PRODUCTION NUMBER: 1400
PRODUCTION DATES: February 17 – August 14, 1947 / August 27 – October 21, 1947 / November 18, 1947
PRODUCTION COST: $3,768,496
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
RELEASE DATE: June 11, 1948
INITIAL BOX OFFICE: $2,956,000
The Pirate can be considered “Judy’s cult film” in a sense. Producer Arthur Freed said that it was “twenty years ahead of its time.” Indeed, the film is unlike any other musical (or other film) released in 1948 and the result is that people either love it or hate it. There is no in-between. It’s lauded for Minnelli’s use of color and Gene Kelly’s dancing although critics were (and still are) divided on the merits of the acting. Some felt that Judy and Gene overacted. Others loved the high farce the production was aiming for. I personally love Judy’s performance in the film. Yes, sometimes you can see some of the strain she was under, but overall her talents as a comedienne really shine through.
The production was plagued with problems from the start. This was Judy’s return to the studio after giving birth to Liza Minnelli and she suffered severe postpartum depression. She also did not relish the thought of returning to the intense grind (and dieting) required in making musicals. She had been talked into renewing her MGM contract paying her an incredible $6,000.00 per week and requiring she only make two films a year. Later she would say that it was “one of the classic mistakes of my life”.
But all of the issues can’t be blamed solely on Judy. The script went through many changes. Most famously the Anita Loos and Joseph Than take on the story altered the premise by making the pirate impersonate an actor impersonating a pirate, rather than the more believable story of an actor impersonating a pirate (who happens to have become the mayor of the town). The husband-wife writing team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett were brought in to rewrite the script.
The music went through many changes as well. The first scoring of “Mack The Black” had what Freed called a sound “like a Chinese carnival,” meaning it sounded very over arranged and shrill. When going through a rehearsal of “You Can Do No Wrong,” Judy and Porter had harsh words with each other over the pronunciation of the word “caviar.” The argument was attributed to Judy being over medicated, because she normally adored Porter and his talent. “Love Of My Life” was also re-recorded.
Over the years, The Pirate has become one of Garland fan’s most well loved films in spite of its minor faults. It may not make the top 10 list of everyone’s favorite musicals, but it was a great experiment at the time and helped advance the film musical to the heights it would achieve in just a few years
Japanese flyer provided by Hisato Masuyama.
TIMELINE PART TWO:
Judy Garland as Manuela Alva
Gene Kelly as Serafin
Walter Slezak as Don Pedro Vargas
Gladys Cooper as Aunt Inez
Reginald Owen as the Advocate
George Zucco as the Viceroy
The Nicholas Brothers as Specialty Dancers
Lester Allen as Uncle Capucho
Lola Deem as Isabella
Ellen Ross as Mercedes
Mary Jo Ellis as Lizarda
Jean Dean as Casilda
Marion Murray as Eloise
Ben Lessey as Gumbo
Jerry Bergen as Bolo
Val Setz as Juggler
Gaudsmith Brothers as Themselves
Cully Richards as Trillo
Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Screen Play by: Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich
Based on the Play by S. N. Behrman as produced by The Playwrights Producing Company and The Theatre Guild
(some sources also credit Lillian Braun, Anita Loos, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Joseph Than and Wilkie Mahoney as having contributed to the writing)
Musical Direction: Lennie Hayton
Instrumental Arrangements: Conrad Salinger
Songs by: Cole Porter
Dance Direction by: Robert Alton and Gene Kelly
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith
Paintings by: Doris Lee
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Arthur Krans
Mack the Black
The Pirate Ballet
(Gene Kelly dance)
You Can Do No Wrong
Be a Clown
(Gene Kelly and The Nicholas Brothers)
Love of My Life
Be a Clown
(Judy Garland and Gene Kelly)
These playback discs are two different types. There are the standard 80 rpm MGM playback discs that feature the MGM logo and typed information on the labels. The other are double sprocket hole (or more) discs which were played on different equipment. These had blank labels on which the details were handwritten. It’s unknown if these are more casual “first run” playback discs not meant for filming but more for test purposes or something else.
Note that the dates are different than the recording dates, reflecting the dates the discs were made.
All discs from the Hisato Masuyama collection. Thanks Hisato!
The Pirate was the first Garland film to get a soundtrack album. Technically Till Till The Clouds Roll By was first, but Judy was merely a guest star featured with two songs. The Pirate is a Judy Garland film through and through. The soundtrack as released by MGM Records was abridged due to the constraints of the standard albums of the day. It features abridged versions of some numbers, and a markedly different version of “Love of My Life” than that heard in the final film. Although part of the pre-recording of the “Voodoo” outtake appeared on the 1976 “Cut! Outtakes from Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals” LP and an expanded CD released in 1990 by Sony/CBS Special Products, the complete soundtrack with outtakes did not appear until the 2002 Rhino Records CD. All of the surviving Garland pre-recording sessions (material used for the 2002 CD) first appeared on the 1996 laserdisc “Judy Garland – the Golden Years at MGM.” You can get more details about all soundtrack releases of The Pirate at The Judy Garland Online Discography or by clicking on the album and CD images above and below.
The Pirate was released on home video in the early years of the formats, first on videodisc then VHS, Laser Disc, DVD and hopefully soon on Blu-ray or 4K and remastered. That Technicolor screams for a new restoration! We can hope. Until then, the film is also available for digital download from iTunes.