Favorite things about… The Pirate

(Image: impawards.com)
(Image: impawards.com)

The favorite film:
The Pirate, a 1948 Technicolor musical directed by Vincente Minnelli

The synopsis:
Manuela has just become engaged to one of the richest men in town, but begrudgingly so. Her heart belongs to a pirate named Mack the Black Macoco, who she has read about in adventure books. Accepting the fact that she must marry and have a life free of adventure, Manuela decides to visit the Caribbean Sea just once before the wedding. There she meets a man named Serafin, who falls madly in love with her and decides to follow her back to her small village, pretending he’s Mack the Black in order to woo her.

The cast:
Judy Garland as Manuela
Gene Kelly as Serafin
Walter Slezak as Don Pedro Vargas, Manuela’s husband-to-be
Gladys Cooper as Aunt Inez

Fun facts:

  • The film’s songs are by Cole Porter.
  • The film became controversial in the South, with many theaters banning it or cutting out the first “Be a Clown” number, which features The Nicholas Brothers, a pair of African American dancers. Gene Kelly and Judy Garland had both fought for the inclusion of Fayard and Harold Nicholas in the film, having been impressed by their skill and charisma as performers.
  • Judy Garland was ill during the production of the film and missed many days of shooting.
  • Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon were originally set to star in a non-musical version of the story, but when that didn’t pan out, songs were added and Judy and Gene were cast.
  • Mack the Black is named “Macoco” because Cole Porter would only agree to write songs for the film if that name was used. He had a friend named Macoco whose nickname was “Mack the Black.” In the original play, the character is named Estramundo.
  • This film marks the second of three pairings of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, the first being For Me and My Gal and the third and final being Summer Stock.
  • The Warner Bros. DVD release of the film includes commentary by film historian John Fricke, a making-of featurette, a comedic short subject, a cartoon short, remastered audio of “Mack the Black,” song outtakes, radio interviews with Gene and Judy and the original theatrical trailer for the film.
(Image: Silk Path Diary)
(Image: Silk Path Diary)

Favorite things:

  • Opening credits over an awesome illustrated map (and complete with a song)
  • Manuela’s weird plaid hat
  • Manuela trying to convince all of her friends that Macoco should be their dream man. He can swoop in and take you awaaaaay!
  • Vincente Minnelli is the king of Technicolor musicals. The film is so pretty and extravagant, visually.
  • Manuela’s overzealous aunt (who also has an awesome hat)
  • Serafin’s crazy marketing tactics at the dock
  • Gene’s exaggerated facial expressions
  • Serafin: hittin’ on every lady in town
  • Gene’s face the first time Serafin sees Manuela
  • Manuela running away from Serafin
  • Manuela and Serafin’s first conversation (see the “Quotes” section)
  • The chemistry between Judy and Gene
  • The look of disgust on Judy’s face when Manuela realizes that Serafin is an actor
  • Serafin hypnotizing Manuela
  • Judy’s performance of “Mack the Black”
  • Manuela freaking out over Serafin showing up at her house
  • Serafin confronting the real Mack the Black
  • Manuela passing out after Serafin kisses her hand
  • Gene’s black Daisy Dukes…
  • Manuela the ax-thrower
  • “Be a Clown” feat. the phenomenal Nicholas Brothers
  • Manuela joining Serafin’s traveling performance troupe as “The Divine Manuela”
  • “Be a Clown” again… with Judy!
(Image: notesoncinematograph.blogspot)
(Image: notesoncinematograph.blogspot)

Quotes:

  • Manuela: “Macoco… where are you now? What… seas do you traverse?”
  • Manuela (on why she’d like to see the Caribbean Sea): “It holds romance and adventure! And since I should never have any…”
  • Serafin: “I’ll be having schizophrenia ’til I make you mine”
  • Serafin: “Are you married?”
    Manuela: “No, but I will be by this time next week.”
    Serafin: “Then you should never step into the sight of other men. It is too great a provocation!”
    Manuela: “Very well, I shall remove the provocation.”
    Serafin: “Senorita, don’t marry that pumpkin!”
    Manuela: “Pumpkin?!”
    Serafin: “Any man who lets you out of his sight is a pumpkin.”
  • Serafin: “Don’t tell me you never longed for a prince instead of a pumpkin!”
  • Manuela: “UNDERNEATH THIS PRIM EXTERIOR THERE ARE DEPTHS OF EMOTION AND ROMANTIC LONGING!”
  • Serafin: “Don Pedro is simply feeling the normal reaction to fear.”
    Manuela’s aunt: “Fear? Why should he fear you?”
    Serafin: “He knows who I am.”
    Manuela’s aunt: “Well, what are you? Some pick-purse or chicken thief?”
    Serafin: “Senora, your village is isolated and remote but even here you must have heard the name… Macoco”
    Manuela: “MACOCO.”
  • Serafin: “The marriage is postponed… indefinitely.”
  • Manuela: “It could mean the ruination of my complete life!”
  • Don Pedro: “I’M MACOCOOOOOO!”
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7 thoughts on “Favorite things about… The Pirate

  1. OH MY GOSH!! I never knew this movie existed! AND I thought I knew of all Gene Kelly’s films since he has always been one of my favs! Thanks for this great review…I will definitely be watching it soon.

    Like

  2. I teach the history of the Hollywood Musical at Marquette University and screen “The Pirate” as it’s the greatest example of the Arthur Freed proudction unit at MGM at its finest. Of all the films screened, “The Pirate” is the student’s favorite even over “Singin’ in the Rain.” @fantle

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  3. I like this film and appreciate it as a sort of wild fever dream in Technicolor but Judy has made better films. Gene is incredibly fit here and that dance in the Daisy Dukes is the height of his athleticism on film. For me this is one of his most enjoyable films but Judy is such a jittery mess, she’s still funny and the voice is meltingly beautiful but she’s never still throughout, her hands especially which are always moving in a nervous way. She practically vibrates, perhaps if I wasn’t aware that she was falling to pieces while this was being made it wouldn’t be so noticeable but since I am it is so apparent that it colors the work for me.

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