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Paul Whiteman and Orchestra
A girl is engaged to the local richman, but meanwhile she has dreams about the legendary pirate Macoco. A traveling singer falls in love with her and to impress her he poses as the pirate. Written by
R. Kessen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gene Kelly and Judy Garland stepped into some mighty big shoes when they accepted the lead roles in The Pirate. On Broadway, The Pirate ran in the 1942-43 season for 177 performances and the shoes that Kelly and Garland were filling belonged to Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. True it's probably one of the lighter vehicles that Lunt and Fontanne ever did, still it might have been interesting to compare what they did with the snappy dialog of S.N. Behrmann.
Cole Porter signed on to write the score for this musical adaption of The Pirate. Porter had been in a creative dry spell for a few years, most notoriously he was associated with a flop musical based on Around The World In 80 Days, a couple of years back. Believe it or not, he was having trouble getting work in Hollywood and on Broadway when he signed with MGM for The Pirate.
According to the George Eells biography of Porter, it was Gene Kelly who asked Porter to write a clown number for him and Judy Garland. Porter responded with Be A Clown which turned out to be the hit of the film. The rest of the score is not top drawer Porter, but mediocre Cole Porter is better than most songwriters can come up with.
Judy Garland plays another starry eyed youngster in The Pirate which is set in the 18th century Caribbean. She's first seen reading what would later be called a dime novel about the legendary Makoko the Pirate. She's getting into an arranged marriage with the mayor of the town, staid and settled Walter Slezak. When a troupe of strolling players led by Gene Kelly come to town, under hypnosis she reveals that she longs to be the bride of Makoko. What's Gene Kelly to do, but pretend to be Makoko.
That's all well and good except that Walter Slezak is the real Makoko now just trying to live in peaceful obscurity away from the authorities who want to hang him. All this leads to some interesting complications that of course get all sorted out in the end.
Judy gets to do two ballads in her unmistakable style, Love Of My Life and You Can Do No Wrong. And she stars in a rousing production number where the proclaims her enchantment with the legendary Makoko in Mack The Black.
The film got a tepid response in 1948, it's given far better critical notice in retrospect. The Pirate was produced by MGM's legendary Arthur Freed and his unit and directed stylishly by Vincent Minnelli who was Judy Garland's husband at the time. Today's audiences would far better appreciate the combined wit of S.N. Behrmann and Cole Porter.
As for Porter, his next writing assignment would stop all talk of his going into decline. The following year Kiss Me Kate debuted on Broadway which was Porter's biggest critical and commercial success. No one ever said that score wasn't up to his usual standard.
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