Blu-ray: ‘The Black Swan’

Tyrone Power was one of the top stars of 20th Century Fox, thanks to his turns as the glib, arrogant golden boy in the studio’s colorful musicals and melodramas and the earnest, driven young visionary or angry rebel of Lloyds of London (1936), Jesse James (1939), and Johnny Apollo (1940), where his dark good looks and brooding presence gave his handsome romantic lead a bit of smoldering intensity. In the 1940s, Fox decided to mold him into an Errol Flynn-style swashbuckling hero and found success in The Mark of Zorro (1940), as the Robin Hood of old California, and Blood and Sand (1941), as a bullfighting hero led astray by the temptations of fame and fortune. The Black Swan (1942) was the next logical step: a swashbuckling pirate rogue turned hero. It shouldn’t have been a good fit for Power, who was better at brooding and flashing his temper than flexing his physicality, but he brings a bit of both the flashy arrogant and the brooding hero to the role.

Captain Jamie Waring is clearly unfulfilled as a pirate captain pillaging Spanish colonies and ships, but he’s not so sure he’s any happier when he teams up with Captain Henry Morgan (Laird Cregar), the former pirate king appointed by Britain to take over as Governor of Jamaica. It sets him against his former, more savage partners in pillage, especially Billy Leech (George Sanders), and his outlaw instincts don’t fit into polite society. Complicating matters is his nearly fatal attraction to Lady Margaret Denby, daughter of the former Governor, played with flashing eyes and furious temper by Maureen O’Hara. The film gets Power’s shirt off with great frequency, from a turn on the rack to a swim in the sea to a brawl on the deck of the titular Black Swan, and tries to generate some sort of smoldering love-hate passion between Power and O’Hara as they cross paths and trade barbed exchanges. They get the hate part right–Lady Margaret all but boils over in righteous indignation whenever the outlaw dares insert himself in proper society and Jamie seems exasperated at himself for his obsession with the fiery beauty–but there’s no electricity when they collide and no passion in their furious denial, just umbrage and acerbic bickering.

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