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The Dancing Pirate which was released by RKO in 1936 was one of the last films done with an original score by Rodgers&Hart. They would be moving back to Broadway and had a string of hit musicals only interrupted by Larry Hart's death in 1943.
As this was an RKO film watching it now it was fairly obvious that this film was created with Fred Astaire in mind for the lead. Had Astaire done it The Dancing Pirate might be better remembered. Certainly the two songs done by Dick and Larry aren't among the most memorable. In fact the best number in the film is a dance by lead Charles Collins to Yankee Doodle Dandy that had Astaire written all over it.
In fact the main weakness of the film is Collins. A good dancer, Collins had a screen presence that was colorless, odorless, and tasteless. He plays a Boston dancing teacher who gets shanghaied by pirates and escapes the first chance he can when they put in to California for provisions.
Still ruled by Spain, the local Alcalde is Frank Morgan at his decisiveless best. Morgan on loan from MGM is the best thing about The Dancing Pirate.
Collins is sad to say guilty by association and the men want to hang him, but the women want to learn to dance so he's in legal limbo of sorts.
He also has competition for the hand of Morgan's daughter Steffi Duna in the person of Captain Victor Varconi from Monterey at the head of a platoon of dragoons ostensibly there to protect the village from pirates. But Varconi has his own plans, Snidely Whiplash type plans.
The Dancing Pirate won an Oscar nomination for the now defunct category of dance direction. I long for the day when musicals of all kinds were being churned out and a category like dance direction was warranted. Speaking of dancing Rita Hayworth is in this film as part of her family troupe of Spanish dancers, The Dancing Cansinos.
The Dancing Pirate is an amusing enough film, but it really needed Fred Astaire to put it over.
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