Captains Courageous (1937)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

A boy learns life-changing lessons about the importance of friendship and the dignity of labor in this adventure saga based on a story by Rudyard Kipling. Young Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew) is the working definition of a spoiled brat; the only child of a wealthy widowed businessman, Harvey has everything he needs, but never stops asking for more, convinced he can get anything if he yells, pouts, or throws the right tantrum. Even other boys his age are disgusted with his antics, and when he accompanies his father on an ocean cruise, he finds he has no friends to play with. After wolfing down six ice-cream sodas, Harvey gets sick to his stomach and while vomiting over the side of the ship, he falls into the drink. He is rescued by Manuel (Spencer Tracy), a Portuguese old salt who drags him on board a Gloucester fishing boat where he's a deck hand and doryman. Harvey shows no gratitude to Manuel for saving his life and demands to be taken home immediately; Manuel and the crew, not the least bit sympathetic, inform him that once they've filled the ship's hold with fresh catch, they'll return to shore, and not a moment sooner. Over the next few weeks, Harvey grows from a self-centered pantywaist into a young man who appreciates the value of a hard day's work, and in Manuel he finds the strength, guidance, and good sense that he never got from his father. Spencer Tracy earned an Academy Award for his performance in Captains Courageous and even sings a bit; the story was parodied years later (with a few rather drastic changes) in the Chris Elliott vehicle Cabin Boy.
Action & Adventure , Classics
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
MGM Home Entertainment

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Spencer Tracy
as Manuel
Mickey Rooney
as Dan Troop
Charles Grapewin
as Uncle Salters
John Carradine
as Long Jack
Charley Grapewin
as Uncle Salters
Christian Rub
as Old Clement
Oscar O'Shea
as Cushman
Jack LaRue
as Priest
Walter Kingsford
as Dr. Finley
Billy Burrud
as Charles
William Stack
as Elliott
Richard Powell
as Steward
Jay Ward
as Pogey
Roger Gray
as Nate Rogers
Gladden James
as Secretary Cobb
Katherine Kenworthy
as Mrs. Disko
Murray Kinnell
as Minister
Goldie Sloan
as Black Woman
Gertrude Sutton
as Nate's Wife
Bobby Watson
as Reporter
Don Brodie
as Reporter
David Kerman
as Reporter
William Arnold
as Reporter
Frank Sully
as Taxi Driver
Billy Gilbert
as Soda Steward
Lester Dorr
as Corridor Steward
Jimmy Conlin
as Thin Man
Lloyd Ingraham
as Skipper of Ship
Art Berry Sr.
as Capt. Anderson
Edward Peil Sr.
as Fisherman
Jack Kennedy
as Captain of Flying Swan
Monte Vandergrift
as Sailor on Flying Swan
Wade Boteler
as Skipper of Blue Gill
Norman Ainsley
as Robbins
Myra Marsh
as Chester's Wife
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Critic Reviews for Captains Courageous

All Critics (14)

An unlikely love story of two opposites splendidly directed by Fleming.

Full Review… | January 10, 2016

Its themes are entirely relevant to this day, and even technically %u2013 with the integration of sound stage and open sea footage %u2013 it stands the test of time

Full Review… | May 15, 2008
Urban Cinefile

One of the all time best. Adventure, love, and tears. Tracy and Bartholomew are terrific.

February 17, 2008

Once you accept Spencer Tracy as a Portuguese fisherman, Victor Fleming's version of Kipling's sea-adventure novel is passably enjoyable by standards of the times.

Full Review… | February 13, 2008

This hokum earned Spencer Tracy his first Best Actor Oscar.

Full Review… | February 8, 2007
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

While perhaps not the "all-time classic" that some of its contemporaries are, Captains Courageous still stands up pretty well today.

Full Review… | March 9, 2006

Audience Reviews for Captains Courageous

Quite a cast! Spencer Tracy with curly hair and a "Portuguese" accent might remind you of Chico Marx, but he is a likeable character. Child star Freddie Bartholomew plays a spoiled kid who learns some important lessons. A tender story done in the best fashion of the 1930s.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer


First of all I don't like animal related movies, but I do like pirate movies, which is really weird, I know. Second, this movie is really long. It starts out interesting, but gets more and more boring as it goes on. I didn't see the end because I was tired of watching this movie.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

Spencer Tracy did not think this a great performance, but he won the 1937 best actor Oscar. I have to agree with Tracy's evaluation, but it doesn't detract from the fact that this is a wonderful movie. It's a great coming of age story, and Freddie Bartholomew deserves at least equal praise for not sinking this into sentimental slosh. In fact the entire cast, from Melvyn Douglas, to Lionel Barrymore, to Mickey Rooney, to John Carradine, all deserve high praise for a masterful ensemble effort. One of the best movies I've seen in a good while. Strangely, the director, Victor Fleming, was not nominated for an Oscar. He should have been. It takes a skilled director to so beautifully coordinate such a wealth of talent.

Lanning : )
Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

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