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Delightful Movie for Those Who Like Light Operas and Musicals
People have noted that the "The Dancing Pirate" was original and unique. That is true, but it is set firmly in a Gilbert and Sullivan "Pirates of Penzance" absurd world. In this world, a genteel dancing instructor can be mistaken for a bloodthirsty pirate.
There are lots of scenes that seem to foreshadow scenes in other movies. Its important to remember that this 1936 movie preceded these other films. The scene of Dancing Instructor Johnathan Pride (Charles Collins) entering a small Californian town and being mistaken for an invading pirate army reminds one of "The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming" (Jewison, 1966). The scene of male versus female Spanish dancers at the end reminds one of the "America" scene in West Side Story (Wise, 1961). Robert Collins' athletic dancing reminds one of Gene Kelley in "The Pirate" (Minnelli, 1948), although Collins' skinny frame also reminds one of Ray Bulger's scarecrow in "Wizard of Oz" (Minnelli, 1939). Speaking of Wizard of Oz" Frank Morgan, the wizard of "Wizard of Oz" gives a performance here that is very close to the wizard, as he plays another bumbling authority figure, the mayor of a Spanish village. Another technique first used here and copied in "Wizard of Oz" is that the movie begins in black and White and only switches to color when we arrive in the magical land of California. I found one other connection to the "Wizard of Oz." The star of this film, Charles Collins, had a voice-over in "The Wiz" (Lumet, 1978).
I saw a very bad dark and muddy color print of this movie on Amazon Prime streaming video. The N.Y. Times reviewer in 1936 raved about the Technicolor of the original. I hope someday someone goes to the trouble of restoring the film to its original color. This print made the film difficult to watch. However, the great choreography, humorous story, and wonderful performances by leads Charles Collins, Frank Morgan, and Steffi Duna won me over.
If you like Gilbert and Sullivan, I think you'll find "the Dancing Pirate" witty and charming. The songs are by Rodgers and Hart, while not their best work ("Pal Joey"), they still are very good.
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