Jun 1, 2013
Captains Courageous: Boys Alone on a Boat
When Harvey finally returns to his parents, he brings Dan along. Both go to work for his father's shipping line. There are no women in the novel except for Harvey's mother.
The 1937 version decreases Harvey's age (played by 13-year old Freddie Bartholomew), and minimized the role of Dan (Mickey Rooney, left and top photo), instead having him saved by an adult fisherman, Manuel (Spencer Tracey). Their friendship becomes intense and intimate, but it is doomed: during a race with another ship, Manuel is entangled in the rigging and pulled under the water, where he drowns. The movie ends with Harvey back in civilization, throwing a wreath into the sea to honor Manuel's memory.
Ricardo Montalban), although Manuel still dies. Harvey doesn't get a romantic partner, just a father figure in the Captain (Karl Malden).
I can't even begin to speculate on why the writers or directors decided to transfer the gay subtext from peer to older-younger, but I know why they decided to have Harvey's partner die: to emphasize the heterosexist conceit that same-sex bonds are temporary, mere adolescent fancies. Just as the Captain has a wife back home, when Harvey returns to port, he will abandon childhood romances and marry.