While Captain Blood turned out to be a big success, the shooting of the film was an often frustrating experience for Hal Wallis. After Darryl Zanuck left the studio in 1933 due to a salary dispute with Jack Warner, Wallis had taken over from Zanuck as head of production and Captain Blood was his most important project thus far. With so much at stake —the film had a budget of one million dollars — Wallis was determined to make it a success. His collaboration with director Michael Curtiz, however, was not without problems. Curtiz, who was a personal friend of Wallis, was someone who liked to do things his own way. Wallis, in turn, wanted to control every aspect of the production and throughout filming kept bombarding Curtiz with memos, demanding all kinds of changes and also giving advice to Curtiz on how to direct the cast (especially how to handle an insecure Flynn).
Here are two of the many memos from Wallis to Curtiz, both written after Wallis had watched the daily rushes, clearly feeling exasperated and frustrated by what he'd seen. Much to the producer's annoyance, Curtiz simply ignored his memos and continued to direct the film in his own way. (Despite their professional differences, Wallis held Curtiz in high esteem and would later call him his "favorite director, then and always".)
TO: CurtizFROM: WallisDATE: August 28, 1935SUBJECT: "Captain Blood"I am looking at your dailies, and, while the stuff is very nice, you got a very short day's work. I suppose this was due to bad weather.However, I don't understand what you can be thinking about at times. That scene in the bedroom, between Captain Blood and the governor, had one punch line in it; the line from Blood: "I'll have you well by tonight, if I have to bleed you to death," or something along these lines, anyhow. This is the one punch line to get over that Blood had to get out of there by midnight, even if he had to kill the governor, and instead of playing that in a close-up —a big head close-up— and getting over the reaction of Errol Flynn, and what he is trying to convey, and the crafty look in his eye, you play it in a long shot, so that you can get the composition of a candle-stick and a wine bottle on a table in the foreground, which I don't give a damn about.Please don't forget that the most important thing you have to do is to get the story on the screen, and I don't care if you play it in front of BLACK VELVET! Just so you tell the story; because, if you don't have a story, all of the composition shots and all the candles in the world aren't going to make you a good picture. ...Hal Wallis
|Despite Wallis' memo, Curtiz didn't go for a close-up and kept the candlestick and the wine decanter in the shot.|
DATE: September 30, 1935
SUBJECT: "Captain Blood"
I have talked to you about four thousand times, until I am blue in the face, about the wardrobe in this picture. I also sat up here with you one night, and with everybody else connected with the company, and we discussed each costume in detail, and also discussed the fact that when the men get to be pirates that we would not have "Blood" dressed up.
Yet tonight, in the dailies, in the division of the spoil sequence, here is Captain Blood with a nice velvet coat, with lace cuffs out of the bottom, with a nice lace stock collar, and just dressed exactly opposite to what I asked you to do.
I distinctly remember telling you, I don't know how many times, that I did not want you to use lace collars or cuffs on Errol Flynn. What in the hell is the matter with you, and why do you insist on crossing me on everything that I ask you not to do? What do I have to do to get you to do things my way? I want the man to look like a pirate, not a molly-coddle. ...
I suppose that when he goes into the battle with the pirates (the French) at the finish, you'll probably be having him wear a high silk hat and spats.
When the man divided the spoils you should have had him in a shirt with the collar open at the throat, and no coat on at all. Let him look a little swashbuckling, for Christ sakes! Don't always have him dressed up like a pansy! I don't know how many times we've talked this over. ...
I hope that by the time we get into the last week of shooting this picture, that everybody will be organized and get things right. It certainly is about time.