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Monday, December 31, 2012

John Paul Jones (1959)

After accidentally killing a sailor in self defense, a Scottish ship captain (Robert Stack) flees to the American colonies which are still under British rule. After the Declaration Of Independence is signed, the seaman is recruited to command a warship in the war for independence from the British. This romanticized film biography of the naval war hero John Paul Jones is a clunky, laborious affair that whitewashes the more unsavory aspects of his life. For example, there's a scene where Stack as Jones orders one of his officers to toss his cat o'nine tails overboard because there will be no flogging on his ship. In reality, Jones himself once flogged one of his sailors so badly that the man died from his injuries. A couple of fictional romances (Marisa Pavan and Erin O'Brien are the ladies) are also tossed in to assure the audience that Jones was no pansy boy. Stack's stoic (to put it kindly) performance does the film no favors. The director John Farrow can't even whip up a good battle scene and Jones's famous line, "I have not yet begun to fight!" falls flat. The intrusive Yankee Doodle score is Max Steiner at his worst. With Bette Davis as Catherine The Great, Charles Coburn as Benjamin Franklin, Jean Pierre Aumont as King Louis XVI, Macdonald Carey, David Farrar, Peter Cushing, Thomas Gomez, Susana Canales and Bruce Cabot.

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