Where was Captains Courageous filmed?
Culver City, CA; Gloucester; MA
Mansions, Ship Docks, Studios
Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Dated/Retro, Foreign, Shipping Yard/Dock
About Captains Courageous
Directed by Victor Fleming, Captains Courageous is one of the cinema’s best classic adventure stories. It was released in 1937 and adapted from the legendary English novelist Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 maritime novel adventure. Like the movie adaptation, this guide will take you on an exciting journey as we cover some notable scenes from the film and exciting Captains Courageous locations.
The story follows Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew), a young spoiled, wealthy 12-year-old boy. He is the only child of a millionaire business tycoon Frank Burton Cheyne (Melvyn Douglas), who takes him on his business trip to Europe. While aboard the luxury ocean liner, Harvey falls into the ocean without anyone’s knowledge and nearly drowns. Luckily, a small fishing boat finds and rescues him.
As soon as he wakes up and finds himself aboard the schooner, he demands that Captain Disko (Lionel Barrymore) take him to his father in Europe. He even argues that his father will pay the captain, as he owns the boat from which he fell. But none of them is having it.
When Dan (Mickey Rooney) lends Harvey some clothes, he complains, saying they’re the worst clothes he ever saw! Later, much to the boy’s dismay, the captain reveals that they won’t head back to the shore until they fill the boat with fish, which will likely take about three months.
Instead, the captain makes the young boy a crew member and assigns him to help Dan with the cod livers to be paid $3 a month. The pampered millionaire’s son refuses to help on the boat, saying nobody can make him work. But it doesn’t take long until he learns his first life lesson.
Then, the rest of the film’s story highlights Harvey’s character development and personal transformation. From an arrogant, spoiled kid, he becomes an admirable young boy who learns the value of simple living and hard work.
Captains Courageous Locations
The Captains Courageous production took place in different locations in the United States and Canada. Exteriors and backgrounds for the movie were filmed on location in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and Port Auz Basque, Newfoundland, in Canada, in October and November 1935.
The principal photography was supposed to begin on September 14 and then moved to September 19, 1936. However, it was delayed for several days due to MGM production chief Irving Thalberg’s death on September 13. A second unit crew headed off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico, to film the storm scenes, and additional location filming was done in the Florida Keys.
One of the film shoot locations of Captains Courageous is the old Selznick International Pictures building. It’s a famous filming site for numerous movies over the decades, including 1939 Gone with the Wind, 1937 A Star is Born, 1946 Duel in the Sun, and more. It remains a sophisticated independent film and TV production location under Culver Studios.
This movie adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s iconic novel was also shot at Long Beach Harbor in California and the Sony Pictures Studios, which is formerly MGM Studios in Culver City.
Harvey Cheyne is a 15-year-old young man in the novel. However, the movie’s character was changed to twelve to accommodate the young actor Freddie Bartholomew.
The Cheyne family’s home scene in Captains Courageous
The Culver Studios, 9336 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA
The exterior shot of the Cheyne residence shows the old Selznick International Pictures building, now known as the Culver Studios. It’s the first building you’ll see in the opening scene of Captains Courageous before Harvey and his father leave for a business trip in Europe.
Located at 9336 West Washington Boulevard in Culver City, The Culver Studios boasts over a hundred years of experience in the movie and TV industry. It’s an excellent place to visit if you want to tour the filming location of Captain Courageous and some of your favorite television shows and films, including E.T. and Citizen Kane.
Many things have changed since the studio was used as a Captain Courageous film set. The area has expanded, and more stages and state-of-the-art production spaces have been added over the centuries. However, the historic mansion still stands today. It was retrofitted to preserve the studio’s history.
Additionally, The Culver Studios is now home to Amazon Studios, an entertainment company that creates and produces television series and original films for an international audience. Overall, the entire campus features the famous mansion and bungalows, creative offices, seven stages, a world-class production support space, five new buildings, and more.
Visit the site or enjoy the virtual tour of the studio. While there, take the time to explore the city on foot and discover the famous attractions in the area. It includes the Wende Museum and the Museum of Jurassic Technology, just a seven-minute walk from The Culver Studios.
Since it’s located in the city center, Culver Studios is easily accessible by public transportation. You can take the CC1, CC1C1, and CC7 buses or use the E Line Expo rail service.
Manuel’s accident scene in Captains Courageous
Coast of Mazatlán, Av del Mar, Tellería, 82149 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico
It’s probably the most heartwarming and saddest scene in Captains Courageous, especially for the young Harvey. Manuel (Spencer Tracy) knows his condition is bad after the fall. Though his upper body floating on the water looks fine, he is mortally injured and doesn’t want Harvey to know.
Before his tragic death, Manuel delivers a tearful and sentimental goodbye to the young man. He says, “I go now and fish with my father… We had good times together, eh, little fish? We laugh. We sing. So, you smile now.”
This tragic scene near the end of the film was shot off the coast of Mazatlán, Mexico. Nestled on the Pacific Coast, Mazatlan is a port city that offers visitors the best of both worlds; a ten-mile sandy beach and an old, romantic colonial town. It’s one of the closest idyllic Mexican beach resort spots in the US that maintains its country’s unique atmosphere and traditions.
Although a heartbreaking scene from the film was shot here, there’s nothing dreadful about this coastal city. It has a laid-back vibe but is nothing short of adventure and fun with its wildlife and water sports locals and visitors can enjoy.
A memorial service scene in Captains Courageous
The Fishermen's Memorial, Gloucester, MA
A memorial service at the end of the film features a short sermon to commemorate those who have perished in the sea. “We are met here today…to pay tribute to the men who have sailed from this port and gone down to that sea, never return,” the priest says, pointing to the open sea in front of them.
This scene is set on the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts, featuring a large memorial sculpture that reads, “THEY THAT GO DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS 1623 – 1923.” The Fishermen’s Memorial you’ll see in this scene is only a Hollywood replica of the actual historical sculpture, also known as the “Man at the Wheel.”
If you want to see the real iconic statue, you’ll have to go to south Stacy Boulevard in Gloucester, looking out toward Gloucester Bay. It’s the town’s most recognizable landmark, made nationally famous in the film. It was designed by Leonard Craske and placed along Stacy Esplanade in 1925.
The Fishermen's Memorial in Gloucester, MA, is in a convenient location you’ll easily spot as you stroll the gorgeous tulip garden & monuments. It is close to several bus stops and can be reached by taking the purple bus line.
Since most of the film is set in the middle of the ocean and shot in a studio, you won’t find many Captains Courageous locations. However, this adventure story also proves that you don’t need to take the audience to sophisticated event venues and picture-perfect scenery to appreciate the setting. The filmmakers picked just the right places to bring Rudyard Kipling’s story to the big screen.
But if you have the chance, be sure to stop by Harvey’s elegant home, which is now a mansion at the Culver Studios. Its façade is still recognizable despite having been featured in the movie over eight decades ago.
For those on the opposite end of the country, check out The Fishermen’s Memorial at the edge of Gloucester Harbor and remember those individuals lost at sea. But if you’re looking for an extraordinary adventure, why not fly to Mexico and discover the vibrant beach towns at Mazatlan, Mexico?