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Film / The Pirate

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The Pirate is a 1948 MGM musical directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Walter Slezak.

In the small Caribbean village of Calvados, beautiful young Manuela Alva (Garland) dreams of being swept away by the legendary pirate Macoco (aka "Mack the Black"), in spite of her betrothal to the cowardly old mayor Don Pedro (Slezak). Before her wedding day she meets The Great Serafin (Kelly), leader of a troupe of traveling players who falls head over heels in love with her. After learning about Manuela’s infatuation for Macoco, Serafin crashes her wedding pretending be the dashing pirate of her dreams. Romantic twists, lots of singing and dancing, and more than a few surprises — including the identity of the real Macoco — ensue.

While its place in musical history is up for debate, The Pirate boasts some phenomenal songs written by the legendary Cole Porter, most notably "Be a Clown" (which was later plagiarized for another Gene Kelly musical, Singin' in the Rain, in the song "Make 'Em Laugh"). The film was also the second of three musical collaborations between Kelly and Garland, the others being For Me and My Gal and Summer Stock.

Not to be confused with the 70s kung-fu film, The Pirate (1973), or the 1821 novel by Walter Scott.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adipose Rex: Don Pedro, the mayor of the town, is noticeably rotund. Serafin refers to him as a "pumpkin", as does Manuela when she pretends to be hypnotized.
  • As You Know: Before trotting her out to meet Don Pedro, Aunt Inez reminds Manuela that she's an orphan with no dowry and they need Pedro's money to pay off her family's debts, so she should be grateful that she's marrying a rich, important man.
  • Arranged Marriage: Between Manuela and Don Pedro. Pedro and Aunt Inez are fine with it, Manuela not so much.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't belittle Serafin's acting talents.
    • Also, don't try to get in the way of Pedro's marriage to Manuela unless you enjoy A Taste of the Lash.
  • Can't Refuse the Call Anymore: Despite being an excellent singer and dancer, Manuela repeatedly turns down Serafin's offer to join his troupe since she thinks she'd only be humiliating herself. Ultimately she puts on an act in front of the entire town in order to prove Serafin's innocence. The movie ends with her and Serafin performing "Be A Clown" in full clown makeup and costumes.
  • Cassandra Truth: After convincing most of the town he's really Macoco, Serafin is unable to talk his way out when Pedro has the Viceroy arrest him. Manuela also tries to convince the town of Serafin's innocence but to no avail.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Manuela's engagement ring from Don Pedro. When the Viceroy shows her the treasure recovered from "Macoco's" chest, she recognizes the set it's a part of and realizes Don Pedro is the real Macoco.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: The mild-mannered Pedro turns out to be this once Serafin expresses interest in Manuela.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Once Pedro's temper flares up he goes from a harmless milquetoast to dangerously violent. He comes close to killing Serafin twice; he's stopped the first time by Serafin figuring out Pedro is really Macoco, and the second by the timely intervention of Serafin's acting troupe.
  • Crowd Song: "Mack The Black"
  • Dream Ballet: The Pirate Ballet sequence.
  • Eleven O'Clock Number: "Be A Clown".
  • Evil Aunt: Subverted with Aunt Inez. She's forcing Manuela into an arranged marriage, is eager to mooch off her fiance, and tries to repress her free spirit, but she does so because she cares about her niece's security and social standing, and needs the money to pay off Capucho's gambling debts.
  • Henpecked Husband: Capucho. Any time he tries to speak up Inez shuts him down.
  • Hypno Fool
    • Serafin puts Manuela in a trance as part of his show, hoping to coax a confession of love from her. Instead she reveals her infatuation for Macoco and performs a rousing song about his exploits.
    • Later when Serafin tries to hypnotize Pedro but is stopped by Inez, Manuela pretends to be in a trance and pledges her devotion to Serafin in order to get a rise out of Pedro.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Manuela makes excellent use of Pedro's vases and antiques when she learns Serafin is not really Macoco.
    • The acting troupe subdue Pedro with their juggling pins, hoops and assorted props until the law steps in.
  • Irony:
    • Manuela dreads the thought of marrying Pedro and fantasizes about being carried off by the dashing pirate Macoco. Little does she know the two are one and the same, albeit Pedro's not as fit or handsome as he was in his glory days.
    • Pedro is terrified at the possibility of Manuela discovering he was once the infamous bloodthirsty pirate Macoco, but has no idea of Manuela's crush on Macoco.
    • Serafin, a talented actor, passes himself off as the dangerous pirate Macoco so well that the town and authorities are convinced he's the real deal and arrest him.
    • Manuela singing "You Can Do No Wrong" to Serafin considering everything he's done up to that point.
  • "I Want" Song:
    • "Mack The Black", while technically a Villain Song, also doubles as this for Manuela, since she yearns for both him and his life of excitement and adventure.
    • "Niña" could count as this as Serafin's looking for his dream girl.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Serafin. His first song has him pursuing every woman he lays eyes on, but once he meets Manuela she becomes the only girl for him.
  • Large Ham: Serafin to a T. Comedy is his specialty, though he does a terrific job pretending to be a dangerously subdued pirate.
  • Last Request: As he's being led to the gallows, Serafin invokes this: he asks if he could put on one last show for the town. The Viceroy agrees over Pedro's protestations.
  • Love at First Sight: For Serafin when he sees Manuela. It takes longer for her to come around.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Inflamed by jealousy when Manuela pledges her devotion to Serafin!Macoco, Pedro storms the stage and declares he should be the one Manuela loves because HE is Macoco, terror of the Caribbean - right in front of the viceroy and the entire town.
  • Melancholy Musical Number: "Love of My Life" has Manuela lamenting Serafin!Macoco being torn away from her and pledging her devotion to him.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Serafin, The Nicholas Brothers, and later Manuela in "Be A Clown".
  • No Song for the Wicked: Despite this being a musical, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, the heroes, are the only ones who sing.
  • Obsession Song: "Mack The Black".
  • Obvious Second Choice: Subverted with "Mack The Black". It was supposed to be the film's big opening number, but the duet shared between Kelly and Garland in the scene where Manuela was in a trance didn't test screen well, so it was bumped to there instead. However, it's naturally integrated into the scene and shows Manuela has a talent for the stage that's unbeknownst to even herself up to this point.
  • Operation: Jealousy: How Manuela and Serafin get Don Pedro to confess he's really Macoco in front of the whole town.
  • Pirate Booty: The Pirate Ballet has Serafin!Macoco gathering oodles of booty with his crew and shooting them when they get too greedy. "Mack The Black" also makes note of the titular pirate's vast plunder that makes the ladies swoon. Don Pedro's wealth turns out to be exactly this.
  • Refusal of the Call: Manuela longs to escape her small town and engagement to Pedro, but after waking up from her trance at Serafin's show and being informed that she put on an incredible song and dance number, she turns down his offer to join him and flees home in humiliation. Serafin and the troupe follow her and try to convince her to join them anyway.
  • Retired Monster: Macoco has long since retired from his career of piracy and used his wealth to settle into a comfortable civilian life under the name Pedro, eventually becoming the mayor of Manuela's town.
  • Say My Name: "MACOCOOOOOOOOO!!!"
  • Secret Identity:
    • Serafin, while pretending to be Macoco, claims his actor persona was this in order to win over Manuela.
    • Played straight with Don Pedro - he's really the dread pirate Macoco.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: How Serafin and Manuela's relationship develops.
  • Slapstick: Serafin is subjected to this at the end of every verse in the second iteration of "Be A Clown".
  • Spanner in the Works: Serafin almost succeeds in hypnotizing Pedro into clearing his name, but Inez smashes the revolving mirror that's keeping Pedro in a trance.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: "You Can Do No Wrong".
  • Trash the Set: What becomes of Don Pedro's parlor when Manuela takes out her anger on Serafin after she's been lied to.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The movie ends with an extended reprise of "Be A Clown", this time a joyful duet between Serafin and Manuela, who's officially joined his troupe.
  • Villain Song: "Mack The Black", as Manuela is singing about the legendary pirate's dastardly deeds.
  • Wrongfully Accused: Pedro takes advantage of Serafin claiming to be Macoco by having him arrested for the pirate's many crimes. The deal is sealed by stolen jewelry found in Serafin's prop trunk, which Pedro planted there.
  • Wrong Guy First: Manuela is arranged to be married to Pedro before she meets Serafin. Serafin begs her not to go through with it, and though she doesn't want to, she sees no reason to dump Pedro for him just yet.