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  • jotix10010 June 2006
    They certainly don't make movies like this one anymore! "The Pirate" shows how MGM dominated the musical genre with stars of the magnitude of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland under Vincente Minnelli's direction, and music by Cole Porter.

    The story is just a pretext to present the stars doing what they did best. The film is totally dominated by Gene Kelly, who makes a wonderful contribution to the film as Serafin, an itinerant entertainer who happens to be in Calvados, the Caribbean, a fictional island where the beautiful Manuela is about to get married to a powerful man, Don Pedro Vargas.

    After being pursued by Serafin, Manuela's resolve to marry the much older, fatter, and uglier, Don Pedro, is reduced to seeing the would be husband by what he really is, a bully and a man who she will never bring herself to love. The revelations at the end and the happy conclusion gives the film a great finale.

    Gene Kelly and Judy Garland were at the peak of their careers. Ms. Garland looks so beautiful in the film and she makes an adorable Manuela. Mr. Kelly gives an excellent performance as the song and dance man who can put people in a trance as he hypnotizes them. The musical numbers in which Mr. Kelly dances are superbly staged.

    The supporting players are a delight. Gladys Cooper, makes a great Aunt Inez. Walter Slezak is perfect as Don Pedro, a man who hides deeply rooted secrets. Reginald Owen and George Zucco are also seen. Best of all are the Nicholas Brothers who were amazing in their number.

    The glorious Technicolor utilized in the film has kept its luster as it has aged gloriously.
  • THE PIRATE was a definite departure from the typical fare MGM was churning out during the 40's and 50's and audiences let MGM know immediately that this was not the kind of thing they were accustomed to because, for the most part, audiences stayed away in droves, and sadly, missed one of the most colorful and imaginative offerings to come from the MGM stable. THE PIRATE was the second of three films that Judy Garland and Gene Kelly appeared in together. Judy delivers a smart comic performance as Manuela, a Spanish princess engaged to a rich and sleazy nobleman (Walter Slezak)though at night she dreams of being with an enigmatic pirate she has heard tales of called Macoco or Mack the Black. Manuela meets Serafin (Gene Kelly) an actor in a traveling troupe and mistakes him for Macoco and it is this bit of mistaken identity upon which the thin plot thread resolves. Vincente Minnelli once again shows his penchant and eye for color with some outstanding scenery and art direction, as well as some state of the art special effects for 1948. Despite looking frail, Garland delivers an on target comic performance as Manuela and her voice, in fine form as usual, resonates on the rousing "Mack the Black" and is equally compelling on the beautiful ballad "Love of My Life". Gene Kelly is at the peak of his on screen charm and physical and dancing prowess as the witty Serafin and makes the Pirate Ballet fantasy a must see for musical fans and it goes without saying that his duet with Garland, "Be a Clown" is a classic. Kelly also does an amazing dance number with the Nicholas Brothers. Vincente Minnelli's magical eye, the voice of Garland, the charisma of Kelly, and Cole Porter music...what else do you need?
  • Though Gene Kelly is superb as the athletic strolling player Serafin, and is given some of the best dancing opportunities of his career, this is Miss Garland's film all the way. And what a film! How strange that it isn't better known.

    In one of their rare moments of scenic largesse, Metro released Garland from the small town confinements of Hardy--ville, and/or the sweet girl who makes it to Broadway with the corn stalks still in her suitcase, and gave her something of genuine wit and sophistication.

    For here, she is Manuela Alvarez, of the colonial Virgin Islands, a well born, cloistered 19th century maiden, (presumably convent educated, i.e., Gladys Cooper to Judy, "...we'll take refuge in the church!") whose only psychic escape from her self enclosure consists in fantasizing about the notorious pirate, "Mack the Black Macoco." That she is tricked into believing a dashing actor, Serafin (Kelly) is the real Macoco, while in fact he is none other than her lumpy affianced, Mayor Dom Pedro (Walter Slezak) is the spindle upon which this cinematic yarn spins its glories.

    And what phantasmagoric glories they are! This ranks with "Yolanda and the Thief," (sorry "American in Paris" fans) as Mr. Minnelli's most accomplished Technicolor visual achievement. For working with Jack Martin Smith, he concocts a Caribbean sea port a swirl with color and characters--one can almost smell the salt air a waft with spice and languor, and including as well: a quay brimming with turbanned negroe vendors, a village of Salmon and off white stucco walls, and black filagreed wrought iron against a cerulean sky, and bevys of extras dressed in a fortune worth of rainbow colored moire, velvet and brocade flounces, furbellows, snoods, and gauntlets. The shaded interiors are replete with empire furniture, carved ebony, and bamboo blinds and palmettos.

    The effect is dreamlike in an operetta sort of way and deliberately so. A storybook come to life but one which successfully combines the conventions of 19th century aristocratic propriety, (in which young women of quality do not walk out without their duennas) against 20th century show biz colloquialisms to great effect, (one thinks here of Mr. Kelly's delightful reference to a review in the "Trinidad Clarion comparing him to David Garrick","No Noose is Good Noose," and "You should try underplaying sometime."

    The players are at the top of their form: Mr. Kelly is in full command of his powers here: his partnering with the Nicholas Brothers in "Be a Clown," as well as the "Pirate Ballet" (in which he pivots with a javelin against a cinnabar sky lit with explosions) almost literally take ones breath away.

    But it is in "Ninia" that he achieves the most felicitous display of solo Terpsichore, with Robert Alton's choreography, Harry Stradling's fluid boom camera following his cat like moves over up and through the town, and the delightful Cole Porter lyric and melody, culminating in flamenco steps with torrid and tempting MGM contract dancers in and through the striped poles of a circular gazebo.

    Of Miss Garland enough cannot be said. No more Betsy Booth! Manuela offers her a chance to broaden her range in a direction in which (sadly) she would never venture again.

    Here her exasperated intonations wring humor out of every line and situation, "Oh Casilda I do wish you were a little more spiritual!" or "Do you call it fun to live in a tent? to go hungry ?, to be looked down on by all decent people?!" give full vent to the drollery the script affords. Indeed, she channels her trademarked nervous energy into her character in such a way, that she, (as "Parent's Magazine" noted in its review) gently spoofs some of her earlier film characterizations. Thus we get the Dorothy like: ("I know it, something dreadful is going to happen, something dreadful...") It's a performance that one cannot simply imagine any other actress playing. Thus, she claims the role and makes it her own.

    And who can forget the scene where she pretends to believe Serafin is Macoco once she has discovered the deception, "I can see us now, you with your cutlass in one hand and your compass in the other, shouting orders to your pirate crew, and I, I spurring you on to greater and greater achievements, won't that be magnificent?!" to which she pounds her fist against the table with sugar dipped venom.

    Musically she is also a delight from start to finish.

    Moreover, she has never been seen to such pictorial advantage in the post war period as she is here, gowned by Tom Keogh and Madame Karinska in one of the most arresting (and beaded!) wardrobes she ever wore on screen, and just as importantly, effectively coiffed throughout, (most particularly in the "Love of My Life" sequence where she is adorned with a coral diadem and matching earrings.)

    Similarly, her close-ups are meltingly lovely, such as the nightgown clad scene wherein she begs Gladys Cooper to take her to Port Sebastian, "I'll make him a good wife Aunt Inez--really." (what a vision in feminine charm she is here!) or slightly later when, clad in a broad brimmed straw hat she gazes upon the Caribbean, or perhaps best of all, with a conch shell at her ear, and under hypnosis, she whispers of Macoco to dazzled interlocutors.

    Supporting players are top of the mark, and it is interesting to see Garland interact with Gladys Cooper and horror veteran George Zucco.

    After it was completed, MGM relegated Garland back to formula vaudeville hokum, but thankfully "The Pirate" was already in the can. Musical film scholar Douglas McVay has declared it to be the best musical film of 1948. He's right. See it to find out why.
  • In its classic era Hollywood was not a place where artistes could conceive and execute projects exactly to plan. Often a production would change hands, get scrapped, revived, or overhauled completely into a new genre according to changing needs and resources. That's not an admonition - it's simply the way they created quality entertainment. The Pirate was not the first straight-ahead comedy drama to receive a musical makeover halfway through production.

    MGM, in the middle of what would one day be known as its golden age of musicals, probably thought they were onto an easy winner because they had all the finest musical talent of the day at their disposal. They brought in Arthur Freed to produce, Vincente Minnelli to direct, with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly as stars. They even managed to coax Cole Porter into writing the score. It couldn't fail... could it? The trouble is, such hasty talent stuffing sometimes backfires. Let's begin with the two leads. Garland, had worked continuously since childhood and was by now only being kept going with the amphetamines she would eventually become hooked on. She was running out of steam and it shows in her rather uneven performance, veering from theatrical exaggeration to bizarre, doped-up eroticism. Kelly by contrast was at the top of his game, but he looks daft in that moustache, and his performance relies more on his second-rate acrobats than his first-rate dancing. Garland and Kelly are however fantastic in the comical ornament-smashing scene. This is easily the best moment in the picture, which just goes to show how underused their musical abilities are.

    Vincente Minnelli was by now established as a unique and highly effective director of musicals. He had a method of giving character and dynamics to every number, making the camera and the colours part of the choreography. A great example is the song Nina, which is shot entirely in two or three continuous takes. Minnelli leads us into the song tracking over to the "Nina" in the boldest colours, then alights on one "Nina" after another, delicately framing each in a painterly composition. He holds our interest throughout this long routine, with the camera in close to establish the premise of the number then moving out to show off Kelly's athletics, moving in again for the cigarette-kiss trick, before moving out again for the final group dance. It's just a shame that The Pirate has too few songs, and not nearly enough dance.

    Minnelli was also a competent director of non-musical action, particularly crowd scenes. His expert use of camera movement provides Kelly with a fantastic entrance. We dolly back through the crowds, focus on a crate with the acting company's details on it, then pull back and up to reveal Kelly being hoisted aloft. Shortly after this comes a bit of a misfire though. Minnelli, for very good reasons, often liked to keep actors in mid-shot rather than closeup, drawing attention to them through use of framing and movement. As Kelly strolls through the crowd advertising his company, we are focused on him because he is very animated while his audience are unnaturally still. It gives what should be a lively moment a sense of emptiness, and I can't help thinking of the real world audience getting bored wondering when the first musical number will strike up.

    As for Cole Porter's music, it's far from his best. The plot is, as Kelly later pointed out, a huge inside joke that it took audiences twenty years to get, although if it was at the expense of Douglas Fairbanks, wasn't it also being made twenty years too late? The MGM studio-bound look is particularly stifling for such an exotic, adventuresome setting. All in all, The Pirate has plenty of colouring, but not enough flavour, and is one of the most disappointing of MGM musicals.
  • Vincent Minnelli makes sumptuous use of color, costumes and settings in this lush MGM musical teaming Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in their prime. The score may not be one of Cole Porter's best (in fact, Garland expressed her open dislike to the composer for some of her numbers), but just watch her do magic with 'Mack the Black' and 'Love of My Life'. To be honest, it's really Kelly's movie. Garland was having problems at the time and Minnelli decided to give him ample opportunity with additional dance numbers excluding Garland. However, their teaming in 'Be A Clown' is a joyous one, each trying to upstage the other in full exhuberance. And the Nicholas Brothers are worth the price of admission for their climactic routine with Kelly. Gladys Cooper, as always, is a joy in a supporting role as Garland's stern aunt--but it's the comic flair of Kelly that distinguishes much of the fun. Walter Slezak has fun too with his role as the mayor who just happens to be the real Mack the Black. A colorful treat with some of the best color photography ever! Some of the fights between Kelly and Garland get a little strident at times, but overall it's a real gem with Judy showing that her comic timing with a line was just about perfect.
  • Judy Garland may never have been so funny again (or had such a wonderfully over-the-top script to work with) as in "The Pirate." Her best scene by far comes toward the end, when she discovers that Gene Kelly is not the dashing pirate he's pretending to be. At first, she makes a great show of passion toward her "dream lover," but her temper soon snaps and Kelly is dodging everything from vases to chairs.

    Kelly is also marvelous, both in his dancing and his comic delivery, which meshes perfectly with Garland's. My personal favorite: "Oh senorita, don't marry that pumpkin."

    Not to be missed!
  • Gene Kelly and Judy Garland stepped into some mighty big shoes when they accepted the lead roles in The Pirate. On Broadway, The Pirate ran in the 1942-43 season for 177 performances and the shoes that Kelly and Garland were filling belonged to Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. True it's probably one of the lighter vehicles that Lunt and Fontanne ever did, still it might have been interesting to compare what they did with the snappy dialog of S.N. Behrmann.

    Cole Porter signed on to write the score for this musical adaption of The Pirate. Porter had been in a creative dry spell for a few years, most notoriously he was associated with a flop musical based on Around The World In 80 Days, a couple of years back. Believe it or not, he was having trouble getting work in Hollywood and on Broadway when he signed with MGM for The Pirate.

    According to the George Eells biography of Porter, it was Gene Kelly who asked Porter to write a clown number for him and Judy Garland. Porter responded with Be A Clown which turned out to be the hit of the film. The rest of the score is not top drawer Porter, but mediocre Cole Porter is better than most songwriters can come up with.

    Judy Garland plays another starry eyed youngster in The Pirate which is set in the 18th century Caribbean. She's first seen reading what would later be called a dime novel about the legendary Makoko the Pirate. She's getting into an arranged marriage with the mayor of the town, staid and settled Walter Slezak. When a troupe of strolling players led by Gene Kelly come to town, under hypnosis she reveals that she longs to be the bride of Makoko. What's Gene Kelly to do, but pretend to be Makoko.

    That's all well and good except that Walter Slezak is the real Makoko now just trying to live in peaceful obscurity away from the authorities who want to hang him. All this leads to some interesting complications that of course get all sorted out in the end.

    Judy gets to do two ballads in her unmistakable style, Love Of My Life and You Can Do No Wrong. And she stars in a rousing production number where the proclaims her enchantment with the legendary Makoko in Mack The Black.

    The film got a tepid response in 1948, it's given far better critical notice in retrospect. The Pirate was produced by MGM's legendary Arthur Freed and his unit and directed stylishly by Vincent Minnelli who was Judy Garland's husband at the time. Today's audiences would far better appreciate the combined wit of S.N. Behrmann and Cole Porter.

    As for Porter, his next writing assignment would stop all talk of his going into decline. The following year Kiss Me Kate debuted on Broadway which was Porter's biggest critical and commercial success. No one ever said that score wasn't up to his usual standard.
  • There's something in this movie which make it stand apart from other MGM musicals of that period, and I believe it was precisely this reason the movie ended up as a marketing flop.

    First of all, the whole movie has very exaggerated and stylized tone, which combined with the vivid cinematography of Vincente Minnelli, creates rather fantastical, storybook-like (remember the movie actually starts with turning of storybook pages) mood, which might feel too alien to the audiences who expected to see another typical MGM musical like For Me and My Gal.

    Of course, other period musicals like Meet Me in St.Louis or The Harvey Girls are far from realistic also. But while we can say that Esther's family or the Harvey House in those are rather idealized or exaggerated, they are by no means fantastic or surrealistic like such an imaginary Caribbean island where things like a pirate in his hot pants cutting ears off a bunny hat look like 'normal'.

    If such an intention can be misinterpreted even by a modern reviewer to make him to criticize the movie, based on ethnic demography of a typical Caribbean island, then it's hardly surprising to see why some audiences from the 40s found it to be 'over dramatic' or 'over the top', for example.

    As to the movie itself, I think I should give more credit to Gene Kelly than to Judy Garland even though I'm a big fan of the latter, and actually it was because of her that I first decided to watch this movie.

    Aside from the "Mack the Black" or "Be a Clown" numbers, which are nice but can't be said to be top notch, music scores of the movie aren't very impressive, so regretfully we don't have much occasion to appreciate Judy Garland's legendary talent.

    But as to Gene Kelly, the movie serves as a great showcase to prove that he's much more than a mere good looking actor with some tap dancing skills. By adapting elements of ballet or even pole dancing, he tries to innovate the musical dancing to a whole new level, and sequences like "Nina" or the "Pirate Ballet" feels like a precursor to his later efforts which successfully enlarged and redefined the field.

    All in all, it's one of those movies which can be termed as a 'successful failure', which was successful in making a lasting impression with many bold and innovative attempts, and be a marketing flop for the very same reason.

    If there were a bit more memorable music numbers, which would give Judy Garland more chance to shine, it might have been remembered as one of a cult classic of MGM musicals.
  • Highly stylized this is not an essential MGM musical along the lines of Meet Me in St. Louis or the Wizard of Oz but there is much that is memorable here aside from the Be a Clown finale. Perhaps Gene Kelly's most physical performance his pirate dance is phenomenal and he is loose and full of fun. Watching Judy there are hints everywhere of the jittery mess she was behind the camera while this was in production, she is almost never still for an instant throughout the entire film, especially her hands, and she is thin to the point of gauntness. Even with her evident spiral she still manages to be both funny and moving and the voice is in great expressive shape. A huge flop upon release its reputation has grown with the years and it can now be viewed as the artwork it is.
  • bobsgrock20 June 2008
    There aren't many films you can call pure entertainment, but The Pirate is certainly one of them. It takes a common plot line that is totally predictable, but it is so much fun to watch two of Hollywood's greatest musical actors together on screen that you don't care about the plot. Judy Garland is ravishing as the sheltered Manuela, who is doomed and forced to marry a man she doesn't love, Don Pedro. Then, along comes Gene Kelly as a two-bit actor who falls for Manuela and tricks her, along with the entire Caribbean village, into thinking he is the notorious pirate Macoco, AKA Mack the Black. Stylishly directed by Vincente Minnelli, and wonderfully choreographed, this is one of the better musicals during MGM's golden age of musical productions. Everything here is quite campy, especially Kelly's performance, which is so over the top and outrageous, you won't know whether to laugh or cringe. Take it as pure fun and entertainment. This is a great musical with some good numbers, phenomenal dancing, and two really good looking actors at the top of their game. The Pirate is so much fun.
  • You'd think that another Gene Kelly/Judy Garland movie, directed by Vincente Minnelli no less, would go down in history. It's too bad that this movie lacks the proper script. Although Judy makes some parts of this movie hilarious, Gene needs a little help. If you can ever get your hands on this movie, I'd watch it just for the laughs. First of all, this movie is about the Carribean. Now does fair-skinned white as an angel Judy Garland look even the least bit like a Carribean dame? Kelly passes off with his mustache. As I said before, look for the humor. The best scenes in brief: 1. Judy Garland's fight with Gene Kelly in which she cuts him in the butt with her sword 2. Judy and Gene's "Mack the Black" song. Judy sounds all right, Gene dances all right and Vincente directs all right. But that's just it. It should've been TERRIfIC! A litle more effort and this movie would've won an Academy Award. There are a few little steamy parts in here. Judy sings to Gene and Gene looks at her with such loving awe that you can't help but love them both. I liked this movie. 8/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This wonderful, colourful MGM musical is something of a "sleeper" film. While Judy Garland's "The Wizard Of Oz" and "Meet Me In St Louis" are well-known and loved, and Gene Kelly's "Singin In The Rain" and "An American In Paris" are equally revered and adored, "The Pirate" slips under the radar. Why is it not better known? With great musical numbers, a witty script and endearing, humorous and very charismatic performances from the two stars, it SHOULD be talked about more often.

    Garland (looking small and not entirely well, yet capable of producing gusto when needed!) plays the heroine Manuela, who is about to be married off to the rich mayor Don Pedro (Walter Slezak) of the fictional town of Calvados in the Caribbean. However, Manuela is not enthused about the marriage and instead dreams of being "taken off like a chickenhawk" by the legendary pirate Macoco. Enter travelling player Serafin (Gene Kelly), a charming, dashing, womanising entertainer who sees Manuela and instantly falls in love. Prepare for a wonderful, delightful ride as Kelly hypnotizes Garland, masquerades as Macoco, eventually reveals the REAL Macoco to Garland and the audience and wins his leading lady's heart by the end of the film! This lovely musical is an affectionate, yet sharp, send-up of the swashbucklers of Fairbanks, Barrymore and Flynn from (now and then)yesteryear. Garland and Kelly both give deliciously comic performances that are quite unlike the rest of their body of work. Kelly in particular is just wonderful, and both stars get to deliver great Cole Porter tunes. "Nina" is now one of my favourite Kelly numbers, "Mack The Black" has Garland in fine form and "Be A Clown" is just a classic tune. Minnelli's trademark exquisite use of Technicolour and expert stageing of the musical sequences, truly filmic and seemingly effortlessly integrated, is also on show here.

    "The Pirate" is essentially about a young woman finding love whilst also being able to express herself. Manuela realises she doesn't really want to be "carried off like a chickenhawk" by a hulking pirate, nor does she want to be married to a rich man, surrounded by fine things, yet have no opinion or self-worth. She instead desires love where there is also mutual appreciation, support and fun. Kelly's Serafin offers her all those things, and the chance to be truly be herself. Any wonder why Manuela eventually falls for Serafin? Combine those elements with some fun supporting work from Slezak and Gladys Cooper and you have an excellent film that should be better known. Check it out!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is among my personal favorites of the less successful MGM musicals. There's really no good reason why this was not a hit; I can only fantasize about a period of time in the 1940s when so many great films were being made with so many fantastic stars like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland that people could actually overlook a film as fun and beautiful as this one is.

    Kelly is more impressive in the film than Garland, who doesn't look like she's 100% healthy. I get a strong feeling that Kelly is living out a childhood Doug Fairbanks fantasy; he does some stunts in the balletic sequence that really do look dangerous, and Alton/Kelly/Minnelli go out of their way to show Kelly's face so that you know that it's really him. This ballet sequence serves the same function as many other dream sequences in Minnelli's films, expressing a psychological transition for the protagonist at the same time as expressing a wish/fulfillment, in this case Manuela's attraction shifting to Serafin and Serafin's own ego-fantasy as the dashing outlaw.

    Garland does really show off her great comic timing; this is one of those movies where the characters are definitely just modern types planted in the middle of a historical setting, and humorous anachronisms and slang abound. To fit the light farcical mood, director Minnelli and designer Gibbons have created a rarified cinematic Caribbean unlike any real world place in any time; an effect similar to the faerie-tale South of his "Cabin in the Sky" but which more specifically modifies the visual motifs of "Yolanda and the Thief." The photography by Harry Stradling is some of the best you will ever see in a musical film; particularly impressive are the firelit "Mack the Black" and Pirate dream-ballet.

    The film functions either as a fanciful escape or as an almost satirical statement about the battle of the sexes and sexual politics in general – which reaches a peak rarely equaled in musical history in the famous scene when Manuela throws every object within each at Seraphin. Manuela starts off in a situation that's so degrading and abject that even in the context of the more paternal 40s culture it would have been disturbing – for example when Manuela's guardian-aunt (Gladys Cooper) informs her that she doesn't need to meet her fiancé because "he's not marrying you to hear you talk." Manuela has the desire to see the world and travel, and her "affianced" simply says he's been there/done that and "I'll tell you all about it." Manuela in other words is a virtual slave in her society, which adds dark humor to her rejection of the "lowly" actor Serafin which forces him to masquerade as the apparently more socially acceptable pirate (the irony here is accented neon-sign style by the scene where Judy pretends to be mourning as she prepares to meet "Macoco"). Macoco is a symbol of freedom for Manuela – and the film really gets interesting because although of course Serafin isn't really Macoco, he does really offer her not only the chance to travel but also (through "the Art of Mesmer") undreamed-of opportunities for self-expression through music and role-playing (none of which, as we noted above, the "real" Macoco has any interest in offering her). The pivotal moments in their romance all involve role-playing and the film shamelessly milks the irony of these role-reversals as the situational comedy rises to a crescendo. Serafim is hooked on Manuela as soon as he sees her performance and her effect on the audience when she sings "Mack the Black", one of Porter's better tunes for this film. Then we have Sarafin attempting to woo her by pretending to be the romantic pirate. But we really don't know if she loves him until she has discovered his "true" identity and engages in role-playing of her own, briefly convincing Serafin that she buys his act long enough to makes some humorously offensive comments about his acting abilities. At the moment Serafin realizes he's been "had", we know they're in love – and Manuela immediately proceeds with an orgasmic barrage of projectiles. This scene functions to humble the Serafin character also, and his perseverance in the face of such an assault assures us that his womanizing "Nina" days are over. The flirtation is consummated when the 2 collaborate in performance and fool Macoco into revealing his identity. There's nowhere else for the film to go from there, and the couple celebrate their new love and freedom of expression with "Be a Clown" – whoever says this song does not fit into the story is missing something I think.

    It's definitely not Porter's best work, because the ballads feel a bit underwhelming compared to the dance numbers, throwing the film irretrievably into Kelly's lap. But we have here a glorious entertaining musical that shows off the talents of 2 great stars. We also have guest performers who add a lot – particularly Slezak's greasy turn as the "real" pirate seeking social respectability and the incomparable dancing team of the Nicholas Brothers, who join Kelly in a groundbreaking inter-racial dance. And we have a story that provides ample situational comedy and reveals layers of contemplation about the space between fantasy and reality and shows us how true love can sometimes be found in the place where fantasy and reality converge – on the theater stage where fiction reveals its ironic truth and a hungry audience expects to be surprised. Thus I think this film anticipates the theme of Minnelli's great "Band Wagon" with its celebration of entertainment and also forms, like his later "Gigi", a softly delivered message about female liberation. Manuela has found not the promised quiet domesticity planned for her, nor the fantasy of pirate abduction (both of which are simply different or opposed axes of male domination), but instead a lover who respects her and a way of life that will encourage her to express and explore her emotions.
  • I was a kid when I first saw "The Pirate." So I missed many of the nuances in this incredibly glorious farce. Garland and Kelly have never been funnier. Though the songs are few, the production numbers are astounding. Garland, of course, sounds incredible and Kelly does at least three long dance numbers that make for wonderful watching. Viewers must remember that the whole movie is a put-on to some degree, and the stars put it over marvelously. Great support, too, from Walter Slezak and Gladys Cooper. This is one of those films that validate the phrase "glorious technicolor." It also adds lustre to the memory of the golden age of MGM musicals.
  • The Pirate (1948) really won me over! I have never been the biggest fan of musicals, but occasionally I'll try a new one to see if it might make my short list. The story is so romantic and played as such a farce that I was enthralled.

    Gene Kelly is very handsome, but I never noticed his sex appeal. His tan, his muscles, his arm band, his charm...I could go on and on! Judy Garland looked so beautiful and gave a brilliant performance alongside Kelly. Their kiss is the most passionate I've seen and certainly not within Hays Code limits of 3 seconds of contact. I just love a little rebellion and this was the perfect movie for it.

    The musical numbers were few and Gene's dancing is so fascinating, that I was able to make it through. This was a delightful treat and is now on my short list of musicals. I highly recommend it.
  • The first 20mins of this movie are a bit slow but once Judy launches into 'Mack The Black' it takes off at an incredible speed. Garland and Kelly are wonderful with their tongue-in-cheek characters,especially funny is the scene where they have a huge row, judy throwing things at gene.

    I find it a bit hard to believe that judy is this Spanish/Caribbean woman, could they not have used a little self tan? Most of the numbers are excellent although Minnelli gets a little self indulgent with his style at times.

    This is enjoyable as it is rather satirical and doesn't contain any corny well used plots like many musicals of the time, however this is not as good as judy and gene's first outing 'for me and my gal'.

    It's a pity the first take of 'voodoo' isn't available, the one that made LB Mayer burn the film and gave gene a massive lecture on how to behave whilst dancing, it probably wouldn't be so shocking today.

    Not as good as classics such as 'meet me in st louis' and 'singin in the rain' but still ***** 5 stars.
  • I really wish I liked this film more than I do. It has an impeccable team of technicians, stars and a great director working at full speed. Still, so many elements didn't mesh, and even with its plot and premise it still seems too contrived. I am taking the suspension of disbelief into full consideration here.

    The Cole Porter songs, to begin with, seemed dull here. With only one exception, I can't remember a line of any tune or a word of the lyrics - except, of course, Nina, which was hammered home disagreeably."Be a Clown" is the one exception, I'm happy to report, but that was used later in "Singin' in the Rain" to much, much better effect with Donald O'Connor.

    Again, the fire sequence was put to better, more comical use in "Bandwagon" and I would vote for Judy Garland any time in the director's own "Meet Me in St Louis", where the songs and plot are so beautifully wed. In "The Pirate" they seem to be tacked on and the dance sequences seem disconnected and long. If Gene Kelly could only have taken a hint from Fred Astaire about when and how much to sing...neither had much of a voice, but Astaire dealt with it intelligently.

    The films mentioned above were all made at later dates, though, and maybe that's why I feel unhappy about my reaction.

    Curtis Stotlar
  • I'm not a fan of musicals in general, but I like this one. The visuals, though clearly 1948, and very vivid and pleasing to the eye. The story also manages to be cute and silly without degenerating into complete nonsense. Gene Kelly does a pretty impressive job during to musical numbers; at times he seems to defy gravity effortlessly. One can't help but be impressed. The real jewel of this film, though, is Judy Garland. I couldn't tell you exactly what it is about her, but she is absolutely fantastic in this film. Her facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice (especially when her character is irritated) and absolutely irresistable. Even if this movie was terrible, it would be worth watching just for her performance.

    On the downside, the musical numbers do get a little exhausting and seem just too long for their own good. Yes, Gene Kelly can sing and dance, but somewhere around the tenth minute of "Be a Clown" I felt like driving a dull steak knife through my skull.
  • Sixty years ago, the musical 'The Pirate' was a flop. Now, in the 21st century, it can be said to have taken on a new life as a cult...


    It's a harsh but tempting aphorism. On the face of it the film has everything going for it -- Technicolor MGM production values, Cole Porter songs, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as the stars, melodrama, athleticism, and homage to Douglas Fairbanks -- but somehow it fails to come together into a convincing whole. Everyone over-acts, especially the principals, and the unintended result of all this ham is that it's hard to find any of them very sympathetic.

    The basic set-up of the plot is not without promise -- that of the fake who's more convincing than the real thing -- but while I don't know the original play, I'm not sure that rewriting as a star vehicle for Judy Garland's benefit did it any favours. This isn't one of her best roles, and her performance as the histrionic and self-deluding Manuela is shrill and lacking in appeal. Gene Kelly, looking rather more comfortable in his costumes than she does in hers, fills the shoes of the vain showman Serafin more adequately, with the charm and virility required by the part -- but after the opportunistic opening number it's hard to credit the sincerity of his character's affections.

    There is no real dramatic tension, save for the scene in the square after the Viceroy arrives, when we finally begin to care about the characters' fate... but any suspicion of serious intent is then rapidly washed away by the shoe-horned-in 'Be a Clown' routine. A classic it may have become, but it really doesn't belong here, bearing all too clearly the signs of having been inserted at the last minute in an attempt to obtain at least one 'hit' in a sadly unmemorable score. The subsequent inevitable reprise of this number with Judy Garland in clown-face is more than a little tired: we've seen the urchin-act to better effect in 'Easter Parade' and will see it trotted out once more in 'A Star is Born'. It doesn't fit with the very feminine character as she has been presented to date. And the shadow of the noose, for the fake pirate or for the real one, has gone beyond the stage where it can plausibly be laughed off behind the scenes. The finale is just jarring.

    The film clearly isn't intended to be taken as a serious melodrama; which is a pity, because I found those few moments towards the end perhaps the most effective. Unfortunately, however, it's not that funny either. There are a few chuckle-out-loud moments, but on the whole it suffers from the illusion that hammed-up acting is in itself sufficient to raise a laugh: as Serafin himself observes to his rival, ''Try understatement -- it's more effective.''

    It's *very* stagy, from the ill-tailored pantomime dresses to the total lack of location filming -- the single stock shot of the real sea makes this even more obvious -- the cartoon Spanish (half the cast pronounce the heroine's name laboriously as 'Man-yoo-ella', the other half as 'Man-weila', and her village is the improbably-christened Calvados) and the cheap special effects that have Kelly in one shot walking the tightrope with his teetering feet clearly failing to touch the wire, and dancing around a very fake donkey. None of this would *matter* if only the film's story would take fire... but, alas, by and large it doesn't. Kelly's dance sequences are effective, if largely divorced from the plot; Garland's songs less so, ranging from the forgettable to the embarrassing ('Mack the Black' and 'the CaRIBbean Sea' -- really!)

    Something might have been made of this property -- though not as a Judy Garland vehicle -- but Minnelli's 'The Pirate' isn't it. A historical curiosity in the careers of all those involved.
  • The Pirate is directed by Vincente Minnelli and adapted to screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett from the S.N. Behrman play. It stars Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Walter Slezak and Gladys Cooper. Music is by Lennie Hayton and Cole Porter and cinematography by Harry Stradling Sr.

    Gene Kelly plays Serafin, an actor who poses as notorious pirate Macoco to win the heart of Manuela Alva (Garland) because she dreams of being swept away to a life of romantic adventure.

    By definition it was a troubled production, numerous rewrites, Garland's battle with prescription drugs impacting on the shooting schedule and audiences turning their backs on a film they wasn't sure how to react too. With the box office results failing to match the production value or the film's ambition, it is a film that has for a number of years carried around the tag of being a dud, which while it has problems for sure, is an unfair reputation given the enjoyment and escapism value available upon viewing it now.

    The main fault lies with the very poor songs, where were it not for the closing Be A Clown (which would be copied to become Make 'Em Laugh for Singin' in the Rain four years later), then it would be a 100% stinker strike rate for Cole Porter. It's hard to believe the great man could come out with something so bland and boorish as the first song during the story, Niña, where he even uses a rhyme for schizophrenia! Another (minor) problem is that Garland is sometimes (and unusually) over the top in her performance, a problem we can probably attribute to her off screen issues since she seems to be grasping the chance to unleash her own form of escapism on screen. However, Kelly is on hand to calm her down and steady the ship; except for the film's funniest sequence as Manuela throws the entire contents of a room at Serafin!

    Yet in spite of the problems, and this really is no misunderstood masterpiece, the film often soars. With gorgeous Technicolor photography opening the eyes fully, we get a full on energised Kelly performance (his dance with the Nicholas Brothers pumps the blood and taps the feet), Slezak doing a wonderful turn as the shifty Don Pedro who Manuela is being coerced into marrying, and a Pirate Ballet section of the film that is stunning in choreography and eye popping visuals. There's also some lovely close ups of the two stars, they were a great pairing and it's a crying shame they would only make three features together, one scene in particular is heart achingly tender. With Minnelli keeping it brisk and mostly keeping it from being too stage bound, the simplicity of plot never hurts the film. Fun, frothy and flawed, indeed. 7.5/10
  • I would love to have seen this as a child - having only come across it as an adult it doesn't quite have the charm or greatness of other Kelly movies.

    The theatricality of "The Pirate" is too obvious - and dare I say, everyone is just playing a little too hard - especially Garland.

    The dance numbers and the music are OK, but apart from the last 20 minutes this would be my least favorite - my children adore Gene Kelly and grew up watching "Singing in the Rain" but they weren't thrilled either with this.

    We wanted swashbuckling and got a traveling theater -

    Fine if you're in the mood, just don't expect full-on greatness, though parts shine.
  • Being a Judy Garland fan for four years now, I have always loved to watch her and Gene Kelly work together. This is the third time they worked together ('For Me and My Gal' and 'Summer 'Stock' being their first and last repectively) and it is, I think, their best film together. Judy Garland (26 years old at the time) plays Manuela Alva, a young girl in love with the legend of the pirate Mococo. She visits the town of Port Sebastien in the Caribbean, to meet a wondering player, Sarafin (Gene Kelly) who falls in love with her, learning that she is going to be (unhappily) married to the local mayor, and also learns she loves Mococo. He pretends to be the pirate in order to get her, but the fun really begins when she finds out he isn't Mococo at all. Judy and Gene are as usual brilliant together, particulerly in the scene where Manuela is pretending she knows nothing of Sarafin's deceit, and keeps saying how he cannot act. Although the film lost money on its release, it has since picked up a considerable fan club. One of the best Garland films made. Pure magic, as only Judy and Gene can make.
  • Larkrise2 July 2006
    When i first saw this movie as a kid i absolutely loved it i own it now on video and it gets better with each viewing, the chemistry between Judy Garland and Gene Kelly is electrifying the pirate dance sequence is excellent along with the Mack the Black number, on some reviews people kept commenting about the paleness of the character as it being set in the Caribbean, well since it was made in the 1940's it was common to place white actors in such roles Jeanne Crain in Pinky. If people can look beyond this they would see a truly original film taking a poke at swashbuckling films of that period. I gave a 10 because i truly believe this film should be up there along with Meet me in St, Louis and Singing in the Rain. I hope they bring this out on DVD soon with lots of extras as my video is warring with over use.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Pirate (1948) is about the ebullient actor Serafin (Gene Kelly) who comes to a small Caribbean town and falls hard for the romantic Manuela (Judy Garland). She rejects him, saving her love only for the legendary pirate Macoco, whom she wishes would steal her away. So Serafin takes on the guise of the notorious pirate in order to win her heart. Though it flopped when released, The Pirate has become a cult classic often hailed as being ahead of its time. I've seen the film twice and still fail to see the appeal.

    Don't get me wrong: I love Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, and Cole Porter. Vincent Minelli is not among my favorite directors, but I usually admire his colorful style. It feels like someone got the most delicious ingredients for an ice cream sundae and ended up botching it big time, to the point where it's almost inedible. Porter's score is among his most unmemorable. Outside of "Be a Clown" (which is tucked away at the very end), I cannot hum a single one of them, a big flaw for a musical. The dancing is good though, and Gene Kelly is in fine form.

    Unfortunately, the dancing cannot save a lackluster production. Kelly and Garland are stuck playing characters who come off as annoying, especially Garland's Manuela, who spends most of her screen time shrilly screaming and whining all her lines. Kelly hams it up to the stratosphere, which ceases to be funny fast. The comedy plays much better in the more underplayed scenes, like when Manuela is going off to sacrifice her virtue to the attractive "Macoco" to save the town and another girl offers to take her place. Manuela tersely replies, "He asked for ME."

    The sets are so stagey they're distracting. While this theatricality works in the ballet dream sequence in the middle of the film or something like the Broadway Melody portion of Singin' in the Rain (1952), here it just comes across as cheap. The costumes are awful: garish parodies of 1830s fashion with ugly patterns. Poor Judy gets saddled with the most ridiculous outfits.

    I know I'll be voted down for this. Ah well, such is life. This seems to be a movie a lot of people enjoy and I would never want to take that away from them. I wish I could have enjoyed it too, but it's not hard to see why this flopped so hard back in '48.
  • This is one of those films which people remember with decidedly mixed opinions. I never understood why it was so universally nixed by critics if they could rhapsodize over other period stories like "The Harvey Girls," "Meet Me In St. Louis," or "For Me And My Gal." THE PIRATE seems to be telling its story with tongue firmly in cheek; even Ms. Garland appears to be spoofing her screen persona at times (wringing her hands in horror, over-the-top cowering and fainting, and so forth). And the role of a hammy actor-turned vagabond pirate is tailor-made for the swashbuckling bravado of Gene Kelly-- and the fantasy number of him leaping and bounding all over a clouded, fiery, stage is a cinema highlight. (Other highlights are Garland's vocals of "Love Of My Life" and "Mack The Black" and Kelly's stunning gazebo dance of "Nina.") The supporting cast is also fine, especially Walter Slezak's blow-hard (and delightfully awkward) mayor and Gladys Cooper's loving and delightfully frazzled Aunt Inez- who sometimes sounds like Glinda from 'The Wizard of Oz.' One comment that I'm surprised to read so much on this site is on the outdated (but well-meaning) casting of white actors as Caribbeans. (Usually when I comment on this kind of thing, someone is always ready to counter with some kind of nasty 'race card' accusation and remind me that this was the way in films more than 60 years old, and I should just 'get over it.' Sure.) I can accept the premise of the cast for one main reason: Gene Kelly, using his considerable clout with the studio, made a point of racially integrating the background population in PIRATE's Caribbean exteriors (note all the people of color in the 'Port Sebastian' sequence just working for a living), and to specifically include the Nicholas Brothers in the film's athletic climax, "Be A Clown." (Whenever this film is shown in theaters, this number always gets spontaneous applause from the audience.) I'm delighted to see it run on TCM, and now on DVD home video.
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