Old Ironsides (1926)


Introduction

Old Ironsides is a 1926 silent film starring Charles Farrell, Esther Ralston, Wallace Beery, and George Bancroft.

An American fighting ship battles Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean in the 18th century.

Outline

Early in the 19th century, USS Constitution is launched as part of an effort to stop piracy in the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, a young man determined to go to sea (Farrell) is befriended by the bos’n (Beery) of the merchant ship Esther, and he joins its crew. When Esther reaches the Mediterranean, she too, along with Constitution, becomes involved in the battle against the pirates.

Cast

  • Charles Farrell as “The Commodore”.
  • Esther Ralston as Esther.
  • Wallace Beery as Bos’n.
  • George Bancroft as Gunner.
  • Charles Hill Mailes as Captain Preble.
  • Johnnie Walker as Lieutenant Stephen Decatur (billed as Johnny Walker).
  • Eddie Fetherston as Lieutenant Somers.
  • George Godfrey as The Cook.
  • William Conklin as Esther’s Father.
  • Nick De Ruiz as The Bashaw.
  • Effie Ellsler as Esther’s Mother.
  • Frank Jonasson as Pirate Captain.
  • Duke Kahanamoku as Pirate Captain.
  • Boris Karloff as A Saracen Guard.
  • Fred Kohler as Second Mate.

Gary Cooper was in the film as an extra.

Production

The movie was directed by James Cruze in a widescreen process that Paramount promoted as “Magnascope”. This process was used to heighten the visual effects in specific points in the film by switching to a larger “widescreen” thus enhancing the visual drama of the feature. It was reported that at the premiere of Old Ironsides the audience “stood up and cheered” when the Magnascope was activated.

This lavish oceangoing epic features battle scenes with sailing ships and pirates; Beery would revisit the genre and play Long John Silver in Treasure Island eight years later.

Box office receipts from the premiere at the Rialto Theatre went to the USS Constitution restoration fund.

Release

Paramount Studios released a VHS video tape edition in 1987.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City exhibited a restored 35mm print of the film in December 2008.

Trivia

  • The Maine-built ship, Llewellyn J. Morse, was refitted as USS Constitution.
  • A real 1886 ship, S.N. Castle was burned and sunk for the film off of Catalina Island.
  • A closeup of a tattoo on George Bancroft’s arm reveals that his character’s name is also “G. Bancroft”.
  • This was the first film to be shown using the Magnascope system.
  • Box office receipts from the premiere at the Rialto Theatre went to the USS Constitution restoration fund.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • James Cruze.
  • Producer(s):
    • James Cruze … producer.
    • B.P. Schulberg … associate producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Laurence Stallings … (story).
    • Harry Carr … (suggested and adapted by).
    • Walter Woods … (suggested and adapted by).
    • Rupert Hughes … (titles).
    • Dorothy Arzner … (uncredited).
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes … (poem) (uncredited).
  • Music:
    • Hugo Riesenfeld … (uncredited).
    • J.S. Zamecnik … (uncredited).
  • Cinematography:
    • Alfred Gilks.
    • Charles P. Boyle … (uncredited).
    • Harry Perry … (uncredited).
  • Editor(s):
    • Dorothy Arzner … (uncredited).
  • Production:
    • Paramount Pictures (as Famous Players-Lasky Corporation).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Paramount Pictures (1926) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Paramount Pictures (1928) (USA) (theatrical) (re-release) (edited).
    • Paramount Home Video (1987) (USA) (VHS).
    • Kino Lorber (2016) (USA) (Blu-ray) (under license from Paramount Pictures).
  • Release Date: 06 December 1926 (US).
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Running Time: 111 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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