SUBJECTS — U.S./1929 – 1941 & Massachusetts; Seafaring;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Friendship; Parenting; Male Role Model;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect; Responsibility.
AGE: 8 – 12; No MPAA Rating;
Drama; 1937; 116 minutes; B & W. Available from Amazon.com.
Harvey, a spoiled rich kid about 10 years old, is expelled from his private boarding school. Taken on an ocean voyage by his father, Harvey falls overboard while the ship is sailing off the Grand Banks. He is miraculously rescued by a Gloucester fishing boat on a three-month trip. Harvey’s demands that he be immediately taken to land are ignored. Given a choice between not eating and pitching in to help, he finds a whole new world of friendship and maturity.
SELECTED AWARDS & CAST
Selected Awards: 1937 Academy Awards: Best Actor (Tracy); 1937 National Board of Review Awards: 10 Best Films of the Year; 1937 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Screenplay.
Featured Actors: Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Melvyn Douglas, Charley Grapewin, John Carradine, Bobby Watson, Jack La Rue.
Director: Victor Fleming.
BENEFITS OF THE MOVIE
“Captains Courageous” paints a vivid portrait of a spoiled brat and how, through adversity and tragedy, he matures. It will acquaint children with the demanding life of a fisherman during the first half of the 20th century.
MINOR. Harvey, the rich kid, is slapped once in the face by the Captain to discipline him. Some alcohol abuse is shown. Manuel’s fervent Catholicism is treated in a reverent fashion. Some parents may find this objectionable.
Ask and answer the Quick Discussion Question. Talk about the Grand Banks and any other points in the film that might interest your child.
The Grand Banks are in the North Atlantic Ocean, south/southeast of Newfoundland. They extend for 350 miles (560 km) north to south and 420 miles (675 km) east to west. The cold Labrador Current and the warmer Gulf Stream come together near the Grand Banks. The air masses cooled by the Labrador Current and warmed by the Gulf Stream produce heavy fogs. The confluence of the cold and warm water produces excellent conditions for the growth of plankton, on which the ocean food chain depends. The most plentiful species of fish on the Grand Banks include cod, haddock, rose fish, various flatfish, herring, and mackerel.
USING THE MOVIE IN THE CLASSROOM
starboard, port side, heel over, ease her off, right herself, fathoms, shoals, right of way.
1. Before his experience on the fishing boat, did Harvey have any real friendships? If not, why not?
2. Did Harvey’s dad learn anything through the course of the movie? If so, what was it?
3. Who was a better parent to Harvey, his father or Manuel? Justify your answer.
4. Tell us what you think of Manuel? What were his strengths and what were his weaknesses?
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)
1. Give six different incidents in the film when Harvey failed to show respect for others.
2. Why did the headmaster of the school expel Harvey? Was it the right thing to do?
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
3. What caused Manuel’s death? Was it the bad luck brought by the boy’s presence on the ship or the Captain’s insistence on racing back to Gloucester?
4. Evaluate the Captain according to the criteria set out below for acting responsibly. How did he measure up?
ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES
BRIDGES TO READING
Books recommended for middle school and junior high readers include: Hard on the Wind by Russ Hofvendahl [describes the life on a fishing vessel on the west coast just before the Second World War].
LINKS TO THE INTERNET
Last updated December 9, 2009.