Lavish wardrobes, stunning Technicolor and cinematography, and two handsome/beautiful charismatic leads. Nothing is said about the time period involved, but I would guess the late French/Spanish period in Louisiana.
The hero, debonair Englishman Captain Kingston(also in the guise of pirate Captain Baptiste), has as his nemesis, the Frenchman Narbonne(Robert Douglass), merchant kingpin of the New Orleans(NO) region, and his henchman: Patout(Norman LLoyd). Although not mentioned, Kingston seems to be the only Englishman, among otherwise Frenchmen, in the high society of New Olreans.
Yvonne De Carlo, as Debbie McCoy, is a mysterious sassy stowaway on board a Narbonne ship from Boston. Apparently, she is a runaway from her family, used to singing and dancing for the high society of Boston. Captured by Batiste, he plans to take her to the pirate stronghold of Tortuga, where she might be employed as a singer/dancer. But, somehow Debbie stows away on the landing craft for NO, and shows up curled inside a grocer's cabinet, determined to land a rich NO society man. Madame Brizar, who runs a finishing school for fashionable young ladies, likes Debbie's looks and takes her home for a further evaluation. After working out their personality conflicts, She passes and sings and dances a bit at a Kingston party. There, she meets Captain Baptiste, now in the guise of Captain Kingston, commissioned to capture Baptiste!
Later, we learn that Kingston is not the real Baptiste. Apparently, he killed Baptiste, who was allied with Narbonne against other NO shippers, and took over Baptiste's identity when at sea, switching from a Narbonne ally to attacking only Narbonne's ships! He sells the captured goods in Martinique to support the 'seaman's fund', established by his late father, to outfit more merchant ships, including his own, to compete with Narbonne. He is also popular with with non-Narbornne NO sailors, because he hires local seamen, whereas Narbonne does not(why?).
Despite Kingston's leisurely engagement to Arlene: the governor's daughter, he grudgingly accepts Debbie as a stowaway on his next pirating expedition, which she much aids with her overheard info from Narbonne. When they return to NO, Kingston is shocked to learn that his fiancé has married Narbonne.. This leaves him open to marry Debbie. However, he is found guilty of piracy and to be hanged in the morning. Debbie and a rowdy tavern crowd of anti-Narbonne sailors, taken to jail, take over the jail instead, freeing Kingston and his crew, to sail away(to where? continue sacking Narbonne's ships?)
There are actually many more twists and turns to the story, I have not included. I don't understand why the screen writers had Kingston still plan to marry Arlene after his adventures with Debbie, then have Debbie reject his offer when he finds Arlene has married Narbonne, then have Debbie spring him from jail. Would have been much more plausible if he had displaced Arlene with Debbie in his marriage plans before he found out Arlene had married.
In the first scene when we transfer from Baptiste's ship to NO, the face and song of an African American lady, hawking her pralines, fills the screen.I didn't know it , but these are a French sweet pastry, with some sort of nut(typically almond or pecan) included.
Philip Friend, who plays Kingston/Baptiste, was a little known film actor, seldom given the lead role. Yet, I found him quite engaging as the leading man, reminding me of young Vincent Price, in his bearing and eloquent speech, and having great chemistry with Yvonne in their give and take.
Yvonne was a superb choice for the leading lady, being beautiful, bringing her singing and light dancing talents, and flaunting her sassy sarcastic wit and tomboyish personality. She played a basically similar character in a western setting in her previous Technicolor film "Frontier Gal", for instance.
Elsa Lanchester, who played Madame Brizar, long married to gay Charles Laughton, had a long and varied entertainment career, preferring live audiences.
Robert Douglas, as Narbonne, also had a long and varied theatrical career, including much later TV producing. He usually played aristocrats, either good or villainous, and made an impressive nemesis for Friend.
Jay Flippen, as Baptiste's first mate,Jared, had a long career in films and TV, as a distinctive craggy, usually gruff, character actor.
Peggy Castle, in a minor role as Cleo, remained a pretty, but minor, actress, and eventually developed an alcohol problem that lead to her early death.
This film is currently included in a DVD package of 4 pirate films made by Universal in the early '50s. Recommended, if you like this type of film.