Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

Maureen O'Hara and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

The Bold and the Brave

Watching old movies can be a blend of pleasure and pain, take "Sinbad the Sailor" it's a swashbuckling adventure movie from the 1940s which mixes comedy, action and romance. It is entertaining be it for the theatrical acting, the wonderful sets or for the energetic Douglas Fairbanks Jr. almost dancing around sets whilst wooing the delightful Maureen O'Hara. But then the actual storyline is painful, painful because for well over half of the movie it seems confused, unclear of where it is going till everything is explained in the final quarter. Basically "Sinbad the Sailor" is a movie you end up watching not for the story but for the exciting adventure and comedy, the old style swashbuckling balletics of a charming rogue and a beautiful woman, basically for Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Maureen O'Hara.

Regaling those who will listen about his amazing adventures, Sinbad (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. - Gunga Din) brings them a new tale, his 8th voyage in search of Alexander the Great's treasure. His voyage starts when he and his reliable sidekick Abbu (George Tobias - The Glass Bottom Boat) come across a boat containing the map of Alexander's journey and this boat leads him first to meeting the beautiful Shireen (Maureen O'Hara -The Black Swan) and then the powerful Emir of Daibul (Anthony Quinn) who wants to kill him till he thinks that Sinbad is the Prince of Deryabar. But they are not the only ones looking for the legendary treasure and maybe the treasure for Sinbad will end up being something more beautiful and priceless than gold and jewels.

Maureen O'Hara and Anthony Quinn in Sinbad the Sailor (1947)

So I mentioned that for well over the first half of "Sinbad the Sailor" the story is messy and it is because the focus is not so much on what is happening but for all the fun action and adventure. As such whilst we have this story which starts with Sinbad regaling those disbelievers about his 8th voyage, and the hunt for the treasure of Alexander the Great it is not very clear what is what. We watch as Sinbad takes control of a boat with a map, he meets the beautiful Shireen and the Emir of Daibul and it is clear that both Sinbad and the Emir are after the treasure. But then you have elements such as a sword belonging to Jabal, an annoying bird which repeats names and Melik who is travelling with Sinbad.

You sort of become lost because this simple tale ends up crowded by what turn out to be unimportant little moments. And I do mean the tale is simple as when everyone reaches Daryabar everything becomes very clear and you wonder why they had needed to make "Sinbad the Sailor" more complicated than it needed to be or at least as complicated as it is.

But whilst the storyline is messy "Sinbad the Sailor" is in many ways a movie about three things action, romance and comedy and usually these elements interweave. Watching Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Sinbad balleticaly evade capture, swinging from ropes, leaping through closing gates and so on is exciting as is the way he magics up some escapes by stealing swords with out their owner's knowing. Add to this the beautiful Maureen O'Hara as Shireen and there is a fun little romantic sub plot going on especially as O'Hara gives Shireen a tough of feistiness. And of course you have the humour be it George Tobias as Sinbad's sidekick Abbu or the wonderful Walter Slezak as Melik. Basically everything you expect from an old fashioned swashbuckler is on show and it is this side of things which makes it entertaining.

But there is something else which makes it fun and it is Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. again because he plays Sinbad is such a brilliant way. Here we have a rogue, a theatrical teller of tall tales, a man who could charm his way out of a snake pit whilst charming his way into a woman's arms. It is because Fairbanks, Jr. makes him such a loveable rogue that you enjoy every second he is on screen be it flirting with Shireen, telling a story to whoever will listen or escaping when he is cornered.

What this all boils down to is that "Sinbad the Sailor" is one of those movies which you end up enjoying almost solely on a visual basis, with the wonderful elaborate dialogue an added bonus. And it is a good thing that it is so visually entertaining because for what is a simple story it comes over as incredibly messy and at times even a little like too much work to try and follow.