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Horatio Hornblower Series

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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by terranova56 on Wed 05 Dec 2012, 19:18

I've read my first Hornblower book when I was 13, I think, along with some other naval books (I inherited a passion for the sea from my father). It was an abridged French translation of The Happy Return. The following year, I was sent to England for a few days, like many French teenagers, and I bought the whole collection in a cheap edition. I can say I've learned English in the Hornblower books and Robert Falcon Scott's Voyage of the Discovery.
Hornblower has always been my favourite fiction character (until I met Bolitho, a serious contender) and I confess that I've been somehow disappointed with the TV adaptation. Ioan Gruffudd is a handsome man but not my idea of Horatio Hornblower. In spite of the obvious flaws of the movie (poor Lady Barbara...), I think Hornblower will have for ever Gregory Peck's features in my mind's eye.

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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by Joolz on Thu 06 Dec 2012, 01:47

I agree with you about the TV & film. I never did like the series, and could only manage to watch a couple of episodes before deciding it wasn't for me. The film is very dated of course, and has many faults, but, as you say, Peck just IS Hornblower!
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by queen katherine on Fri 07 Dec 2012, 17:25

Finally I found on ebay the film with Gregory Peck. The value of this production is the script created by the same Forester. For the rest of the film is very dated: a Lady Barbara a pose too, a crew little real scenes that you understand that for the most part were shot indoor ... I'm sorry, Ioan Gruffudd has been too young to play Hornblower, but all it seems to me more successful and more credible
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by terranova56 on Fri 07 Dec 2012, 17:49

I agree with you, the movie is very dated and the French adaptation was laughable, probably done by somebody who has never been on a ship. I speak English (not as well as I'd like but enough to watch movies and read books) but my father doesn't and we were ROTFL all the time. And the scene of the escape in Nantes harbour was very funny for anybody who knows the place. The TV series is very watchable in spite of some flaws.
I think that Master and Commander was much more successfull in terms of nautical realism.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by queen katherine on Fri 07 Dec 2012, 18:36

totally agree!! cheers
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by reb01501 on Fri 07 Dec 2012, 21:39

How could Ioan Gruffudd be too young to portray a youthful Hornblower? The series started with Midshipman Hornblower for all love! Personally, I thought Peck was too old to play Hornblower at that stage of his career, but I accepted him because of his performance.

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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Sat 08 Dec 2012, 01:11

When I saw this movie (at the ripe old age of 11 years), Gregory Peck was Horatio Hornblower as I walked out of that theatre (ticket price was 25 cents) and to this day they're inseperable. But the idea of him being 'too old' for the part made me do some research:

Casting

"Warner Bros. acquired the films rights to the first three Hornblower novels – Beat to Quarters, A Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours – as a star vehicle for Errol Flynn when they were initially published. However, influenced by the financial failure of the 1948 adventure romance film Adventures of Don Juan, growing difficulties with the actor, or his advancing age, Flynn was not cast. Warner's was already building up Burt Lancaster as their new swashbuckling screen star, but the role of a British sea captain seemed to be outside of his range, so Peck was ultimately cast on a loan-out from David O. Selznick who received screen credit in the opening titles. Virginia Mayo was only cast after a number of high profile British actresses were not free or interested. Peck's personal choice was Margaret Leighton"

Obviously, the studio wanted a 'box office draw' (in those days folks went to any movie, if it starred their 'favorites' (still a bit that way today). Looking back to that period, I can't recall a 'young hollywood actor' that could have done a more credible job.

An interesting 'sidelight' is another American actor of this timeframe. Charlton Heston, was not yet a 'box office draw' (this came for him in 1952 when he played in "The Greatest Show on Earth") but was mentioned some years later (1993) by Patrick O'brian as 'his pick' to play Jack Aubrey. Based on Heston's 'positive comments' on O'brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, he would have eagerly sought the role......but, time moves on.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by terranova56 on Sat 08 Dec 2012, 08:36

The problem with actors playing recurrent characters is that they are either too old or too young. When Gregory Peck played Hornblower, he was 35 years old. Considering that Horblower is supposed (in most of the books) to be born in 1777 and that The Happy Return / Beat to Quarters takes place in 1808, the difference is tolerable.

In most movies of those times, I think the female characters are the weak point (pretty, brainless little things who have a rare talent to make a nuisance of themselves as soon as the situation needs composure and reflexion). Virginia Mayo was constantly on the verge of ridicule, not the strong and somehow aloof lady Barbara I imagined when I read the book. I must admit that the recording technology may have a part in it in that it is especially cruel to female voices.

I'm really happy that Charlton Heston did not take Aubrey's part. I'm not sure this shoot before you think kind of man would have been the right one to play Aubrey. Russell Crowe was not bad at all in the 2003 movie (it's noticeable since he did not do that well after Gladiator).

I'm really sorry nobody did anything with Bolitho although the actor I'm thinking of for the part is far too old now but he has the sensitive face and sad eyes I've always imagined for my favourite hero (Ciaran Hinds in Persuasion -1995).
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by queen katherine on Sat 08 Dec 2012, 10:10

thanks to Winter 80 for all the information on the casting. Regarding Ioan Gruffudd meant "young" for acting experience, age is perfect for Hornblower Lieutenant or young Captain, if they made ​​the episodes of Admiral hornlower I do not think the British actor would not fit.
Italian female voices are a disaster! Ridiculous! Lady Barbara to be an actress of strong character and charming together.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by reb01501 on Sat 08 Dec 2012, 14:29

Ah! "inexperienced" would have been a better word to use than "young", which is usually used in reference to age. Very Happy

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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Sun 09 Dec 2012, 01:47

My earlier posting that discussed 'casting' for the 1951, Horatio Hornblower movie mentioned that the rights to the 3 C.S. Forester books were bought by the Hollywood studio a bit earlier with the intent of 'boosting' Errol Flynn's career but that "growing difficulties" with the actor lead to the seeking of another to play the title character.

Seems the best they could do for Errol Flynn in 1951, was a low budget 'nautical' flick that didn't do well at the box office:


The Adventures of Captain Fabian **
1951 Errol Flynn, Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead. " Dashing sea captain comes to the aid of a lovely lady. This is the least likable of Flynn's four seagoing dramas, a low budget disappointment to all but the most ardent fans of Errol Flynn. This is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Captain Blood - both in terms of his career, and in entertainment value. In 1951 Flynn was up to his ears in trouble, facing statutory rape charges in the US, and his career flagging. He was living on his yacht in Europe when he conceived this project, and wrote the script, with the hope of reviving his career."
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by Astrodene on Sun 09 Dec 2012, 02:44

Think were starting to get a bit off topic now. You can always start a topic on Errol Flynn movies elsewhere

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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 30 Jan 2014, 02:34

Today, I began to read Horatio Hornblower for the 5th time. Why would I do that?

I've come to the opinion that periodically, I need to "cleanse my palate" with a return to "the standard". You might call it calibrating your yardstick. After reading the books the first 3 times, I'm, this time, returning to the audiobooks which I enjoyed so much on my previous 'read'.

If I'd had to 'take a test' on the early chapters of the 1st book Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, I might well have failed. I didn't remember Hornblower's birthday, nor the significance of it:

" In The Happy Return, the first novel by order of publication, Hornblower was born June 11 in 1771. His age is given as 37, and the events of the novel take place during 1808, in which year Spain was first at war with Great Britain but then changed sides. However, when Forester decided to write about Hornblower's early career in the sixth novel Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, he made his hero about five years younger, giving his birthdate as July 4, 1776 (the date of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence). This adjustment allows Hornblower to begin his career in wartime (1793)."

Nor did I remember the significance of 'the grain ship' that was Hornblower's 1st command:

"It was part of the 'grain fleet' sailing from America to France to abate the current famine and had escaped Howe's fleet, while at the same time the Battle of the Glorious 1st of June was being fought 'out in the mid-Atlantic' by Admiral Howe."

After reading 'many hundred's' of 1st chapters of HNF novels, I find this '1st chapter' to be a short story in itself (as the very best are) and to carry the title of "the standard" well.

I  look forward to this '5th reading' even more than before.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 20 Feb 2014, 00:01

I've been taking this '5th reading' of Hornblower in small portions as I not only "re-enjoy" (my word) it, but try to analyze, at least in my mind, what makes it so good.

Lieutenant Hornblower which, while the 2nd book in the chronological life of the protagonist, is in fact the 7th book in the series (1952) in the order in which they were written.  I find that the author has adeptly produced a situation that allows the character traits that define Hornblower as both a leader and a person during those earlier books to be faithfully exposed. Further, we see the formation of the bond between Hornblower and Bush which is so much a part of the later, but earlier written novels. And C.S. Forester 'carried this off' a fully 15 years after he began the series in 1937.

Certainly speaks to the 'ability' of the author and 'off hand' I don't remember another author that has 'gone back' and done it this well.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Fri 21 Feb 2014, 18:05

For any young (or old) author who would like to 'try their hand' at writing a short story that would 'dovetail' into the timeframe laid down by C.S.Forester for Horatio Hornblower:

In the 2nd book (chronologically), Lieutenant Hornblower the author has left a brief void that truly 'begs a story'. Hornblower and Bush each received "100 pounds" in prize money as their share for the Spanish prizes taken by HMS Renown and, so we're told, spent it during a brief 'liberty' that lasted less than a fortnight ashore in Jamaica.

That's a 'pile of tin' and I don't remember any convents being named after either of them. Any thoughts?
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Sat 15 Mar 2014, 19:38

Well into Hornblower and the Atropos (book 5) and once again noting that most of the 'episodes' making up the book work well as 'stand alone short stories'.

Other than that, and the 'vocal inflection' of the narrator certainly emphasizes it, Hornblower has 'personal issues' that while not debilitating, make his life as 'Captain of a King's Ship' a misery.


Last edited by 80 Winters on Wed 18 Jun 2014, 05:39; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Tue 25 Mar 2014, 16:01

Just finished Beat to Quarters (aka The Happy Return) and while chronologically book 5, this is where 'it all began' back in 1937 when Captain Hornblower was introduced to a genre that carried C.S. Forester's character forward as its 'standard',

A further 'standard' came from the battle between HMS Lydia and Natividad which carried on from "sail ho" to its conclusion for 5 chapters. Noted author James Hall (Mutiny on the Bounty) proclaimed this: "The best account of an engagement at sea that I have ever read".  It's unfortunate that the 1950's movie did not choose to recreate this battle in its entirety, but movies tend to 'compress' the best scenes and events to their detriment.

As this '5th reading' of the Hornblower saga continues, I am still finding 'that which is new' (or possibly just rediscovered) to me and enjoying it all.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by queen katherine on Tue 25 Mar 2014, 17:16

 study "As this '5th reading' of the Hornblower saga continues, I am still finding 'that which is new' (or possibly just rediscovered) to me and enjoying it all."

Beautiful words! You're a really reader!
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by pauljm on Sat 29 Mar 2014, 20:55

For some time I have wondered about the origins of Forester's Hornblower saga, and particularly the source for the plot for "The Happy Return", first in the series. The basic story, in which Hornblower takes a Spanish frigate, is required by his government to turn it over to the local tyrant, and then forced to take the frigate again, now manned by fanatical rebels loyal to "El Supremo", seems too bizarre to be anything other than a product of the author's fertile imagination.

But in fact there were historical events that clearly gave Forester inspiration and even some of the specifics for this story. They are given in some detail on pages 451 to 455 of Volume 28 of the Naval Chronicle, which journal Forester mentioned in "The Hornblower Companion" was the source for the idea of Hornblower and many of his adventures.

Briefly, in 1809 a French frigate, La Felicite, was taken by two British ships in the Caribbean, but instead of being commissioned in the RN, it was sold to General Christophe, leader of the independent republic of Haiti. Renamed L'Amethyste, it was operated by Christophe's forces for a couple of years until in 1811 it was seized by rebels loyal to one General Borgellat, who was trying to set himself up as an independent ruler in the south of the island. On the 3rd of February, 1812, the rogue frigate (now named L'Heureuse Reunion", was stopped by HMS Southampton under Captain Sir James Lucas Yeo. When the commander of the rebel frigate refused to provide evidence that his ship was in fact a legitimate man-of-war (as opposed to a pirate), a conflict ensued in which broadsides were exchanged for some time, and after Yeo avoided his ship being boarded by the oversized crew of his opponent, the Heureuse Reunion finally surrendered with over a hundred casualties, including most of the officers. The ship was taken to Jamaica and restored to Christophe under its old name.

Clearly Forester has made some changes, transferring the events to the Pacific coast of Central America, making them occur some years earlier than the historical precedent, and having the same Royal Navy ship take the frigate on both occasions. However other details in his story derive from the account in the Naval Chronicle, including the threat by the rebels to detonate the ship's magazine rather than be captured, and it cannot be a coincidence that the ship's name itself (Heureuse Reunion i.e. "Happy meeting") is reflected in the title of Forester's book (at least for the British edition; the American version was called "Beat to Quarters).

It says something interesting about Forester's unwillingness to reveal too much about his creative process that in "The Hornblower Companion" he spends nearly two pages discussing the origins of "The Happy Return", mentioning the Naval Chronicle and the vagaries of changing alliances in the age of sail, but never even hints at a real-life model for the events of his story.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by reb01501 on Sun 30 Mar 2014, 03:20

Excellent information. Many thanks.

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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Mon 31 Mar 2014, 00:41

Put this one under the heading; the more I read, the more I learn.

All these years, and I thought that The Happy Return referred to the romance that was kindled between Hornblower and Lady Barbara on the 'return voyage'.

Thanks, pauljm.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by pauljm on Mon 31 Mar 2014, 18:44

I would guess that's what Forester intended the reader to think, and it's the only explanation of the title that makes any sense; the additional reference to the actual event behind the story was his little private joke.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by pauljm on Tue 01 Apr 2014, 21:28

Since someone mentioned rereading "Hornblower and the Atropos", I thought I would put my two cents in on this title.

In short, I think it's Forester's best book, and one of the best titles in the entire historic naval fiction canon. This may seem odd, since it departs from many of the standard formats of the genre: instead of a single continuous story, there are several fairly separate episodes; the battle between the Atropos and the Castilla is handled in a relatively low-key fashion; and the book ends on a downer as Hornblower returns to a family stricken by smallpox.

However, I feel that despite the episodic nature of the story, the whole book is held together by Forester's complete understanding of his hero, and his ability to show the various sides of Hornblower's character in very different situations. By the time this book was written, Forester had produced seven titles in the series, and knew his hero's strengths and weaknesses inside out.

The author (according to "The Hornblower Companion") enjoyed filling in this part of continuing story, pulling together events that had to happen for future adventures (writtten earlier) to be coherent. In addition, he brilliantly inserted Hornblower into unusual settings, drawn from the historical record (the Sapperton tunnel, the funeral of Nelson, and the presence of Keith's fleet in Marmorice Bay) in a way that prefigures O'Brian's even broader social and political settings.

Thus for me, part of the book's appeal is that it is different from the usual format, and that it respects and uses the real history of the time (including referring to actual commanders such as Collingwood), rather than making history a vague and inaccurate backdrop to anachronistic hi-jinks. My interest in historic naval fiction centres on the genre's ability to give the reader a sense of what it might have been like to live in that distant world...for my money, "Hornblower and the Atropos" takes us back in a convincing and engaging way.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 03 Apr 2014, 02:19

Well said, Pauljm

I've just finished Ship of the Line on this '5th reading and trip down memory lane', and talk about "the book ending on a downer". It takes me back to those 'days of yester-years' when we watched the 'serials' at the Saturday picture shows that ended with: "tune in next week".

After having read a lot of HNF over the years, it comes to me that while most HNF authors of the recent past have felt it 'obligatory' to insert their protagonist into one or more of the 'great sea battles' of the period, C.S. Forester produced an iconic protagonist and 'standard' for HNF series without ever taking Hornblower into any of these battles though his career spanned both French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Please correct me if I've erred on this, but by Hornblower and the Atropos Nelson was dead and Trafalgar past.
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Re: Horatio Hornblower Series

Post by Astrodene on Thu 03 Apr 2014, 02:26

@80 Winters wrote:Please correct me if I've erred on this, but by Hornblower and the Atropos Nelson was dead and Trafalgar past.

Well as the first part of the book was all about Hornblower organising his funeral I hope he was dead.  Laughing

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