Originally, I was going to review The Princess and the Pirate for The Metzinger Sisters’ MGM Blogathon. This is because my DVD copy of the film features the MGM logo on the cover and the film was released in 1944. However, The Metzinger Sisters informed me that the movie was not an MGM picture. Even Wikipedia claimed it was an RKO Radio Pictures production. Confused by this, I chose to review The Princess and the Pirate as my next Blog Follower Dedication Review instead. Bob Hope is a comedian I have heard of over the years. But, up until this point, I had never seen any of his films. Meanwhile, pirate themed movies are no stranger to 18 Cinema Lane. As of late June 2022, I have reviewed Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama and China Seas. While I found China Seas to be just ok, I was disappointed by Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama. What do I think of The Princess and the Pirate? Get ready to set sail as we start this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: As I said in the introduction, Bob Hope is a comedian I have heard of before. But because I had never seen his movies, I didn’t know what to expect. While watching The Princess and the Pirate, I found Bob’s portrayal of Sylvester pleasant to watch! His expressions, emotions, and body language were fluid, allowing Bob to adapt to any on-screen situation. Bob’s impersonations were also a memorable component to his performance. Among the silliness and humor, Bob also showed a romantic side. In a scene where Sylvester and Margaret are sailing in a boat, he learns more about Margaret’s identity. During their conversation, Sylvester’s demeanor is softer, lowering his guard. This sweetness in Bob’s character was nice to see, as it showed how multi-layered Sylvester was!
Virginia Mayo portrayed Princess Margaret. As I watched this movie, her performance reminded me of Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. This is because she wasn’t afraid to stand her ground and help save the day. Margaret encouraging Sylvester to be brave during an on-deck battle is one example. What made Margaret different from Elizabeth is how, like Bob, Virginia showed a romantic side. Her performance of ‘Kiss Me in the Moonlight’ showcases this well. Even though the singing was performed by Louanne Hogan, Margaret’s facial expressions and body movements embodied the feminine songstress that appeared in musicals of the time of the movie’s release. Virginia’s portrayal prevented her character from becoming one dimensional!
One aspect of The Princess and the Pirate I liked was how the film made fun of status quos in the world of pirate films. The character of Featherhead is one example of this. Portrayed by Walter Brennan, this pirate is seen by his peers as being “dumb”. However, Featherhead’s interactions with Sylvester goes against that aforementioned claim. Walter’s performance was consistent and went toe-to-toe with Bob’s talents. While Featherhead is a more comedic character, he was more than being the film’s “comic relief”. Walter’s talents allowed his character to be memorable. Featherhead also helped progress the plot forward.
The humor: At the beginning of the movie, on-screen text explains who a pirate named The Hook is and what his mission will be. During this collection of text, Bob Hope breaks the fourth wall by explaining how he’s not portraying the character of The Hook. I found this part of the movie hilarious because of its unexpected nature! At one point in the story, Sylvester swims in a bathing pool with a character named La Roche. During this scene, Sylvester is hiding a secret he doesn’t want La Roche to discover. So, while in the pool, Sylvester quickly pops in and out of the water so La Roche doesn’t see him. Because of the scene’s consistency and because of the scene’s length, it was, in my opinion, funny!
The costume design: In the pirate films I’ve seen, costume design seems to have been a top priority. The combination of historical accuracy and design detail have created costumes that were exquisite and aesthetically pleasing. Throughout The Princess and the Pirate, I loved Virginia’s wardrobe! Each dress boasted a pastel palette, from a coral and teal gown Margaret wore on the Mary Ann to a pink and purple dress she was seen wearing toward the end of the film. This pastel palette also complimented Virginia’s hair color and skin tone. While at La Roche’s house, Sylvester wore a fancy suit. The suit jacket’s primary colors were white and fuchsia, a costume piece boasting a bright, fun palette. Embroidered flowers covered the jacket, which added beauty to the piece. Like the other pirate films I’ve watched, it looks like the costume design in The Princess and the Pirate was a top priority as well!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The island of Casarouge: In The Princess and the Pirate, Sylvester and Margaret go to the island of Casarouge, which is inhabited by pirates. Personally, this location didn’t sit well with me. Throughout Margaret and Sylvester’s time on Casarouge, the pirates’ actions and behavior are unsavory. Acts like murder, thief, and even drunkenness are on full display. I know not every fictional pirate is as friendly as Captain Jack Sparrow. I’m also aware The Princess and the Pirate was released during the Breen Code era, a time where the inhabitants’ choices would not be celebrated or glorified on film. In fact, while on Casarouge, Sylvester questions everything taking place around him. But The Princess and the Pirate has a, mostly, light-hearted tone, with some situations being played up for laughs. Because of these factors, the actions and behaviors of Casarouge should have been toned down.
The Hook’s buried treasure: When The Hook is first introduced in The Princess and the Pirate, he and his crew were seen burying a chest full of treasure. Throughout the film, a subplot involved searching for a treasure map. Without spoiling the movie, I will say the aforementioned treasure was never physically brought up again in the story. More emphasis was placed on finding the map than reclaiming the treasure chest. This made me wonder why the film’s creative team would include this in their story if they had no intention to follow through on it?
A confusing time period: While watching The Princess and the Pirate, the costume and set designs felt reminiscent of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. This led me to believe the story was taking place in the 1700s. Yet Bob Hope’s dialog mentioned things that came to be after the presented time period. When crossing paths with The Hook, Sylvester claims the pirate’s hook would make a great beer can opener. However, I know beer cans did not exist until the 18th century had concluded. I’m not sure if these references were the result of Bob Hope’s comedy or the screenwriters wanting the dialog to be more reflective of the time of the movie’s release. No matter the reason, I found it confusing.
My overall impression:
The Princess and the Pirate is a movie I’ve been meaning to review. Ever since I acquired my DVD copy of the film, I have been trying to find the perfect opportunity to write about it. Thanks to you, my followers, that time has come! Thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say and for paying 18 Cinema Lane a visit! Your interest in my blog means a lot to me. Now, on to my overall impression of The Princess and the Pirate. There are pirate stories that are stronger than this one. But, for it was, I enjoyed the 1944 movie! While I won’t give anything away, I want to mention there is a “bait and switch” ending. But because The Princess and the Pirate made fun of status quos in pirate films, this type of ending worked. What also worked was the acting and the humor. Since this was my first time watching any of Bob Hope’s films, I found this to be a good introduction to his filmography. In the future, I’d like to check out more of his movies.
Overall score: 7.6 out of 10
Have you seen any of Bob Hope’s movies? If so, which ones would you recommend? Let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!