse goes:

    "There was a jolly miller once
    Lived on the river Dee;
    He work'd and sang from morn till night,
    No lark more blithe than he.
    And this the burden of his song
    Forever used to be
    I care for nobody, no, not I,
    If nobody cares for me."

    To find out more about the rhyme and its history, visit these sites: (includes the original melody)

  • In the 1960s, cast members Keith Andes and Anthony Caruso both made memorable guest appearances on Star Trek. Andes played Akuta, high priest of the primitive "Feeders of Vaal" in "The Apple" (Episode 38), and Caruso played mob boss Bela Oxmyx in "A Piece of the Action" (Episode 49).
  • While Maynard states his first name as Edward in the opening narration, he is called Robert throughout the rest of the film. (The naval officer upon whom the character is very loosely based was named Robert Maynard.)

Click here for a partial listing of historical errors (and semi-accuracies) in the film.

copyright © 2006 by Susan Dauenhauer Ciriello
All rights reserved

Plot ~ Images ~ Trivia ~ Credits


Written by Alan La May
Based on a story by DeVallon Scott

Directed by Raoul Walsh

Produced by Edmund Grainger
Music by Victor Young


Robert Newton
Edwina Mansfield
  Linda Darnell
Ben Worley
  William Bendix
Edward/Robert Maynard
  Keith Andes
Sir Henry Morgan
  Torin Thatcher
  Irene Ryan
Noll the Fool
  Alan Mowbray
  Richard Egan
  Skelton Knaggs
Bullwinkel ("The Dutchman")
  Dick Wessel
  Sol Gorss
Pierre La Garde
  Anthony Caruso
Tom Whetstone
  Jack Lambert
  Noel Drayton
Job Maggot
  Pat Flaherty

Blackbeard the Pirate copyright 1952, RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.


Plot ~ Images ~ Trivia ~ Credits

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