The Pirate (1948 film)

The Pirate is a 1948 American musical film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. With songs by Cole Porter, it stars Judy Garland and Gene Kelly with costars Walter Slezak, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Owen, and George Zucco.

The Pirate
Original film poster
Directed byVincente Minnelli
Produced byArthur Freed
Screenplay byFrances Goodrich
Albert Hackett
Based onThe Pirate
1942 play
by S. N. Behrman[1]
StarringJudy Garland
Gene Kelly
Music byLennie Hayton (score)
Cole Porter (songs)
CinematographyHarry Stradling Sr.
Edited byBlanche Sewell
Distributed byLoew's, Inc.
Release date
  • May 20, 1948 (1948-05-20)
Running time
102 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,656,000[2]


Manuela Alva (Judy Garland), who lives in the small Caribbean village of Calvados, dreams of being swept away by the legendary Pirate, Mack "the Black" Macoco. However, her aunt and uncle (who have raised her) insist that she marry the town mayor, the rotund and bullying Don Pedro (Walter Slezak).

Shortly before her wedding, Manuela visits a nearby town, Port Sebastian. A traveling circus has arrived, and Serafin (Gene Kelly), its handsome leader, flirts with all the girls in the song "Niña". When he encounters Manuela, however, he falls in love with her at first sight. He compliments her beauty and begs her not to marry Don Pedro, but, angered, she hurries away. That night, however, she can't sleep, and sneaks out to go see Serafin's show.

At the show, Serafin hypnotizes Manuela, thinking that she will admit that she loves him. Instead, she wildly sings and dances about her love for "Mack the Black." Serafin awakens her with a kiss, and she flees in horror.

On Manuela's wedding day, the traveling players arrive in Calvados. Serafin begs her to join his troupe, and asks her to admit that she loves him. Don Pedro, hearing noise in her room, arrives at her door, and asks her to go away so that he can teach Serafin a lesson.

Serafin recognizes Don Pedro as Macoco, retired and obese. He blackmails Macoco with this information, swearing to tell it to Manuela if Don Pedro forbids the performers from putting on a show. Serafin then decides to pretend to be Macoco in order to win over Manuela. He reveals himself before the whole town as Macoco, then asks Manuela if she will come with him; she again refuses. Still, watching from her window as he dances, she begins to daydream about him. The next day, he threatens to burn down the town if he can't have her. Finally, she happily agrees to go with him.

One of Serafin's troupe accidentally reveals his plan to Manuela. To get her revenge, she first pretends to seduce him, then attacks him with words and hurtling objects. She accidentally knocks him out, then realizes that she loves him, and sings "You Can Do No Wrong."

Meanwhile, Don Pedro convinces the viceroy that Serafin is the real Macoco and should hang for it. He plants treasure in Serafin's prop trunk to make him look like a pirate. The army arrests him, and Manuela's protests can't free him. On the night of his hanging, Manuela finally gets to look at the false evidence, and recognizes a bracelet with the same design as the wedding ring that Don Pedro gave her, and realizes that he is the pirate.

Serafin asks to do one last show before he is hanged, and sings and dances "Be a Clown" with two fellow troupe members (the Nicholas Brothers). As a finale, he plans to hypnotize Don Pedro into admitting he is Macoco, but Manuela's aunt uses her parasol to break the mirror that Serafin uses to hypnotize people. Panicked, Manuela pretends to be hypnotized and sings "Love of My Life," vowing everlasting devotion to Macoco. Don Pedro, jealous, reveals himself as the true Macoco and seizes her. Serafin's troupe attacks him with all the items and juggling balls, and the lovers embrace. Manuela joins Serafin's act and the film ends with them singing a reprise of "Be a Clown."



Vincente Minnelli directed, from a screenplay by Frances Goodrich from the 1942 play by S. N. Behrman, which had starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The script underwent several rewrites. Originally, there was intended to be a character for Lena Horne, who would have played Manuela's dressmaker and sang "Love of My Life", but her character was eventually dropped. The background score was by Lennie Hayton. The songs were by Cole Porter. The dance sequence was omitted when shown in some cities in the South, such as Memphis, because it featured The Nicholas Brothers dancing with Kelly. (It was the first time they had danced onscreen with a white performer, and while it was Kelly's insistence that they perform with him, they were the ones who were punished. Essentially blackballed, they moved to Europe and did not return until the mid-60s.)

Several songs were cut, changing the lineup of the score. "Mack the Black" was intended to be the opening number. For the hypnosis scene, Garland and Kelly would have done a different dance to a song titled "Voodoo". The sequence was filmed, but MGM executives felt its choreography was too openly sexual for audiences to accept. When MGM head Louis B. Mayer saw it he was so outraged he ordered the negatives to be burned. No known footage of it is known to exist today. "Mack the Black" was used for the scene instead.

The score was nominated for an Academy Award for Original Music Score, losing out to another MGM musical, Easter Parade, also starring Garland and produced by Arthur Freed.

The production of the film was frequently tense: Garland's qualms about the production and her struggles with ongoing prescription drug addiction led to several angry confrontations with husband/director Minnelli, presaging their divorce a few years later. The production lasted for over four months, with Garland off set for 99 of the 135 shooting days.

The film was shot in Technicolor.


Audiences failed to respond to the film's high-brow ambitions, and while many critics hailed its sophistication, box office results failed to follow suit, although the British author David Shipman, in his book The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years, described it as being overall "a neat moneymaker, but otherwise probably the least successful of Garland's MGM films."[4]

According to MGM accounts, the film earned $1,874,000 in the US and Canada and $782,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss to the studio of $2,290,000.[2][5]

Soundtrack for extended CD version

  1. "Main Title (Mack the Black)"
  2. "Niña"
  3. "Mack the Black"
  4. "Love of My Life" (Outtake)
  5. "Pirate Ballet"
  6. "You Can Do No Wrong"
  7. "Be a Clown"
  8. "Love of My Life" (Reprise)
  9. "Be a Clown" (Finale)
  10. "Mack the Black" (Unused Version)
  11. "Papayas / Seraphin's March" (Partial Demo)
  12. "Voodoo (Outtake)"
  13. "Manuela (Demo)"
  14. "Voodoo (Demo)"
  15. "Niña (Demo)"
  16. "You Can Do No Wrong" (Demo)
  17. "Be a Clown" (Demo)
  18. Judy Garland Interview with Dick Simmons
  19. Gene Kelly Interview with Dick Simmons


  2. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. Another source puts the cost at $2.3 million Variety February 1948
  4. David Shipman The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years, London: Macdonald, 1989, p. 249
  5. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
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