ABOUT THE FILM:
The Pirate can be considered "Judy's cult film". Producer Arthur Freed said that it was "twenty years ahead of it's time". Indeed, the film is unlike any other musical (or other film) released in 1948. 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 it was over-acted. Others loved the high farce the production was going 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 re-write 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", i.e. very over arranged and shrill. When going through a rehearsal of "You Can Do No Wrong", Judy and Porter had words 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.
This was the only film Judy made at MGM that did not turn a profit. The studio reported a loss of $2,290,00, although this included unused screenplay drafts and other work dating all the way back to 1943.
The "Be A Clown" song and dance by Gene Kelly and The Nicholas Brothers was shot in one day on July 9, 1947.
On August 29, 1947 producer Arthur Freed along with Judy, Vincente Minnelli, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter viewed a rough cut of the film. Porter did not like the film, even though Freed and Berlin sang its praises. Porter is reported as saying "We shall see." Porter went on to report that he felt The Pirate was "a $5,000,000 Hollywood picture that was unspeakably wretched, the worst that money could buy."
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
Mack the Black
The Pirate Ballet
You Can Do No Wrong
Be a Clown
Love of My Life
Be a Clown
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