Old Ironsides (1926)

Old Ironsides (1926)

“For three hundred years, these pirates have gone unchecked. This is their last day — or ours.”

While sailing on a merchant ship in the early 19th century, a bos’n (Wallace Beery), gunner (George Bancroft), cook (George Godfrey), and young shipman (Charles Farrell) in love with the captain’s daughter (Esther Ralston) find themselves involved with the USS Constitution in a lethal fight against Mediterranean pirates.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • George Bancroft Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Pirates
  • Silent Films
  • Wallace Beery Films

Three years after helming The Covered Wagon (1923), director James Cruze turned to the high seas for this rousing recreation of early American efforts against piracy. The storyline is pure hokum, centering entirely on: 1) jovial rivalry between Beery and Bancroft:

… and 2) the inevitable romance that blossoms between the film’s two gorgeous young leads (including an impossibly impeccable Ralston making moon eyes at Farrell during the most inopportune times).

Naturally, what one watches for are the impressive shots of sailing ships at sea (filmed off of Catalina Island). This film is also notable for use of a process known as Magnascope, in which certain sections of the movie were magnified for dramatic effect. While Old Ironsides isn’t must-see for all film fanatics, it will likely be of interest to silent film aficionados.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The exciting culminating battle

  • Refreshing inclusion of a Black actor (George Godfrey) as part of the primary cast

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look if you’re curious. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Old Ironsides (1926)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    It’s of some mild historical interest but it mostly serves as a vehicle for a typical, blustery Beery performance.

    The battle scenes are effective but a number of the non-battle scenes can feel sluggish.

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