Made in 1953 in the midst of Alec Guinness’ famous series of films for Ealing Studios, The Captain’s Paradise is often erroneously referred to as one of that number (it’s actually a British Lion and London Films co-production). The film is, however, made in clear imitation of the Ealing product, both in style and content, so the mistake is understandable.
Guinness, at the height of his powers, plays Capt. Henry St. James, whose story is told in flashback by his first officer (Charles Golden) following St. James’ execution. It transpires that Capt. St. James’ great desire in life had always been to find the perfect wife — an ideal of which he despaired until he hit upon the idea of keeping a fiery, fun-loving mate (Yvonne De Carlo) in the North African port of Kali and a proper homemaker (Celia Johnson) in his other port of call, Gibraltar. It was only a matter of time before this idyllic arrangement started to crumble.
The film, however, is less the wild slapstick you might expect, leaning more in the direction of a character comedy, and finally offering surprises that undoubtedly seemed a bit fresher in 1953 than they do now. While The Captain’s Paradise lacks something of the charm of the Ealing films — though it’s hard to pinpoint why — it’s an all-too-often-overlooked Guinness film that deserves rediscovery.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke