The title suggests that this film is about a bloodthirsty pirate, full of swashbuckling and super-romantic moments. Well, yes, a little bit. But mostly, no. This musical, with too few musical numbers, is primarily a campy and over-the-top story where you need to take everything with a grain of salt. Definitely not to be taken seriously. Still, it’s one of my favorite films.

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland

Back in 1948, the film industry was very different from what it is now. The technology was different, the way the audience was approached was different, and the stars of the silver screen were different. Gene Kelly was one of the biggest stars, just like Judy Garland. Some stars were often paired together in similar films because that’s what the audience expected. While many films were released, it wasn’t at the same rate as today, and films weren’t shown on TV. In 1950, less than 10% of households in the US had a TV. So, the audience didn’t mind if a story and the actors were a bit similar to a film from a year or so earlier.

In this film, for example, there’s the song ‘Be a Clown,’ which was later used in Singin’ in the Rain as ‘Make ’em Laugh.’ And two other films with Gene Kelly, Anchors Away and On The Town, had essentially the same storyline. So, I find The Pirate very enjoyable, but some people consider it to be one of Gene Kelly’s worst films ever. However, there’s a beautiful, powerful dance scene in it that alone makes this one fantastic film.

Old-fashioned, you know

It’s an old-fashioned story. A young woman is about to marry a boring but wealthy man. But secretly, she dreams of the exciting pirate Macocco. A young man who’s in love with her finds out and pretends to be that pirate to seduce her. Of course, this leads to confusing situations that are quite comical. And somewhere, it’s relatable for every generation of young girls – an irrational infatuation with an unattainable and mysterious figure.

Thankfully, there are some unexpected moments in The Pirate and also enjoyable musical pieces. That, of course, depends on your taste, but Gene Kelly was a fantastic dancer who gave each routine an athletic and beautiful touch. Judy Garland had a wonderful voice, and even if she sang dull, meaningless songs, it would still be a joy to listen to. But, it’s not exactly “modern.”


Yet, there was controversy! Gene Kelly’s athletic dance during a dream scene was seen as provocative. He also danced with bare, wonderfully muscular legs, and honestly, it’s truly beautiful and maybe a bit too sensuous for that time. Moreover, Kelly had also insisted on having a dancing duo included. What made it unique was that this dancing duo was Black, and their scenes were cut from the film in the southern United States. I believe Kelly was quite upset about that.

At the same time, for the first time, a psychologist was called to the film set because Garland wasn’t mentally strong. The studio hoped that with the psychologist’s help, she would be at her best and wouldn’t hinder the film’s progress. So, I don’t think they were too concerned about her mental health; it was more about ensuring the film was completed on time. But well, that’s showbiz.

Just put those things out of your mind when you watch the film and marvel at the story, have a laugh, and don’t take it seriously. Simply enjoy it!

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