Film index
Previous film
Next film
Judy Garland Database

Film Review: The Pirate


The Pirate

MGM, 1948 (Color, 102 minutes, Production No. 1400)

The lovely girl dreams of a romantic pirate lover and the strolling player hopes he can make her believe the dream's come true. Meanwhile the real pirate is content to let the actor play the role - to the finish. He hurries off for the militia while the girl first thrills at meeting the "pirate" only to rage at him when she discovers the deception. But when the player is arrested and about to hang she discovers he is her real romance and helps him trap the pirate in a confession.

[MGM press sheet]


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
Costume Supervision: Irene
Costumes Designed by: Tom Keogh
And Executed by: Karinska
Hair Styles Designed by: Sydney Guilaroff
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
Director of Photography: Harry Stradling
Color by Technicolor
Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus
Associate: Henri Jaffa
Film Editor: Blanche Sewell

Filmed: December 1946 - July 1947 (Judy turned 25 during filming)
Released: June 1948


Judy Garland ... Manuela Alva
Gene Kelly ... Serafin
Walter Slezak ... Don Pedro Vargas
Gladys Cooper ... Aunt Inez
Reginald Owen ... the Advocate
George Zucco ... the Viceroy
The Nicholas Brothers ... Specialty Dancers
Lester Allen ... Uncle Capucho
Lola Deem ... Isabella
Ellen Ross ... Mercedes
Mary Jo Ellis ... Lizarda
Jean Dean ... Casilda
Marion Murray ... Eloise
Ben Lessey ... Gumbo
Jerry Bergen ... Bolo
Val Setz ... Juggler
Gaudsmith Brothers ... Themselves
Cully Richards ... Trillo

Musical Program

[0:00] Overture: includes vocal of "Mack the Black" (excerpt sung by Chorus)
[0:14] Niña (sung and danced by Gene Kelly)
[0:31] Mack the Black (sung and danced by Judy Garland)
[0:54] The Pirate Ballet (danced by Gene Kelly and Ensemble)
[1:14] You Can Do No Wrong (sung by Judy Garland)
[1:27] Be a Clown (sung and danced by Gene Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers)
[1:34] Love of My Life (sung by Judy Garland)
[1:38] Be a Clown (sung and danced by Judy Garland and Gene Kelly)
[cut] Voodoo (sung by Judy Garland)

see soundtrack CD review


The Pirate was Judy's only MGM picture to lose money, though this was partially due to the accounting which included several abandoned starts on the project, dating back to 1943.

Cole Porter abhored the picture, calling it "a $5,000,000 Hollywood picture that was unspeakably wretched, the worst that money could buy."

Arthur Freed said the film was one of Judy's best pictures and "twenty years ahead of its time." Indeed, the film has gathered a cult following over the years, not only because of Judy, but because it is a wonderful example of Minnelli's staging and lavish production, as well as a great showcase for Gene Kelly's dancing. In fact, if one takes the story on face value, it is actually quite entertaining and filled with some of the best comedy ever captured in a Garland film.

Judy and Gene's original take of "Voodoo" was so steamy that Mayer had the negative destroyed and demanded that they retake the number. The number was eventually replaced with "Mack the Black." Even as it stands, it is definitely the most sensual and suggestive number Judy ever performed on film.

Though the movie was not a box office success, public reaction was very mixed - some loved it, some didn't. The film did receive favorable critical response, The Philadelphia Bulletin calling it "a dazzling phantasmagoria" and P.M. referring to it as "the best big-time musical show on film."

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.


Nominated for Best Score (Musical) Academy Award (Lennie Hayton)

Critical Response

"A gala screen musical has been made out of S. N. Behrman's romantic costume play, The Pirate. M-G-M has played considerable hob with the original Alfred Lunt - Lynn Fontanne starring vehicle. Most of it is to the good. At the Music Hall there is more dancing than script; more production pomp than sensible staging. But with Gene Kelly hoofing like a dervish, Judy Garland changing character at the drop of a hat, and resplendent trappings, the show is bouncing and beautiful. Occasionally the Behrman wit crackles through the proceedings to advantage. The important thing is that his original dramatic notion has inspired a fetching film.

Kelly has a particular triumph in the production. Where Lunt had to learn some vaudeville tricks for the stage offering, Kelly takes a variety of them in full stride, while acting with sly authority in the straight passages of the farce. He dominates the doings in The Pirate in no uncertain manner. Miss Garland dances in a trance, sings pleasantly and does a superb job of crockery smashing in the scene in which she discovers that her beloved pirate is only an itinerant mummer. Although the stars are backed up by hundreds of extras and panoply galore, they are in charge of The Pirate on the screen as surely as were Lunt and Fontanne behind footlights."

- The New York Herald Tribune

"...With Judy Garland and Gene Kelly pitching energetically into the lead roles...Pirate is one of the most delightful musicals to hit the screen in a month of Sundays...The Pirate is a rare and happy combination of expert dancing, catchy tunes, and utterly unbelievable plot which manages to achieve pure escapism without becoming either sentimental or corny."

- Newsweek

"The Pirate is wildly, wonderfully eclectic. One gets the feeling that the director is trying to combine and set in motion everything that has ever delighted him in the visual arts...It is a glorious and sophisticated entertainment, an immense, lavish production yet as enchantingly weightless as a daydream. The Garland and Kelly performances are extremely ambitious attempts at extending their usual ranges and are arguably the most satisfying of their respective careers. The screenplay is uncommonly witty in its satiric thrusts...The huge, lovingly detailed production is, I'm certain, the closest Vincente Minnelli has ever come to realizing the abstract, deeply personal world of whirling forms and colors."

- Joel Siegel, Film Heritage, Fall 1971

Memorable Lines

Serafin: "Aren't you interested in love?"
Manuela: "No! I told you I am to be married..."

Manuela: "I wish you would stop circling me this way, it's like talking to a top!"

Macoco: "I'm very philanthropic now - I repaired the church belfry!"

Manuela: "Why, it would mean the ruination of my complete life!"

Aunt Inez (to Serafin masquerading as Macoco): "Well what are you - some chicken thief or pick-purse?"

Macoco: "The sound of my name was like thunder rolling in from the sea!"

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Assorted photographs

Poster Reprint
Buy This Poster Reprint at Amazon

Other styles: poster #1 poster #2 poster #3 poster #4 poster #5 poster #6
See ALL Pirate posters... over 3,000!

The Pirate DVD

Classic Musicals from The Dream Factory Vol. 2 DVD Box Set
Buy DVD Box Set

The Pirate VHS

The Pirate Soundtrack CD
Buy Soundtrack CD

The Pirate Posters
Buy Posters (you have to look hard!)
(see below for more info)

Original MGM poster art

Original magazine ad: Gene Kelly and Judy Garland in The Pirate

Original music sheet

Publicity still: Gene Kelly and Judy Garland

Manuela is displeased when she discovers Serafin is not really the pirate

Original MGM lobby card art

Manuela is betrothed to the Mayor

The actor tries to tame the wild heart

Home   Film index   Previous film   Next film
Judy Garland Database ©1995-2007 Jim Johnson - see copyright statement