“Danny Kaye Baby Sitter And Jester”

The Miami News – Oct. 23, 1955

 

This is more like a short summary than a review.

            HOLLYWOOD—Danny Kaye, who likes to be busy, should be more than delighted with his role in “The Court Jester” his new comedy. He plays a dozen or so characters.

            Danny is the protector of the rightful heir to the throne of 12th-century England. As the heir is six-weeks-old, [I actually think the baby was slightly older than that. -- J.N. webmistress] that makes Danny a baby-sitter. He’s also a peasant, a knave, a court-jester naturally, a brave knight and for the first time in his screen career, a great lover. The two girls to whom he pitches woo are Glynis Johns, the British actress, and lovely Angela Lansbury.

 

 

“The Court Jester”

Variety – Dec. 31, 1955

 

Costumed swashbucklers undergo a happy spoofing in The Court Jester with Danny Kaye heading the fun-poking. Norman Panama and Melvin Frank drag in virtually every time-honored, and timeworn, medieval drama cliché for Kaye and cast to re-play for laughs via not-so-subtle treatment.

A major assist comes from the Sylvia Fine-Sammy Cahn songs, of which there are five all tuned to the Kaye talent. There's the quite mad 'Maladjusted Jester'; a lullaby, 'Loo-Loo-Loo I'll Take You Dreaming'; a ballad, 'My Heart Knows a Lovely Song'; the comedic 'They'll Never Outfox the Fox', and 'Life Could Not Better Be.'

Glynis Johns, fetched from England for the hoydenish Maid Jean role opposite Kaye, does exceedingly well. The same is true of Basil Rathbone, a many-seasoned chief heavy; Angela Lansbury, cutting a pretty picture as the Princess Gwendolyn; Cecil Parker, the not-so-bright King Roderick who has ousted the real royal family; and Mildred Natwick, the princess's evil-eyed maid.

 

 

"Comic Knighthood For Kaye"

Life – Jan. 30, 1956

 

For pictures, click the above link.

The suit of armor above from which Danny Kaye is emerging like a timid turtle has just been magnetized by a bolt of lightening, producing the situation at the right. Unlikely as this sounds, it is by far the most plausible happening in Kaye’s new movie Court Jester, a splendid spoof at chivalry in Vista Vision.

            The most expensive ($4 million) comedy ever made, Jester finds Kaye changing identities from a bumpkin to a knight-errant back to a bumpkin again. The change takes place far too fast for the brain to follow, but it makes no difference since they involve some of the funniest Kaye on movie record. Somewhere along the way there is a sequence of double talk about a poisoned pellet in a chalice from the palace and a vessel with a pestle, which Kaye reduces to a hilarious and satisfying shambles.


 

“Court Jester Kaye Slays Knighthood”

Oakland Tribune – Feb. 29, 1956

By: Theresa Loeb Cone

            After “The Court Jester” how could any movie outfit ever again contemplate making a serious film based on medieval adventure? Knighthood may have flowered abundantly for armor-clad heroes such as Robert Taylor, Richard Todd, Errol Flynn and others in the past. But Danny Kaye has fixed it so none will ever again venture into that garden. At least, not with a straight face.

            Kaye, who is “The Court Jester” in the comedy of that name which swung on to the Paramount’s screen yesterday, makes comic mincemeat out of all movie derring-do that’s ever been done. This master clown, who is equally at ease in subtle jibes or straight slapstick plays the central figure in a plot that doesn’t attempt to make much sense, except as an all-around spoof of knights, jousting, court life and royal intrigue.

            Written, directed and produced by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank the latest Kaye starrer finds him involved in smuggling an infant king into the castle presided over by Cecil Parker. He thought he had wiped out the royal family before he declared himself the new monarch. But indisputable evidence to the contrary as affirmed by the fact that the baby has a traditional royal purple pimpernel on his royal bottom which when exposed is enough to turn anyone into a loyal subject.

           

SPELLBOUND HERO

            The agile comedian is called upon to pose as a jester, to engage in outrageously funny sword-play, be steamingly amorous with princess Angela Lansbury and commoner Glynis Johns, handle repartee with villain Parker as well as usurper Basil Rathbone and all the while be subject to an off-again, on-again spell worked by witch Mildred Natwick, one of the theater’s really superb comediennes.

            There are also scenes involving a band of acrobatic midgets who make marvelously short work of taking over an entire castle and a rib-tickling sequence wherein Kaye jousts with burly Robert Middleton.

            This particular episode is incredibly funny, just a shade more so than the instance when Kaye goes through the entire series of tests for knighthood in one day instead of five years and is then accorded a speeded-up induction ceremony that had the Paramount matinee spectators howling.

 

COSTUMES GALORE
            The movie hasn’t stinted itself when it comes to lavish settings and costumes, either; all in brilliant, effective color, too. Kaye sings several ditties, does a few dances in his usual happy fashion. None of the these pleasant tunes is memorable, but the Sylvia Fine lyrics are amusing as always, especially in the patter numbers at which Kaye is particularly adept.

            During some of the scenes—played straight by Miss Natwick, Rathbone, Miss Lansbury, Miss Johns and Parker—I got the impression that if the action had lasted a second longer the performers would have burst into uncontrollable laughter at their own lines. You can’t help but enjoy “The Court Jester,” even if it can not be labeled as Kaye’s best movie.

 

The following article isn't necessarily a review but the columnist did include his opinions about the movie.
Pertinent review information is in red.

“At The Theatres: Neglected Hollywood Writers Make Bids for Recognition”

Youngstown Vindicator – Mar. 5, 1956

By: Alvin W. Beam

 

[only portions pertaining to Danny and The Court Jester have been included]

 

            Still, the Preminger-Guild matter raises an interesting problem, and I was reminded of it for this column by a similar-dissimilar development in connection with the excellent Danny Kaye picture, “The Court Jester,” now at the Warner Theatre here.

            Similar, because the writers of “The Court Jester” were eager, as the film was about to be released, to have their contribution to its probable success and the star’s probable success known and understood. A Danny Kaye is a Danny Kaye, they seemed to be saying, and much in himself, but no matter how spontaneous he looks on the screen, he doesn’t just grasp everything out of thin air.

            Dissimilar, because the writers were also producers and directors and were not engaged in a quarrel with anyone or anything—save, obliquely, with the occasional thoughtlessness o the authors of the movie reviews for the nation’s newspapers and magazines. These people, like the general public, may sometimes react to a picture as though it were constructed only of its players.

            But even so, the writer-producer-director team of Norman Panama and Melvin Frank was gentle as it pushed.

            Those smart cookies did this:

            They sent out to theatrical desks across the land mimeographed copies of the 110-page shooting script. They said in an accompanying letter that the procedure was one they had been thinking of for a long time and that they hoped it would be useful to the critic, if made a frequent thing, “in the proper evaluation of the relative contribution of, say, writer, director, producer, actor.”

            Well, the script does help to make the point that Danny Kaye has an excellent vehicle in Messrs. Panama and Frank’s “The Court Jester.” Like the writers for all the television comics, they know their man and what he can do, and they’ve gone on to be creative in his behalf.

            It’s a high-class script, and if Danny Kaye was just the man to handle all the hilarious word play about the vessel with the pestle and flagon with the dragon, they were the boys to write it.

            The motion pictures, unlike the stage, have long neglected writers as No. 1 persons, and it’s nice to see them take action. It’s especially nice when they turn out so pleasant a job as “The Court Jester” and then give you a closer look at its inner workings.

            But leave us not forget Mr. Kaye in all this.

            The script shows that there was a lot of room left for improvising the funny business of action along the way.

            And that Danny sure came through!

 

 

“A Look Back at Danny Kaye in The Court Jester”

Film School Rejects – June 15, 2008

 

The Court Jester (1955)

Despite his title role in the film, Danny Kaye was a king of cinema in his prime. Despite only appearing in two dozen films, his roles in White Christmas, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Hans Christian Andersen secured his iconic status. In The Court Jester, Kaye gets to use the entire range of his talents in the sort of manic display that many 50s comedies turned out to be. Still in the vein of classic, Golden Age Hollywood, it’s a movie that includes and moves beyond the elements of several genres, so even though it’s labeled a comedy, it’s probably closer to an action-comedy-romance-musical-farce. Plus, it features a hot Angela Lansbury. That’s right. Hot Angela Lansbury.

Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) is a devil-may-care carnival performer who falls in with a band of outlaws led by The Black Fox (Edward Ashley) and soon finds himself with the task of bringing the rightful heir to the throne – a small infant – across enemy lines into the court of the vicious King Roderick (Cecil Parker). Hubert achieves this by impersonating the King’s new court jester, Giacomo The King of Jesters, and subsequently gets into a slew of hilarious situations leading up to The Black Fox’s men storming the castle to overthrow the evil reign of the false king.

If you’re seeing the Robin Hood story, you’re spot on, but think of The Court Jester as a Robin Hood tale with no Robin Hood. The enigmatic Black Fox – which Hubert is accused of being several times – only shows up in true form randomly throughout the story which leaves Hubert on his own most of the time to fumble his way to victory. This also leaves him free to fall for the beautiful Maid Jean (Glynis Johns), the real brain behind most of the operation, and to romance the King’s daughter, Princess Gwendolyn – the aforementioned hot Angela Lansbury. If you’re at all surprised by that – as I was when I first saw it – keep in mind that it was made when she was only thirty years old, and she pulls off the buxom-maiden role to perfection.

With most comedies that were still reveling in the world of Vaudeville despite three decades of separation, The Court Jester throws the kitchen sink at the audience – people bursting into songs randomly, cases of mistaken identity, a witch that hypnotizes Hubert, tongue twisters, instrumental interludes, marching routines, sword fights, catapults, acrobatic feats, and classic slapstick gags. Oh, and a dash of cheese-tastic harlequin romance. And a band of little people that save the day. Of course.

Perhaps the most famous scene involves Danny Kaye performing the tongue twister: “The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.” This line continues to get muddled, especially when the chalice from the palace breaks and is replaced by a flagon with a dragon etched on it. In a way, it’s this sort of word play that acted as a forerunner for more modern comedies like Blazing Saddles and, fittingly, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

At the time it was made, The Court Jester was the most expensive comedy ever made with a whopping budget of $4 million. Today, it’s a great way to look back on one of the funniest movies from the career of a Hollywood comic legend. It’s got something for everyone with its miscellaneous method of advancing the plot through songs, dance routines, tongue twisting sessions, and slapstick scenes. Plus, you get to see another legend, Basil Rathbone, acting despicable and showing off his sword fighting skills. All in all, it’s a solid old-school Hollywood distraction the way they were always intended to be.

You’ll dig it if you dug:

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

First Knight

or if you’ve ever gotten strangely turned on by “Murder, She Wrote”

 

 

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