Column: Fidler In Hollywood

The Court Jester

Nevada State Journal – Dec. 10, 1954

HOLLYWOOD – Old England, with tongue in cheek, descended on Paramount this week with the starting of “The Court Jester,” the new Danny Kaye comedy. I seemed to have dropped in on a delightful party alive with settings and atmosphere of a regal sort of period in England’s history. Personalities we have known, only in books were all about the set, and I had a thrilling feeling that I was living in a period long, long before even America was discovered.

The king and all the king’s men were there. As were beautiful court wenches, not to mention Danny, as the court jester; his girl friend, Glynis Johns, and the princess in the person of Angela Lansbury. I examined my modern 1954 style of clothes and knew I was definitely out of step in this exotic spot, yet among friendly folk—ancestors, if our history books are true. Also, there were horsemen, hostlers and Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, the comedy team responsible for “Knock on Wood,” who are directing this one from their original story and screen play.

These folks from the 12th century, or thereabouts, didn’t appear to have a care in the world. Even the horses were contented. In their new comedy, Panama and Frank have packed more plot, sub-plot, derringdo, dark intrigue at court and pretty girls, than have been seen in these parts—well, since the 12th Century. I got all this information from a gentleman who was tall and dignified, truly one of the king’s men. Panama and Frank, so Panama told me, have been writing and re-writing—and RE-writing—the screen play for more than a year. Fragments were written in hotel rooms from coast to coast, on planes winging their way across the country, on trains and on buses. Finally, they got it where they, and Danny Kaye, wanted it. Result, says Danny, one of the funniest scripts to come out of Hollywood mill in years.

In it, Danny is cast as one who would be a fearless warrior, but one who, because of his size and lack of brawn, is reduced to the role of a baby-sitter—the baby being the heir-apparent to the throne. Nevertheless, before the picture ends, Danny is called upon to duel to the death, to defend the princess and to behave like the bravest knight of them all.

They’re going all out from every standpoint on this one. It’s going to be big as well as funny. Several of Paramount’s largest stages have been commandeered for “The Court Jester,” which, being filmed in VistaVision and color, will emerge as a treat to the eye as well as the funnybone. Not often do I get around to writing solely about a production, but any picture in which Danny Kaye is starring, as I see it, is a bit of regaining news.

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