Captain Kidding a Kidder

DATELINE: William Kidd

Laughton the Kidd!

 

When Charles Laughton, once Captain Bligh on the Bounty, was given the lead role as the despicable Captain William Kidd, he was both at once perfect for the role and utterly out of his element as a real figure from history.

Like many of his roles of biographical people, he always took on the most notorious. Even in the one movie that was shut down before he finished, he was to play Claudius, the successor to Caligula. He was so associated with Henry VIII that he repeated that role several times.

So, the silly and fictional version of Captain Kiddseemed a bit off, even in 1945. However, by today’s Oak Island buried treasure standards, we have to look at Laughton’s movie villain in a new light.

You must remember this: he was surrounded by great film stars like Gilbert Roland, John Carradine, Reginald Owen, Henry Daniell, and every workable Randolph Scott. He had to be on top of his game to avoid having scenes stolen under his nose.

Scenes are simply juicy confrontations between actors, each more earnest in his biting delivery. Of course, at the eye of this storm of melodrama is Charles Laughton, lending his powerful, clever, sly, obsequious villain. Whether Kidd was ever like this matters not. He should be the way Laughton presents him. Oh, you Kidd.

With a gentleman’s gentleman hired for the task of smoothing out his rough edges, Kidd tries to refine his crudeness with an overlay of charming evil. You might well think that a boy’s adventure movie never had it so good.

Women are not central to this story. You have here a testosterone contest with the mugs mugging.

Laughton’s ship seems only slightly smaller than the Queen Mary—and they spend nearly all their time heading to Madagascar. Kidd’s plan is to take over the estate of a nobleman and show off more than a sow’s ear.

Before you can say double-cross, you may find you have been crossed in quadruple fashion. What an absolutely delightful discovery from the vaults of forgotten black and white movies of 1945.