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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Largely Unsung and Underrated Musical
Manuela (a very cute-looking Judy Garland), lives in the small Caribbean village of Calvados, and dreams of being abducted by a legendary pirate - Mack "the Black" Macoco. Her aunt and uncle however have matched her with the overbearing, portly, town mayor Don Pedro (the excellent Walter Slezak).

Immediately prior to her wedding to the mayor, Manuela visits...
Published on 14 July 2009 by G. J. Oxley

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Be a clown!
I bought this dvd purely on the strength of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly's performance of 'Be A Clown,' which is sublime, and having sat through it once, that's the only bit I'll be watching again! What was everybody on? It's like they all went mad in a paintshop! Parts of this movie actually hurt the eyes! Crib note: If you think 'Be A Clown' sounds more than vaguely...
Published 22 months ago by Stephen


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Largely Unsung and Underrated Musical, 14 July 2009
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pirate [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
Manuela (a very cute-looking Judy Garland), lives in the small Caribbean village of Calvados, and dreams of being abducted by a legendary pirate - Mack "the Black" Macoco. Her aunt and uncle however have matched her with the overbearing, portly, town mayor Don Pedro (the excellent Walter Slezak).

Immediately prior to her wedding to the mayor, Manuela visits nearby Port Sebastian, when a traveling circus arrives in town, led by the dashing Serafin (Gene Kelly - looking very handsome). While flirting with all the local girls - calling them all 'Nina', he explains that as he's so popular with ladies everywhere, he calls all of them this to avoid being in the position of forgetting their names!

Cue the number, `Nina', replete with sharp and funny lyrics by the great Cole Porter - along with Lorenz Hart, the wittiest lyricist of the 20th century. In the song he manages to rhyme the name `Nina' (pronounced 'Neen-ya') with `seen ya', `gardenia', `schizophrenia' and, I kid you not `neurasthenia'! Upon noticing Manuela, however, Serafin falls immediately in love. Initially she plays hard to get and spurns his advances, but as it's Gene Kelly, turning in a charming, irresistible performance, pretty soon she succumbs.

However, there's still the problem of her forthcoming marriage to Don Pedro...

Whenever the great musicals are mentioned this barely gets a look-in; indeed upon release, the film was a massive financial flop. However it has a lot going for it, not least of which are the performances of the two leads. Admittedly it is extremely light on songs, featuring just five numbers penned by Mr. Porter - `Be a Clown', `You Can Do No Wrong', `Mack the Black', `Love of my Life' and the aforementioned `Nina' - and this is probably a crucial factor.

The final number of the movie `Be a Clown' is the show-stopper of the whole film, featuring an acrobatic dance routine by Kelly and the Nicholas brothers. Both the melody and lyrical theme were shamefully stolen for `Singin' in the Rain' where it re-surfaced as `Make `em Laugh'. Apparently Cole Porter wasn't bothered about the obvious plagiarism. `The Pirate' appeared in the same year as the wonderful `Easter Parade' and was very much in its shadow - particularly when it came to the award ceremonies. As an aside, one interesting fact is Gene Kelly was originally going to play the lead in `EP', but due to prior commitments his role was taken by the more elegant Fred Astaire.

I greatly enjoyed this movie, admiring Gene's muscular and energetic approach to dance and the humour underpinning the whole enterprise. The transfer to DVD has also been very successful: I believe that this is a nice, vibrant print (although a previous reviewer found it a bit washed-out). I'd point out however, that it's certainly better that the shocking copy of Astaire's `Royal Wedding' that's currently doing the rounds.

Largely forgotten, there is much to admire about `The Pirate', and if this sort of thing is your bag, I recommend you take a look at this minor gem from the golden age of musicals.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pirate (DVD) 1948, 6 Mar 2010
By 
Derek Vernon-morris (Greater Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pirate [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
Liza Minelli reviews this film as it was produced by her Father Vincente, saying it proved to be contraversial, and not easily understood by some people, but in the end it ammounts to personal taste. I think it represents some of the optimism and relief after the war years, and I love the fact that it is a colourful fantasy which contains fantasies within fantasies.The plot is beautifully ironic: Judy Garland (Manuella)is to marry a Pirate (unknown to anyone) who has become Mayor of the town, but falls in love with a travelling actor (Gene Kelly),who impersonates him as he was in former times when their paths crossed:(Mack the Black).She is in fact to marry the one about whom she fantasizes and does not realise it.Amongst the great Cole Porter songs "Be A Clown" is featured, and the costumes are brilliant throughout.Gene Kelly does a ballet dance to a Bolero tune, keeping tap to a minimum as there was no American stage style tap in 1830.The whole thing is a good natured romp, even the villany; but Elizabeth Taylor's shrew in Taming of the Shrew is no match for Judy's (Manuella's)enraged outburst when she realizes she has been hypnotised and deceived by a showman.Excellent.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kelly and Garland's best, 2 July 2007
This review is from: The Pirate [VHS][1948] (VHS Tape)
This wonderful musical comedy parodies the swashbuckler, with terrific Cole Porter songs and outstanding performances by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland - his performance of "Nina" combines Porter's clever lyrics and Kelly's trademark athleticism. Walter Slezak as the villain is perfect, providing real menace along with wit, just as he did in the archetypal pirate movie, "The Spanish Main". The film is a treat from start to finish - truly the sort they don't make any more.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kelly and Garland at their best, 27 Oct 2009
By 
A. Duncan (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pirate [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
This film combines my two favourite stars of the period: Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. Both are absolutely fantastic in this as a romantic young woman about to married to an older man and a womanising actor. Garland's character has a secret obsession with a pirate while Kelly wants to impress her by imitating the legendary Mack the Black. With songs by Cole Porter and some brilliant dancing this film is one of my all time favourites.

Anyone who enjoys musicals with excellent dance routines will love this
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lush to the point of being stultifying, but thank goodness for the Nicholas Brothers, 5 Aug 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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Take the conceit of commedia del'arte, add the lush fussiness of Vincente Minnelli's artistic taste and then varnish on the glossy, expensive polish of the MGM style...and you have The Pirate, a film that proves the point, too much is just too much. When the actors play second fiddle to their costumes, you know there's a problem.

On a Caribbean island, young and innocent Manuela (Judy Garland) dreams her foolish dreams of the dashing, brave, romantic pirate, Mack, the black macoco. Alas, Manuela is an orphan, living with her aunt and uncle who are loving but who have suffered financial reverses. They tell Manuela that they have arranged for her to marry in a few days the powerful and wealthy mayor of their town, Don Pedro Vargas (Walter Slezak). But then some traveling players arrive, led by Serafin (Gene Kelly), juggler, conjurer, singer and dancer, a dark, curly-haired rogue who oozes macho charm. He woos, wins and leaves all the beautiful women he meets, all of whom he simply calls nina. Well, of course, Manuela and Serafin will meet. He falls in love, she resists and Don Pedro is furious. By the end of the movie we learn a great deal about Mack the Black and who he is, we learn about love and stage folks and, of course, that talent and love must have their way.

For a musical with songs by Cole Porter starring Garland and Kelly, The Pirate turns into a bit of a slog. Fifty minutes into the 101-minute movie and we've experienced only two songs. Minnelli evidently thought that the rococo-tinged acting, especially by Kelly, combined with lavish velvet dresses and Carmen-Miranda turbans for the women, harlequin tights for the men, exploding purple and scarlet smoke bombs and flaming torches in every night scene would wow us groundlings. When we first meet Manuela's aunt, the woman is encased from throat to toe in deep green velvet which has been puffed and fringed to within an inch of its life. It's difficult not to keep staring at this thing while the scene is played. Everything we can see -- the costumes, the sets, the whole mise en scene -- is so overwrought with color and fussiness I wanted to open a window and let fresh air in. The Pirate, even with many of the good things it possesses, is often just plain stultifying and campy.

There are good elements, but none, in my view, are knock-outs. Kelly gives probably the most athletic performance of his career. He swings from ropes, clambers up to balconies and leaps down again, dances with a sword (with all those exploding fire bombs behind him) and stomps about in a semi-flamenco. I'm not a great fan of Kelly, either as an actor or a dancer, but he is supremely athletic and graceful in everything he does in this film. It's a pleasure just to watch him move. The Cole Porter songs, in my view, need to be heard more than once to be appreciated. Some, like Nina and Mack the Black, written to be the basis of big production numbers, depend too heavily for me on their orchestrations. But You Can Do No Wrong and Love of My Life are small-scale gems. Be a Clown is a terrific speciality number used twice. The first time is with Kelly and Fayard and Harold Nicholas. It's fast and heavy on gymnastics. I'll admit I was a little surprised to see that Kelly was able to keep up with the two. The second time closes the movie, with Manuela and Serafin performing in clown costume. Here's Judy the waif, all made up, clowning and singing and dancing, with Kelly by her side. It seems to take a long time to get to this point, but the number is worth waiting for...and the fast forward will make it easier the second time.

The DVD transfer looks a little pale to me at times, but on balance all that MGM Technicolor gloss comes through. There are several extras.

Fans of movie musicals will detect an uncanny similarity between Porter's music for Be a Clown and the Nacio Herb Brown music for Make 'Em Laugh, which Brown came up with specifically for Singin' in the Rain. In fact, the similarity is almost note for note. The story goes that when the similarity was pointed out to producer (and the writer of the lyric for Make 'Em Laugh) Arthur Freed, he contacted Porter and asked what he should do. Porter is supposed to have just laughed and told him not to worry about it. Hear the tune in your mind and match it against the two sets of words:

Be a Clown 1948, music and lyrics by Cole Porter:
Be a clown,
Be a clown,
All the world loves a clown.

Act a fool, play the calf,
And you'll always have the last laugh.
Wear the cap and the bells
And you'll rate with all the great swells

If you become a doctor, folks'll face you with dread,
If you become a dentist, they'll be glad when you're dead,
You'll get a bigger hand if you can stand on your head,
Be a clown,
Be a clown,
Be a clown.

Make 'Em Laugh 1952, Music by Nacio Herb Brown, Lyrics by Arthur Freed:
Make 'em laugh
Make 'em laugh
Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?

My dad said "Be an actor, my son
But be a comical one
They'll be standing in lines
For those old honky tonk monkeyshines"

Now you could study Shakespeare and be quite elite
And you can charm the critics and have nothin' to eat
Just slip on a banana peel. The world's at your feet
Make 'em laugh,
Make 'em laugh,
Make 'em laugh.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great garland, 4 Jan 2011
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This review is from: The Pirate [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
forget the wizard of oz, this film shows garland at her best alongside the master himself, a treat from start to finish , amust buy , highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 12 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pirate [VHS][1948] (VHS Tape)
The best Gene kelly musical in ages 'mack the black' is esoecially good, very funny and the acrobatics are amazing definitely worth the money, the costumes are so pretty and an enjoyable storyline, judy garland and gene kelly overact a bit bit this fits in well with the whole storyline, the pirate ballet is so good
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whistled up from the Meadow., 26 April 2010
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pirate [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
Revisiting movies that you watched as a kid can be a real minefield. I first watched "The Pirate" more years ago than I now care to remember. As a child I was entranced by the bright colours, the lavish costumes, and the athletic dancing of Gene Kelly. I think the fact that it was all about pirates stirred my young imagination, and I even enjoyed the songs which I whistled away to happily afterwards whilst swinging on the curtains. Would it stand up to the cruel test of time? Many films that I watched in the past crashed and burned thorough cynical adult eyes, but hallelujah this was not one of them. In fact I was tempted to whistle and swing from the curtains once again! Never one to allow the old rose tinted spectacles to stand in the way of an honest review, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The film tends to be one of the more forgotten MGM musicals, which is a pity. Any film starring the great Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, and directed by that consummate master Vincente Minnelli, containing songs from the great Cole Porter, just has to be worth a look at. The story concerns an actor who plays the part of a real Caribbean pirate, the black Macoco, to win the affections of the beautiful Judy Garland, who is infatuated by the romance and adventure surrounding this legendary scourge of the seas. Matters are complicated when the real pirate turns up in the guise of the town mayor who is already due to marry Judy. This gives Kelly the opportunity to showcase his talents in some wonderful song and dance routines. His opening gambit is the delightful "Nina" where he athletically navigates all corners of the set wooing the many beautiful girls on display. Judy Garland also uses her beautiful voice to great effect with some lovely numbers. Especially memorable is the rather sensuous "Mack the Black". Apparently Mayer was so scandalized by the song "Voodoo" which this song replaced, that he had the negative destroyed. What is left is still quite heady stuff by forties standards! Walter Slezak deserves special praise for his cadaverous mayor with a past.

On its release the film got a lukewarm reception and was not a box office success. Cole Porter described it as "a 5,000,000 dollar Hollywood picture that was unspeakably wretched". Not much sitting on the fence there! Sorry Cole but I humbly beg to differ over 60 years later. Time has been kind to this film and it has not dated badly at all. The colour and picture quality is amazingly crisp and vibrant. Minnelli's talent for staging and lavish production is indulged to the profligate full. The costumes are simply ravishing and it is easy to see where a lot of the money was spent. Hollywood may have many faults, but their westerns and musicals especially simply have no peer. The forties and fifties were perhaps the halcyon periods for the musical, and this film is a fine example of that. It reminds me of why I fell in love with cinema. Like an old horse put out to meadow I was whistled up once again to enjoy that old fashioned romance of the cinema. It has got to be worth five stars on the strength of that alone!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sheer entertainment !!!, 28 Jun 2008
By 
H. A. Bedford - See all my reviews
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I first saw this film when I was a girl, and vividly remember Gene Kelly swinging from balcony to balcony, looking extremely fit and attractive! The whole of the film takes you away to another, far-off world, and you can forget modern life for a while. I absolutely love it and bought 3 copies for friends and family when it became available on vhs. I highly recommend it to anyone who is tired of the modern day violence and swearing in most films these days, as a wonderful light-hearted story which will whisk you away for a couple of hours of pure entertainment and bliss!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gean and Judy great, 9 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Pirate [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
I LOVE this film Gene Kelly is wonderful and Judy Garland is a perfect foil the songs are great too
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