Saturday, March 14, 2009

The audience will laugh them off the screen

At first glance, Hollywood and pirates would seem to be made for each other, but in fact they are not. Apart from the technical difficulty that sailing ships are nightmare machines which refuse to stay still, and even large models have their problems, there is the plain fact that pirates - the real pirates of history - the Blackbeards and Morgans and Kidds and Calico Jacks - are too bizarre, too larger-than-life, too unreal even for the cinema. That they were real is irrelevant; their truth is too strange for fiction, and pantomime and Peter Pan have turned the grim reality into a comic figure which usually defies attempts to fashion it for conventional drama, or even melodrama.

Madmen who run about with blazing fireworks in their whiskers, eccentrics who hold religious services and prohibit swearing on their unholy cruises, red-headed hussies who put to sea disguised as men and fight duels to the death - they may do for send-up, but try to present them as they truly were, and the audience will laugh them off the screen.
- George MacDonald Fraser, The Hollywood History of the World

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