Walt Disney Studio’s live-action Blackbeard’s Ghost premiered February 8, 1968, at the Pacific’s Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Peter Ustinov, Dean Jones, and Suzanne Pleshette star in this madcap comedy caper, which sees the ghost of the famous pirate Blackbeard (Ustinov) return to the coastal town of Godolphin to break the curse put upon him by his long-gone ex-wife. In so doing, Blackbeard complicates things for new track coach Steve Walker (Jones), who’s trying to help save the local Blackbeard Inn from a mobster takeover, win the local track meet, and start a romance with Jo Anne Baker (Pleshette). To break the curse, Blackbeard must perform a genuine good deed—which isn’t as easy as it sounds for the drinking, thieving, carousing pirate.
Early press releases from Walt Disney Productions tout how Blackbeard’s Ghost was a sort of “full-circle” for Jones, considering the fact that his early gigs were in live stage shows, singing at Knott’s Berry Farm and Ghost Town in Southern California. He was “discovered” by composer Vernon Duke, who introduced Jones to Arthur Freed at MGM Studios, which quickly signed Jones to a long-term contract.
From a Walt Disney Productions press release dated 1968: “He [Jones] has appeared in two Broadway plays, starred in his own television series, and is building an impressive list of motion picture credits which includes Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Interns, Any Wednesday, and That Darn Cat, The Ugly Dachshund, and the upcoming Monkeys, Go Home!, for Disney.”
Another press release from the Studio announces: Suzanne Pleshette returns to The Walt Disney Studio for a starring role in the comedy feature Blackbeard’s Ghost, with Peter Ustinov and Dean Jones. This will be Suzanne’s third picture for Disney, having starred in his production of The Ugly Dachshund, also with Dean Jones, and the Studio’s upcoming Easter release, The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, with Roddy McDowall.
For more Disney history, remember to check out D23’s Disney Fanniversary Celebration 2013 in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
By D23: The Official Disney Fan Club’s Jim Frye