The Pirate ★★★★

Breezy, funny Arthur Freed-MGM musical is offensive in about a hundred different ways but nevertheless is incredibly slick and fun, at least after a bumpy start; it features Gene Kelly, tightly controlled as ever, as a philandering actor who tries to contort himself to fit the fantasies of Judy Garland, extremely bored with her provincial future and seemingly irredeemably dull politician husband-to-be (Walter Slezak, totally unrecognizable from the only other role I've seen him play). The songs by Cole Porter are far from his best, but the accompanying dance numbers are wonderfully choreographed, performed and captured by Vincente Minnelli and Harry Stradling, particularly a breathtaking, erotic ballet in which Garland briefly sees the man she wants in front of her. The film's shortcomings are forgivable because its modest humor is so winning; it isn't as acerbic and wild as Singin' in the Rain but it's still surprisingly sharp when you know the same director was capable of relatively staid material like An American in Paris and -- shudder -- Gigi. The simplicity of the premise also helps, as does the irony of the title; production may have been bumpy, as seems inevitable when an actress is being directed as a romantic lead by her spouse, but by all outward appearances everyone is giving their all, quite joyously.