Thursday, January 26, 2017

That's an Even Cooler Team-up!

Last week, we looked at a Western that quite properly ignored history to give us a Pat Garrett/Wyatt Earp/Bat Masterson/Buffalo Bill team-up. This week, we'll examine another movie that quite properly ignores history to give us a Blackbeard/Captain Kidd/Henry Morgan/Ann Bonney/Ben Avery team-up.

This one is a comedy--Double Crossbones (1951) starring Donald O'Connor. I think it's a fun film, though I have discovered that O'Connor thought of it as the worst film he ever did.

So I am disagreeing with the star of the picture when I say its worth watching. O'Connor is an assistant shop keeper named Davy, who is unaware that the owner of the shop is illicitly buying stolen goods from pirates. He is also in love with the governor's ward, though too shy and too conscious of his low social status to follow up on this.

We also get a fun bit of slapstick in which he accidentally annoys a ship captain and has to fight a sword vs. broom handle duel.

But when the owner's illegal activities are brought to light, Davy and an old sailor (Will Geer) are arrested along with him. Accused of crimes they didn't commit, but unable to prove their innocence, they make a break for it. Shenanigans ensue--including (of course) the necessity for Davy to sing and dance for money in an inn. Further shenanigans find Davy and his friend mistaken as bloodthirsty pirates. Soon, they are in Tortuga, attending a meeting of the top pirate captains. This is where we get to meet Blackbeard and the other famous captains from Piracy's Golden Age.

By now, Davy is stuck with the task of both proving the Governor of Charleston is a crook in league with the pirates and prevent his lady love from marrying said Governor. The movie manages to strike a nice balance between a sense of real danger and frequent bits of slapstick. O'Connor is typically likable, the girl (played by Helena Carter) is very pretty and the supporting cast (including Charles McGraw and Lon Chaney Jr.) all seem to be having fun hamming it up.

So, yes, I am disagreeing with the star of the film. Perhaps the humor and/or the story didn't click with O'Connor and--admittedly--his song-and-dance number doesn't come close to the awesomeness he gave us in Singin' in the Rain and his other musicals. But Double Crossbones does what it sets out to do--it allows us to spend 81 minutes laughing along with people we like.

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