Thursday, August 25, 2016
Pirates and Pretty Girls
Sometimes, a movie's entertainment value increases when the actors in it seem to be having fun with their parts. Of course, I don't know that the cast of Buccaneer's Girl (1950) had fun. Maybe they were all completely miserable. But they give the impression that they're having a ball making the film. I prefer to believe this is the case. It's a fun movie.
Philip Friend plays Captain Kingston, who is tasked with finding the famous pirate Baptiste. But Kingston actually is Baptiste.
The situation is a bit convoluted, but the movie does a good job of explaining it. A ruthless merchant named Narbonne (Robert Douglas) employed a pirate named Baptiste to wipe out the competition and gain control of the shipping business in New Orleans. Captain Kingston catches and kills Baptiste, but doesn't tell anyone. Kingston takes Baptiste's name as a secret identity, then starts looting Narbonne's ships and using the proceeds to fund independent cargo ships and hire sailors who had been put out of work by Narbonne's monopoly.
But Kingston isn't the main character. That honor goes to Deborah McCoy (Yvonne De Carlo), a spunky gal who comes to New Orleans to work as a singer.
She's captured by Kingston/Baptiste when the ship on which she has stowed away is taken. She charms the pirate crew, gets on Kingston's nerves, escapes to New Orleans and meets Kingston again. When she has tumbled to his plan, she keeps quiet about what she knows. To the surprise of absolutely no one watching the movie, the two fall in love.
But in the meantime, Narbonne has also figured out what Kingston is doing. He lays a trap to catch the Robin Hood-eque pirate and see him hang. It's lucky for Kingston that he now has a girl friend who is willing to plan a jail break.
The supporting cast is great. Elsa Lancaster is hilarious as the owner of a sort of charm school that hires out Deborah and other girls to parties for eye candy and entertainment. (The movie's general air of innocence, by the way, helps to avoid implying that the girls do more than this, thus also avoiding any tasteless overtones.) Norman Lloyd is Narbonne's weaselly henchman and Henry Daniell is the head of the New Orleans police. All bring personality to their small roles.
Buccaneer's Girl is a convivial B-movie, made all the more entertaining by a cast that really does seem to be enjoying themselves. I really hope this is true. They earned their fun.