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The Pirate was the second time Judy Garland and Gene Kelly played lovers – having been paired together approximately six years earlier in For Me and My Gal. The stars each brought their specialty to this unique musical with Garland singing her heart out and Kelly delivering a show-stopping ballet number.
Director Vincente Minnelli said, “I was very pleased with the way the film turned out. Judy gave one of her best performances and the Cole Porter songs were excellent.”
1. The first draft was totally different!
The Pirate was based on Der Seerauber by Ludwig Fulda and the Broadway adaption (which starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne). MGM purchased the rights for $200 thousand, and later, producer Arthur Freed got the project off the ground as a musical starring Judy Garland. The first writing team did a major overhaul on the concept. Rather than being an actor impersonating a pirate, it was a pirate impersonating an actor. Director Vincente Minnelli, Porter, and Garland knew that the change wouldn’t work, and different writers were brought on to fix it.
2. Porter struggled at first.
The incredibly talented Cole Porter was hired to write the music for $100 thousand. But the first four songs he completed for the project lacked the spark of his other work. Some were worried that Porter (who had recently come off of unsuccessful musicals Mexican Hayride and Around the World in 80 Days) wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But perhaps he just needed a little outside help. For when Gene Kelly suggested a clown number, Porter delivered up “Be a Clown” (read about that here).
3. Garland’s outfits cost big bucks!
Eight costumes were created for Judy Garland. Two gowns in particular cost $3 thousand each to make given their materials and the delicate nature of the dresses, which included embroidery and a thousand pearls. The complete cost for her costumes was more than $140 thousand.