Marketed as "the great M-G-M musical romance," The Pirate (1948) brings together some of the studio's biggest musical talents including Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, director Vincente Minnelli and producer Arthur Freed. The film stars Kelly as Serafin, a traveling performer who pretends to be the legendary pirate Macoco to win over the beautiful but overly imaginative Manuela (Garland). The plot allows Kelly to showcase his athletic and acrobatic dance style as he literally jumps, climbs and swings his way around the San Sebastian sets. The Cole Porter score also gives Garland a chance to display her famed vocals in such songs as "Mack the Black" and "You Can Do No Wrong". But perhaps the highlight of the film is the ballet, which, with its highly stylized sets and choreography, resembles Kelly's later, more celebrated ballets in On the Town (1949) and An American in Paris (1951).
The film came out just as the Freed production unit was nearing its creative and artistic peak, with such films as On the Town, An American in Paris, and Singin' in the Rain (1952) going into production in the four years following. As the second film to star both Kelly and Garland (the first being For Me and My Gal , though both had also appeared in two MGM all-star musical shows--Ziegfeld Follies (1945) and Thousands Cheer ), The Pirate would have seemed to be yet another sure-fire hit for the studio but the film was troubled from the start with shooting constantly postponed due to Garland's illness and insecurities. According to Arthur Freed biographer, Hugh Fordin, Kelly even feigned illnesses throughout production to protect Garland. Critical reception was lukewarm and the film only recouped about half its cost, becoming the only one of Garland's MGM films to lose money. Today, however, the film is generally viewed as featuring four artists at the peaks of their careers, particularly Kelly, and has developed an ardent cult following.
> If you've ever gotten caught in the rain and began to hum the opening bars to "Singin' in the Rain," or dreamed of going "Over the Rainbow," you can thank producer and songwriter Arthur Freed. His career in Hollywood began with the advent of sound, when he joined MGM, along with his composing partner Nacio Herb Brown, as a lyricist. During his early years at the studio, he would compose some of his biggest hits, including "Singin' in the Rain," and "The Broadway Melody." (In fact, many of his and Brown's songs would later be featured in the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain.) Not content with just being a songwriter or musical supervisor, Freed moved into production in 1939 as an (uncredited) associate producer on The Wizard of Oz. After initial previews on the film, everyone was set to cut "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" but Freed was adamant that the song stay: "The song stays--or I go! It's as simple as that," his biographer, Hugh Fordin, quotes him as saying. That same year he received his first producer credit on the film Babes in Arms starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland which would begin the cycle of backyard musicals starring both.
> Following Oz and Babes in Arms, Freed was promoted to heading up his own production unit at MGM responsible mainly for the studio's musicals. At this time in Hollywood, many studios operated under a factory like system, with producers being in charge of a stable or unit of writers, directors and stars. During his time as producer, Freed would work with such talents as Vincente Minnelli, June Allyson, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams and Fred Astaire, and produce such films as On the Town, Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Gigi (1958). Freed left MGM in 1970, but by that time he had won two best picture Oscars®, and received 2 honorary Academy Awards.
Hollywood has long had a fascination with pirates (whether portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Gene Kelly or even Johnny Depp) but the inspiration for these films has come from the real life tales of pirates who roamed the Caribbean Seas during colonization of the Americas. Piracy itself was most active between the late 1600s to the early 1700s when approximately 1500 to 2400 men were active pirates. While most of the time was spent on the high seas, these men also found refuge in such ports as Jamaica, Tortuga and Nassau.Other facts about piracy:
> One of the most famous symbols of piracy was the "Jolly Roger" flag which featured a skull and crossbones on a black background, however the most common flag used by pirates during this time was a plain black or red one.
> The famous pirate Blackbeard gained his notoriety as much from his appearance as his plundering: In battle, he would appear with his long black beard and stuffed burning rope under his hat.
> Pirates were not always men: Anne Bonny and Mary Read were two pirates under the command of Calico Jack Rackham (as well as other famous pirates) who were made famous when they were brought to trial in 1720.
> During their long voyages, sailors and pirates would often develop Scurvy, a disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency because they lacked fresh fruits and vegetables (many, in fact, died from the disease).
An actor poses as a notorious pirate to court a romantic Caribbean girl.
When he's named governor of Jamaica, a former pirate sets out to clean up the Caribbean.
Dutch rebels in the Caribbean turn pirate and kidnap the corrupt Spanish governor's bride-to-be.
A farmer gets sucked into show business when a theatrical troupe invades her farm.
An unscrupulous song-and-dance man uses his partner and his best friend to get ahead.