March 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / March /

The Pirate - 1948 M-G-M musical  
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
  Available on RHINO RHM2 7762  
Running Time: 68:55


The Pirate, premiered by M-G-M in 1948 starred Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. It was not the popular success the studio anticipated. In fact, during its production, Judy Garland worried about the frankly below-par Porter tunes - that they would fail to move audiences. Indeed its unusually dark tones for a musical of the 1940's, did not impress at preview screenings. An exotic 'Voodoo' sequence was scratched and it is only now that we have the opportunity of hearing it as an outtake. In the great Conrad Salinger's colourful and exotic arrangement and orchestration, it sounds primitive and wild and sensual, far ahead of its time. The very informative booklet shows several stills from this number and describes its associated production problems.

The score opens in mono with the Main Title ('Mack the Black') a rousing fast-paced rumba followed by Judy's voice in a more relaxed romantic ballad mode as she dreams about her pirate-hero. The rest of the soundtrack is in stereo. The songs, Gene Kelly's forgettable 'Nina', Judy's exuberant 'Mack the Black', and her so-son ballads 'You Can do No Wrong' and 'Love of My Life' are completely overshadowed by the dashing swashbuckling 'Pirate Ballet'. Interestingly the other major song, 'Be a Clown' was very slightly transposed to become Donald O'Connor's hit 'Make 'Em Laugh' in Singin' In the Rain.

Bonus materials include Roger Edens singing the main numbers as demo recordings and publicity orientated interviews with Judy and Gene for 1948 radio broadcasts.

For M-G-M musicals recordings completists.

Ian Lace

*** 3

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