Cast & Crew
In the 1830's, on an island village of Colvado, in the West Indies, young Manuela is told by her aunt Inez that arrangements have been made for her to marry Don Pedro Vargas, the new mayor of the town. The news comes as a disappointment to Manuela, who has fantasized about being swept away by the notorious Macoco, the "ruthless, magnificent and romantic" pirate. However, she consents to marry Don Pedro out of gratitude to her aunt and uncle, who reared her since the death of her parents. After promising Inez that she will make Don Pedro a good wife, Manuela persuades her aunt to take her on a trip to the island of San Sebastian. Manuela and her aunt arrive at the island port just as a ship carrying Serafin and his troupe of performers docks. While performing his dazzling antics for the audience at the port, Serafin takes notice of Manuela and follows her to the shore, where he tries to seduce her. Although she resists his advances, Serafin invites Manuela to his show later that evening. At the show, after Serafin hypnotizes Manuela with a spinning mirror, she performs a dance and sings the praises of her dream lover, Macoco. Unable to wake her from her trance by conventional means, Serfain kisses her to bring her back, and when she realizes that the audience is cheering their kiss, she flees in embarrassment. Manuela returns to Colvado and begins her preparations for the wedding, but Serafin follows her and insists that she call off the marriage and run away with his troupe. Overhearing Serafin's demand, Don Pedro bursts into the room and prepares to whip Serafin. Alone with Don Pedro, Serafin immediately recognizes him as the notorious fugitive pirate Macoco and threatens to expose him. Determined to keep his identity a secret, Don Pedro acquiesces to Serafin's demand that he play along with his scheme to pose as Macoco in order to win Manuela's affections. Manuela readily believes Serafin when he tells her that he is Macoco, and plans are made for their elopement. Meanwhile, Don Pedro doublecrosses Serafin and solicits the help of the viceroy and his army to apprehend him and bring him to trial as Macoco. When Serafin's valet accidentally reveals to Manuela that her Macoco is a fake, she becomes enraged. However, her love for Serafin proves stronger than the insult of the lie and she eventually makes amends with Serafin. Their reconcilliation is soon interrupted, though, when Serafin is arrested and charged with Macoco's crimes. Things look bad for Serafin when he is unable to prove his true identity because Don Pedro has planted stolen jewels in his trunk. Only moment before his intended execution, Serafin, with the help of Manuela, manages to outwit Don Pedro and snare him in a clever trap by staging a hypnotic act in which Manuela praises Macoco's renowned virtues. This makes the real Macoco jealous and drives him to confesses with pride his true identity. The execution is halted, and Serafin and Manuela leave to join Serafin's traveling show.
Mary Jo Ellis
O. Z. Whitehead
Willa Pearl Curtis
Betty Jane Howarth
A. Norwood Fenton
Jack Martin Smith
Edwin B. Willis
The MGM movie's delightful Cole Porter score allows some of Kelly's most spectacular displays of musical derring-do. In the first version of "Be a Clown" (later reprised by Kelly and Garland in clown makeup), Kelly creates an acrobatic trio with the gravity-defying Nicholas Brothers. In the rumba-propelled production number "Nina," Kelly turns the set representing a West Indies town into his own personal playground - scaling balconies, hanging from windows, gliding down to earth and, all the while, flirting with every female in sight.
The highlight of Kelly's irrepressible performance, the stylized, boldly erotic "Mack the Black" ballet, is described by Stephen Harvey in his 1989 book Directed by Vincente Minnelli: "With a Douglas Fairbanks rope trick, Serafin-as-Macoco plummets down to earth from the mast of his ship; as the blood-and-charcoal backdrop lights up with rhythmic blasts of flame, he careens about his ravaged domain, wielding a large pole to daunt burly rivals and feminine conquests alike."
The Pirate, based on a non-musical stage success written by S.N. Behrman and performed on Broadway by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, proved a troubled production from the outset, due largely to Garland's illnesses and insecurities. The film's budget soared to a total of almost $4 million. Critical notices at the time were unenthusiastic, and The Pirate, recouping only about half of its cost, became the only one of Garland's MGM films to lose money. It is now generally considered that this sophisticated musical fantasy was years ahead of its time; it represents some of the finest work of all the talent involved and has developed an ardent cult following.
Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Screenplay: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, from play by S.N. Behrman
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith
Costume Design: Karinsky, Tom Keogh
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.
Editing: Blanche Sewell
Original Music: Cole Porter, Roger Edens, Conrad Salinger, Lenniey Hayton (uncredited)
Musical Direction: Lennie Hayton
Choreography: Robert Alton
Principal Cast: Judy Garland (Manuela), Gene Kelly (Serafin), Walter Slezak (Don Pedro Vargas/Black Macoco), Gladys Cooper (Aunt Inez), Reginald Owen (The Advocate), George Zucco (The Viceroy), Fayard and Harold Nicholas (as the Nicholas Brothers).
C-102m. Close captioning.
by Roger Fristoe
The Pirate - Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in THE PIRATE on DVD
That's the basic storyline of The Pirate (1948), director Vincente Minnelli's sensuous and dazzling costume musical still revered for its flamboyant use of Technicolor. Newly out on DVD from Warner Home Entertainment in a good print and with an impressive array of extras, the picture now has a real chance to fix its unfair reputation as a stagy, hammy, overdone misfire. Some Pirate defenders have described the film as over the heads of its detractors, but perhaps a kinder analysis is simply that MGM at the time was giving the public so many more traditional (though still innovative) musicals, that audiences just weren't sufficiently primed to deal with one this stylized.
Most musicals, after all, shift from reality-based non-musical sequences into "unreal" musical numbers and back again. In The Pirate, there is no reality. The entire film takes place in a fantasy world. Arguably (and paradoxically) the only glimmers of reality in the picture are in the musical numbers themselves, since the sight and sound of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland performing is something moviegoers perceive as normal and real.
To Minnelli's - and screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich's - credit, The Pirate begins with pages of a storybook being turned, telling us in crystal-clear terms that what is to follow is a fairy tale, a fantasy, make-believe. For a master visualist like Minnelli image is everything, and the only fair way to watch the film is to take what the images are saying to heart. In this movie about performers and performing, all three main characters pretend to be someone they're not at one point or another, sometimes with other characters' knowledge and sometimes without. That's one way The Pirate creates satire. The entire production is designed to be a tongue-in-cheek send-up of operettas and swashbucklers like Don Juan or Robin Hood, with dialogue, sets, colors and performances all purposefully over-the-top. Not realizing this could make the movie a frustrating experience, but if one accepts the movie on its own terms, it's a tremendous, intelligent and very funny entertainment.
When Kelly hypnotizes Garland with a rotating mirror, her true self comes out. He releases her dreams, and her musical performance. She has real passion and excitement underneath her "prim exterior," as she puts it, and under his spell allows herself to sing, dance, and let her emotions to the surface. For viewers who allow themselves the same release, it's an enthralling moment.
Kelly's dancing in The Pirate is kinetic and acrobatic, incorporating ballet, Spanish, and other dancing styles - but no tap. According to his widow Patricia Ward Kelly, it was just the kind of project he wanted at the time, as he was hungry to showcase alternate types of dancing. The "Pirate Ballet" sequence, a fantasy dance which takes place in Garland's imagination, is mightily impressive, with Kelly dancing and swinging a sword energetically while endless explosions of fire and smoke go off around him. The lighting and color create a strong third dimension here, an effect Kelly and Minnelli were always striving to achieve.
Some of Kelly's non-musical scenes involve so much choreography that they qualify as de facto dance numbers, such as where Garland furiously throws just about every object in a room at him and he must constantly move out of the way. In another sign of how purposefully jokey The Pirate sought to be, Kelly styled his scenes as the actor Serafin after John Barrymore and his scenes as the pirate Macoco after Douglas Fairbanks. And in a nod to all the overacting on display, Kelly even jokes to Slezak at one point, "You should try underplaying sometime. Very effective."
As for Garland, she is beautifully glamorized by Minnelli (her husband at the time) and handles her role with great humor. One could reasonably argue that she - and the movie as a whole - does not have enough songs, but she does perform them beautifully, including "You Can Do No Wrong," "Love of My Life" and the erotic "Mack the Black." The Cole Porter score also includes "Nina" and "Be a Clown," a song which feels out of place in this film but nonetheless became its most popular tune. Kelly performs it with the Nicholas Brothers, and at the end it's reprised as a vaudeville routine between Kelly and Garland, an experienced vaudevillian who relished the chance to perform it. Another song, "Voodoo," was ultimately deleted after Louis B. Mayer deemed it too steamy. An audio version remains as an extra, but aside from a snippet that can be seen in the trailer, the filmed number itself is gone. (Mayer ordered the negative burned.)
Well worth watching on this DVD is an illuminating 20-minute featurette about the making of The Pirate, featuring Liza Minnelli (Minnelli and Garland's daughter), Patricia Ward Kelly, Fayard Nicholas and various film historians explaining the genesis of the movie and its troubled production and reception. On his commentary track, historian John Fricke goes into the details even further. Garland was having serious psychological problems during filming as well as issues with her marriage.
Other extras include a trailer (in excellent shape), deleted songs (audio only), a blah Pete Smith Specialty short, a very funny Tom and Jerry cartoon, Roger Edens' guide-track versions of some songs, and radio interviews with Kelly and Garland.
The Pirate is available by itself or as part of the collection Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory, Volume 2, a set of seven movies. The others are Words and Music (1948), That Midnight Kiss (1949), Toast of New Orleans (1950), Royal Wedding (1951), The Belle of New York (1952) and That's Dancing (1985). It's a mixed bag, but The Pirate is the truest gem of the lot. Extras abound in the collection, with commentaries, vintage shorts, new documentaries, cartoons, outtakes, alternate song versions, radio interviews and trailers galore, all up to Warner Home Entertainment's usual impeccable standards.
For more information about The Pirate, visit Warner Video. To order The Pirate, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
The Pirate - Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in THE PIRATE on DVD
Fayard Nicholas (1914-2006)
Born on October 20, 1914 in Mobile, Alabama, Fayard was the son of musicians who played in vaudeville pit orchestras. When he was 6 1/2 years of age, his younger brother Harold was born (March 27, 1921, Winston-Salem, North Carolina) and little did they realize that they were destined to be one of the most memorable dance duos in film history.
Fayard learned to dance by watching several vaudeville shows while traveling with his parents. He incorporated many of the acrobatic moves he saw into his own routines, and soon, Harold was learning with him. By 1932, they had auditioned, and landed, a spot in Harlem's celebrated haunt, The Cotton Club. Their routines were a sensation, and Samuel Goldwyn brought them to Hollywood where they performed in Kid Millions (1934) with Eddie Cantor and The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1937). That same year, they appeared on Broadway The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and Babes in Arms.
Fayard and Harold headed back to The Cotton Club to polish up their moves, and when they came back to Hollywood in the '40s, they entered their golded period. In Down Argentina Way (1940) starring Don Ameche and Betty Grable, they did that extraordinary number, leaping off a grand piano and doing eye-popping splits over each other on an oversized staircase; Sun Valley Serenade (1941), they have an engaging Chattenooga Choo-Choo routine with a 19-year-old Dorothy Dandridge; and best of all, The Pirate (1948) where they do a terrific Be a Clown routine with Gene Kelly that's every bit as comical as it was inventive.
In the early '50s, the brothers were touring all over the United States and Europe, but in 1957, Harold spent seven years in Paris and only reunited with Fayard in a 1964 television appearance on the hit variety show The Hollywood Palace. But as their performance teaming became less frequent as they got older, Fayard found ways to keep busy. He drew critical praise for his dramatic turn in The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970) and won a Tony for his choreography for Black and Blue (1989). In 1991, Both Fayard and Harold received the Kennedy Center Honors and most deserved honory Oscars® at the Academy Awards. Nicholas is survived by his wife, Katherine; sister, Dorothy; sons, Tony and Paul; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Fayard Nicholas (1914-2006)
I wish you'd stop circling me. It's like talking to a top!- Manuela
I can tell you your past, your present and your future.- Serafin
You don't have to tell me my future, I know my future.- Manuela
Am I in it?- Serafin
Then you don't know your future.- Serafin
For the last time, I do not love you! I know you find it hard to believe, but I do not love you! Will you go away now?- Manuela
You know, it's not essential to love me to be in the troop. It helps but it's not essential.- Serafin
Go away!- Manuela
(leaves to go out window) Fine. Good bye!- Serafin
Not that way! You'll kill yourself.- Manuela
'Kelly, Gene' fought to get the Nicholas Brothers (Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas) included in the movie.
When one dance sequence was being rehearsed, Harold Nicholas was just going through the motions, and 'Kelly, Gene' accused him of not knowing the routine - so Nicholas danced the whole routine, alone, full-out and flawlessly. Kelly was speechless.
The "Be a Clown" sequence was cut by exhibitors in Memphis and other southern U.S. cities because it included the Nicholas Brothers.
'Judy Garland' missed 99 of the 135 shooting days due to illness.
The New York production of the play on which this film is based starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and was not a musical. The Theatre Guild production was based on the 1911 German play Der Seeräuber by Ludwig Fulda. Contemporary news items in Hollywood Reporter indicate that M-G-M paid $225,000 for the rights to the Broadway show, and that the deal included a provision barring the studio from releasing the film before June 15, 1944. A September 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the film, after being assigned to producer Joe Pasternak, was scheduled for "early production" under the direction of Henry Koster. Contemporary news items indicate that the property was shelved in early 1944 and resurrected in August 1945, when a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M set Judy Garland to star in the film. Although an April 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the project had been taken off the shelf, and that the script was being polished by Pasternak and Koster, pre-production work on the film did not fully resume until August 1945.
Information in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library and in the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema/Television Library indicates that Joseph L. Mankiewicz wrote the first adaption of Behrman's play in August 1943, and that Mankiewicz's screenplay was reviewed by the Breen Office and given a generally favorable assessment. (The MPPA had earlier objected to the story on the grounds that it suggested infidelity on the part of "Manuela"). Mankiewicz's screenplay was rejected and later followed by several complete and incomplete screenplays and treatments written by various writers, including Myles Connolly, H. Kraley, Edwin Blum, Howard Emmett Rogers, Lillian Braun, Anita Loos and Joseph Than. Materials contained in the M-G-M Scripts Collection indicate that Wilkie Mahoney contributed to the screenplay, and that producer Arthur Freed and writer Robert Nathan were involved in the writing of the retakes. The extent of the contribution to the final film of all the above-mentioned writers has not been determined. Modern sources note that writer Sally Benson contributed to a draft of the screenplay.
News items appearing in Hollywood Reporter in November and December 1943 indicate that M-G-M sought Greer Garson, Cary Grant and Charles Laughton for starring roles in the film. A May 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item announced Lena Horne in a principal role, but she did not appear in the film. According to a Breen Office memo, M-G-M had, at one point, considered starring Ingrid Bergman opposite Cary Grant. Minnelli's biography notes that the film was initially considered as a starring vehicle for William Powell and Hedy Lamarr, and that Myrna Loy was suggested for the part of "Manuela" at the time the Koster and Connelly screenplay was being developed. An unidentified June 30, 1947 news item in the AMPAS production file noted that this picture was to mark the screen debut of Garland's fifteen-month-old daughter Liza Minnelli, but she did not appear in the film.
Production began on February 17, 1947, and although Harry Stradling was the only cameraman credited onscreen, an April 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that George Folsey stepped in for Stradling when he fell ill. According to modern sources, the film's numerous production setbacks and high costs were due primarily to problems relating to Garland, whose mental and physical condition was rapidly deteriorating, and whose addiction to barbituates was becoming increasingly obvious. Garland was committed to a sanitarium in Compton, CA, following the release of the picture. According to modern sources, the final cost of the picture was $3,768,014, and it was the only Garland film ever to lose money for M-G-M. In an interview quoted in a modern source, Gene Kelly expressed his disappointment with the film, stating "whatever I did looked like fake Barrymore and fake Fairbanks. But that's the result of the damned elusive camera I'd been trying so hard to tame." A modern source quotes Cole Porter as having said that the film was "a $5,000,000 Hollywood picture that was unspeakably wretched, the worst that money could buy." Musical director Lennie Hayton was nominated for an Academy Award for his musical score.
Released in United States 1978
Released in United States 1997
Released in United States March 1977
Released in United States Spring May 1948
Lola Albright has a bit part in the film.
Released in United States 1978 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs - Bring the Kids) April 13 - May 7, 1978.)
Released in United States 1997 (Shown in Los Angeles (Laemmle) as part of program "Makes Great Musicals: A Salute to MGM's Legendary Freed Unit" September 6 - December 21, 1997.)
Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Mighty Musical Movie Marathon) March 9-27, 1977.)
Released in United States Spring May 1948