Literature / Captains Courageous

Should have used him for bait.

Captains Courageous is a novel by Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in book form in 1897, having been serialized in McClure's magazine the previous year.

Harvey Cheyne, the spoiled teenage son of rich American parents, is washed overboard during a transatlantic voyage. He is picked up by a deep sea fishing vessel, whose captain refuses to cut short the ship's fishing run and makes Harvey work his passage.

The novel was filmed in 1937. It was directed by Victor Fleming, and it starred Freddie Bartholomew, the biggest child star of his day (non-Shirley Temple division) as Harvey. The film boasted an All-Star Cast that included Melvyn Douglas, Lionel Barrymore, John Carradine, a young Mickey Rooney just as he was breaking out as a star, and Spencer Tracy as Manuel, the Portuguese fisherman who becomes Harvey's mentor and father figure. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, with Spencer Tracy winning his first Best Actor award (he won again the next year for Boys Town).


This novel provides examples of:

  • Brownface: A very WASP-y Spencer Tracy appears to be wearing tanning lotion or something in order to play a Portuguese fisherman. Apparently Tracy never felt he was believeable in the part.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: When Harvey falls off the transatlantic steamer, he's a spoiled boy. When he steps off the fishing vessel at the end of the novel, he's a young man.
  • Father Neptune: Disko Troop, the captain of the fishing vessel.
  • Foreshadowing: Manuel's remarks about how drowning at sea is a good way for a sailor to go.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: 19th-century deep sea fishing is manly enough to qualify.
  • Missing Mom: In the 1937 movie, Harvey's mom is dead. Not true of the Kipling novel.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Gloucester, the home port of the fishing vessel.
  • My Girl Back Home: Some of the fishermen have a Girl Back Home. There is a poignant scene in which the Gloucester fishing families gather at a church to listen to the yearly casualty report and several newly widowed women burst out in tears.
  • Railroad Baron: Harvey's father. He falls toward the sympathetic end of the range of depictions.
  • The Rival: The Jennie Cushman, another ship that is the rival to Capt. Troop's We're Here. Much competition and trash-talking is had.
  • Setting Update: The movie is set in 1937.
  • Spoiled Brat: Harvey, to begin with. He's pretty awful.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The depiction of the fishing vessel has elements of this, though it's not a fighting ship.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/CaptainsCourageous?from=Film.CaptainsCourageous