Tuesday May 19th, 2009

Along with Long John Silver, Captain Nemo and Blackbeard, Captain James Hook must be on of the ultimate fictional villains of the high seas. Created by J.M Barrie as the antagonist for his play Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (1904), the dastardly Captain is probably more fondly thought of that the titular flying-boy. As nemesis’ come they certainly don’t get much more fun than Hook.

The story goes that Peter Pan cut off the Captain’s hand in a sword fight and fed it to a crocodile. The pirate replaced the missing hand with (yes you got it) and iron hook. Unfortunately for him the crocodile acquires a taste for his flesh and is in constant pursuit of the villain in the hope of finishing off the meal. Fortunately for Hook the crocodile has swallowed an alarm clock so he’s pre-warned of the reptile’s approach by the constant ticking in its belly.

Hook didn’t actually appear in early drafts of the play with Pan himself being the nearest thing to a villain. He was introduced as a front of cloth character for a scene to be staged whilst the curtain was down and the sets were changed from Neverland to the Darling Nursery. This scene depicted the children’s journey home. Of course the penny soon dropped that kids are fascinated by pirates, so Barrie developed the character into the psychopathic Peter Pan baiting Lost Boy hating lunatic that we all love to hate.

When the play was first staged the character was supposed to be played by the actress in the role of Mary Darling (Dorothea Baird) however Gerald DuMaurier, who was plying George Darling persuaded Barrie to let him take the role instead. Hence the tradition of Captain Hook and George Darling being played by the same actor began. A tradition that has been replicated on stage, in movie and on TV ever since.

In Barrie’s novel ‘Peter Pan’ he decided to shroud Hook in some kind of dark mystery and stated 'Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze.' He also fleshes out the villainous side by adding “he was Blackbeard’s boatswain and the only man Long John Silver ever feared.” It is also hinted that the pirate captain attended Eton, as his final words are “Floreat Etona” the College’s motto. This idea was followed up when Barrie made a speech to the first hundred at Eton in 1927, which he called ‘Captain Hook at Eton.’

Although Disney’s version of Hook is probably the best remembered he is really far cry from the evil buccaneer portrayed on stage and on paper. Movie versions in general seem to turn him into a more comical, cowardly villain. But then again Peter Pan is also usually portrayed in a better light too. Whatever the case Captain Hook is the definitive villainous role and the prime choice for actors since he was created. Over the years and has been portrayed by the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Jason Isaacs, Tim Curry, Danny Kay, Ian Mc Shane, and Hans Conried (Disney version) to name a few, which isn’t at all bad for a bad guy over 100 years old.
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