“Underneath this prim exterior there are depths of emotion — romantic longings!”
On a 19th century Caribbean isle, a young woman (Judy Garland) engaged to her town’s pompous mayor (Walter Slezak) is wooed by a travelling troubadour (Gene Kelly), who pretends to be the mysterious pirate Macoco in order to impress her.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Actors and Actresses
- Gene Kelly Films
- Judy Garland Films
- Mistaken or Hidden Identities
- Vincente Minnelli Films
Vincente Minnelli’s third and final film with his wife (Garland) in a leading role — after Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and The Clock (1945) — was this critically panned musical-fantasy, which has since gained a renewed reputation as a cult favorite (though it’s not labeled as such in the back of Peary’s book; perhaps this status has emerged in recent years). Both Garland and Kelly are in peak form, and appear to be having a blast; they seem to realize that the story is purely escapist fare, and (thankfully) never take it too seriously. Garland’s finest moment comes early on, as she breaks free from her character’s prim persona, and — under the influence of hypnosis — dazzles Kelly and everyone around her by breaking into a lustful ditty about her crush on “Mack the Black” (who, according to the song’s lyrics, “leads a flaming trail of masculinity” !); the pure contrast between this and what we’ve seen before, with Garland’s Manuela meekly agreeing to marry a portly man much older than herself, is remarkably effective.
Kelly, meanwhile, exhibits seemingly unflagging energy throughout. He’s given the opportunity to shine during two wonderful dance sequences: early on, during the song “Nina”, as he makes it known that he’ll fall for any beautiful woman he sees (though naturally, once he lays eyes on Manuela, his womanizing days are over); then later, during a daydream envisioned by Manuela, as he shows off his remarkably muscular physique while dancing the stunning “Pirate Ballet” (see still below). Walter Slezak is well-cast as his nemesis (and the film’s all-around baddie); to that end, the mistaken identity plot is nicely handled, and allows for some fine tension during the denouement. The vibrant sets and Technicolor cinematography are also worth a mention. While not one of Garland’s (or Minnelli’s) best musicals, The Pirate is enjoyable while it lasts, and should be seen by all film fanatics at least once, simply for its cult status.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Gene Kelly as Serafin
- Judy Garland as Manuela
- Fabulous Technicolor sets
Yes, as a recent cult favorite.