Monday, July 26, 2010

The Princess and the Pirate

In a word, this movie is silly.  For me that translates into "potential masterpiece."  Growing up I never thought that anyone had grounds for calling me Silly Cilla.  Now I begin to wonder....

The Princess and the Pirate is wonderful in its silliness because it's very busy making fun of itself  for the duration of its running time.  It is also wonderful because it has made the best of clichécliché princess, cliché pirates, anything but cliché ending, however.  I promise the ending will take you off guard.  Let me know if you feel as indignant as I did!

The Basics:
The stars make this film.  It is chock full of people who never had the problem of taking themselves too seriously: Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak, Victor McLaglen, and a special surprise guest (I won't tell you who).  Filmed in Technicolor, released in 1944, directed by David Butler (Calamity Jane), with a run time of 94 minutes, and nominated for two Oscars in 1945, The Princess and the Pirate is a delightful way to lighten up any day!  

[It is also surprisingly cheap through Amazon, less than $4.00 here]

The Princess and the PirateThe Plot:
Sylvester the Great (Hope) is a traveling actor and quick change artist, wandering the high seas in search of places where they haven't heard of him yet (his reputation is not exactly stellar).  In the belly of the Mary Ann, the ship in which he travels, he rehearses his acts much to the annoyance and chagrin of the Princess Margaret (Mayo), traveling in an adjacent cabin.  

The Princess has run away from home to escape a royal marriage that she doesn't want.  She and Sylvester become acquainted when she bursts into his cabin to command him to stop shrieking, as he does when he "rehearses." Sylvester doesn't know that she is a princess, but the treacherous Captain Barrett, also known as The Hook (McLaglen), does know, and he means to kidnap her and use her ransom to add to his ponderous fortune.  Pirates attack the Mary Ann; Margaret and the other young women are taken and all others are killed, except for Sylvester, who has disguised himself as an old gypsy woman.  Aboard the pirate ship, Sylvester (still disguised as the Gypsy) is singled out for his ugliness and made to walk the plank.  But the old, toothless idiot named Featherhead (Brennan) begs to keep the "gypsy" as his own wench.  

The "idiot's" request is granted, and Sylvester is saved.  He and Margaret then escape the ship, with the help of Featherhead, who also gives them The Hook's treasure map.  They arrive in a cutthroat town in search of Featherhead's cousin, but find trouble in the Bucket O' Blood with the unconscionable Governor La Roche (Slezak).  

Margaret is kidnapped and taken to La Roche's castle, where Sylvester, a self-proclaimed coward, shows up to complain to the governor about the fat guy who took his girl.  So both Margaret and Sylvester are in captivity yet again, but it is not the last time they will see The Hook.  A whirlwind of chases, plottings, escapes, disguises, and twists ensues.  


  • Because this is a Bob Hope film, the gags come a mile a minute, so you have to listen-up and pay attention to what he is saying.  There are probably a good thousand jokes packed into these 94 minutes.  
  • Hope's physical comedy was also impeccable and it shines in this movie.  
  • Virginia Mayo was a spunky actress, and I always like her in these flicks, where she gets to show personality.  Don't be fooled, though, that's not her voice you're hearing during her performance of "Kiss Me in the Moonlight."
  • The supporting cast is really top-notch, especially Slezak and Brennan.   
  • The scenes that take place in the Bucket O' Blood, the local tavern that as many patrons leave dead as alive, are side-stitching hilarious, especially when Sylvester has to sit down for "two short beers" on pain of his life.  It's even funnier when The Hook drops in for some refreshment.  
This is a good movie, though little known.  It is probably little known because it is impossible to take seriously, but that's what we all need every now and then.   I hope you will check it out, and enjoy!

Be sure to comment below and let me know if you agree with my review!

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