Captain Kidd (film)

Captain Kidd is a 1945 American adventure film starring Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott and Barbara Britton.[1] It was directed by Rowland V. Lee, his last before he retired,[2] and produced by Benedict Bogeaus and James Nasser. The music was conducted by Werner Janssen. The film was released by United Artists. It has entered the public domain because the producers neglected to renew the copyright in 1972. In his memoirs, Nikita Khrushchev noted that this was one of Joseph Stalin's favorite films, and that Stalin identified with the mischievous captain.

Captain Kidd
Movie poster
Directed byRowland V. Lee
Produced byBenedict Bogeaus
Screenplay byNorman Reilly Raine
Story byRobert N. Lee
StarringCharles Laughton
Randolph Scott
Barbara Britton
Music byWerner Janssen
CinematographyArchie Stout
Edited byCharles Odds
Benedict Bogeaus Productions
Captain Kidd Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 22, 1945 (1945-11-22) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States


In 1699, pirate William Kidd loots and destroys the English galleon The Twelve Apostles near Madagascar. He and three confederates bury the stolen treasure on a remote island. He then presents himself at the court of William III of England as an honest shipmaster seeking a royal commission as a privateer after striking his colors to a pirate. The king is persuaded by Kidd that the captain of The Twelve Apostles was that pirate, who has disappeared with its treasure. The King grants the commission.

Kidd recruits a crew from condemned pirates in Newgate and Marshalsea prisons, promising them a royal pardon at the end of their voyage. Among them is the quarrelsome though cultured Adam Mercy. Kidd makes him the new master gunner because of his claimed prior service with pirate Captain Avery.

The King sends Kidd and his ship the Adventure Galley to the waters near Madagascar to rendezvous with the ship Quedagh Merchant and provide an escort back to England. The Quedagh Merchant carries Lord Fallsworth, the King's ambassador to the Grand Mughal, his daughter Lady Anne Dunstan, and a chest of treasure from the Indian potentate to King William.

Kidd's story about a pirate he fought nearby persuades Lord Fallsworth to switch ships with his daughter and the precious cargo. Kidd's navigator Jose Lorenzo lights a candle in the ship's magazine. Just as the transfer takes place, the Quedagh Merchant blows up. Kidd also arranges a fatal "accident" for Lord Fallsworth, leaving only a frightened Lady Anne. She turns to the only man she thinks she can trust, Shadwell, Kidd's servant. When she mentions the recent battle with pirates, Shadwell tells her it never happened. He advises her to put her faith in Adam Mercy.

On the voyage home, Kidd schemes to rid himself of his three close associates (to avoid sharing the booty) and Mercy (whom he suspects of being a spy). Mercy is really the vengeance-seeking son of Admiral Lord Blayne, the slandered captain of The Twelve Apostles. When a smitten Lorenzo tries to force himself on Lady Anne, Kidd is delighted when Mercy engages him in a sword fight. Lorenzo is driven overboard to drown. During the fight, Mercy's medallion is torn from his neck. Kidd finds it and recognizes the Blayne family crest.

Kidd drops anchor at a lagoon. He, Orange Povey, his only surviving confederate (protected by an incriminating letter that will be sent to the crown authorities if he should die), and Mercy go ashore and dig up the loot from The Twelve Apostles. When Mercy sees the Blayne crest, a fight breaks out. Outnumbered, Mercy is knocked unconscious, falls into the water and does not resurface. With the others believing him dead, he swims secretly back to the ship. Mercy and a loyal crewman row Lady Anne away in the ship's jolly boat, but are spotted. Shadwell sacrifices himself needlessly to cover their escape, and Kidd blows up the jolly boat.

Believing himself safe, Kidd appears before King William with the Mughal's treasure to claim his reward (Lord Blayne's aristocratic title and estate). He learns that Mercy and Lady Anne have survived and preceded him to court. The King's men found the loot from The Twelve Apostles after searching Kidd's cabin. Kidd is tried, condemned, and hanged.


Uncredited Cast


This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 18th Academy Awards.[3]


As a work of fiction rather than a documentary film, the story contains some historically incorrect material, including a London scene showing Tower Bridge two hundred years before it was built.[4] Kidd's London prisoner crew was removed before it sailed from England and Kidd was forced to find a new crew in New York City. Kidd returned to New York, not to London.

Laughton reprised his part in the 1952 farce Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd.[5]

See also


  1. "Captain Kidd | TV Guide". Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  2. "Rowland Lee, 84, of Films Is Dead". The New York Times. 22 December 1975. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  3. "The 18th Academy Awards | 1946". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  4. "London's Best Movie Bloopers: Part 2". Londonist. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  5. Levy, Emanuel (7 September 2014). "Captain Kidd (1945): Oscar Nominated Drama, Starring Charles Laughton". Emanuel Levy. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
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