DVR Alert – Essentials, Jr.: The Pirate (1948) tonight

23 Jun

The Pirate (airing on TCM tonight at 8:00 p.m. as part of Bill Hader’s always well- curated “Essentials, Jr.”) is one of my wife’s favorite movies. It flopped when it came out (that wasn’t her fault, of course – she missed that by a couple of decades), and is still a love-or-hate to many.

pirate-1948-04-gI enjoy it, myself (The Nicholas Brothers alone make it an easy sell for me), but my wife experienced this at the right time of childhood to make it one of those Beloveds. She will also defend it with vehemence against all those who denounce its silliness as the wrong kind. The quotes that follow are hers.

“I think they were doing something stylistically that not many other musicals of the period were doing, creating a melodramatic, swashbuckly land that includes poses that don’t exist in the standard musical.”

“The scene where Kelly & Garland are looking out over the ocean – the scene with the big white hat…the insane banter, THAT is what they’re trying to do stylistically with the whole movie…they’re Lunt-and-Fontanneing. Sublime Ridiculousness.”

(Big But Full is a common phrase the two of us use in talk about comic (or any stylized) performance – there’s a lot of that around our house. It’s not all me. )

“This was the first thing I saw Walter Slezak in.” (I interrupt her here to ask, “What young girl doesn’t remember her first Walter Slezak movie?” That fact alone tells you everything you need about her and our marriage.)  “I’m always confused when I see him in other things that are not this…I like his voice. It was also where I was introduced to the idea of Pirates-As-Businessmen.” (Did I mention the thing with her and pirates? It long predates the arr-yelling trends of the last decade. I’m guessing it goes back to this movie.)

Her one complaint: “Be a Clown.” “THAT’S the end?” After the melodrama-romance-parody of the rest of the movie, ending on this (admittedly well-executed) number feels weird, like it was meant for another place on the storyboard and was tacked on the end later. As it turns out, it was indeed a result of the usual executive compromise.

kelly serafinI pointedly avoided asking her about Gene Kelly’s remarkably revelatory-of-thigh dream outfit . Most of her other talking points get fuzzy when we get up to that one, so it’s important to make her save it for last or pass it by altogether if possible, which it isn’t. But I reserve the right to edit that out.

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2 Responses to “DVR Alert – Essentials, Jr.: The Pirate (1948) tonight”

  1. Nancy Crain July 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    I found this page because I’ve always been perplexed by the choice of Be A Clown as the closing scene. Makes no sense in any way, stylistically, story wise or otherwise. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly went from being beautiful watchable people to vaudevillian dopes. Where did that come from?

    • baldmanwithacowlick August 14, 2013 at 1:02 am #

      Per IMDB: Upon completion of principal photography, MGM decreed the finished film’s ending was unacceptable. Minnelli, confronted with re-writes, finding a new finale, took Gene Kelley’s advice to conclude the film with a major musical number based upon “Be A Clown”. When it seemed the movie was near completion, Madam Karinska had returned to New York, leaving Tom Keogh to finish and wrap production. Minnelli met with the costume sketch artist-illustrator Tom Keogh, Minnelli designing all the clown finale costumes. Although the Town Square stage set had been partially struck from the stage to the MGM scene dock, scenic parts were reassembled for re-staging the film’s major town square setting, adding the new performance “Be A Clown” finale stage. Gene Kelly, working with the Nicholas Brothers, choreographed and staged the production sequence. Minnelli and his crew photographed the musical dance number, edited, and “The Pirate” finale was accepted by the studio’s bosses.

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