The Court Jester 1955

1955

Adventure / Comedy / Family / Musical

3
IMDb Rating 7.9

Synopsis

The throne of rightful King of England, the small baby with the purple pimpernel birthmark, has been usurped by the evil King Roderick I (Cecil Parker). Only the Black Fox (Edward Ashley) can restore the true King to the throne - and all he needs is the King's key to a secret tunnel. And while he's trying to steal it, someone has to change the King's diapers. The task falls to Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye), the gentlest member of the Fox's band. The Fox's Lieutenant, Maid Jean (Glynis Johns), guards Hawkins and the baby while they travel, but when they meet the King's new jester on the road, they decide to initiate a daring plan for Hawkins to replace him, become an intimate at the court, and steal the key. So, humble Hawkins becomes Giacomo: the King of jesters and jester to the King. But things begin to get zany when the King's daughter falls for Giacomo, the King falls for Jean, people randomly sing what are supposed to be recognition codes, and a witch with very effective spells (...


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Director

Cast

Angela Lansbury as Princess Gwendolyn
Danny Kaye as Hubert Hawkins
Glynis Johns as Maid Jean
John Carradine as Giacomo
720p.web 1080p.web
929.94 MB
1280*522
English
NR
24 fps
1hr 41min
P/S 71 / 81
1.69 GB
1920*784
English
NR
24 fps
1hr 41min
P/S 96 / 70

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by BrandtSponseller 9 / 10

The review that is true

Set in an era similar to Arthurian England, The Court Jester features a questionable king, Roderick I (Cecil Parker), who has taken over by killing off all of his opposition. He's working on building alliances between the most important, powerful and aristocratic families in his kingdom, including Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone); this will help build a trustworthy legitimizing base. His plans include trying to marry his off his daughter, Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury), to the gruff Sir Griswold (Robert Middleton)--a scheme she firmly opposes. However, Roderick's men overlooked an infant of the otherwise massacred competing royal family. The infant, whom many in the kingdom would believe to be the rightful heir to the throne, is being looked after by the "Black Fox" (Edward Ashley). The Black Fox leads a motley crew; they live in the forest and bear some similarity to Robin Hood and his merry men. One of the Black Fox's men is Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye). After running into a court jester named Giacomo (John Carradine), Hawkins and Maid Jean (Glynis Johns) end up in a scheme to infiltrate Roderick's castle and give the Black Fox's men access for a coup.

Although you cannot tell from my accounting of the premise above, The Court Jester is a comedy, and a very funny one at that. However, it does have a fairly complex plot in its early stages--all of the above is relayed within the first 10 – 15 minutes. This is a slow burner, but as such, the last hour at least is a very solid 10. It's unfortunate that a few minor flaws in the earlier sections of the film (including the complicated plot) caused me to rate The Court Jester as a 9 instead. The last half is so incredible that I wanted to give the film a 10 instead; perhaps on subsequent viewings (this is only the second time I've seen the film; the first was many years ago) the opening sections will work better for me.

As one of the earliest "VistaVision" films, The Court Jester looks gorgeous. It is full of lush, extremely saturated color. The few panoramic landscape shots are stunning and almost surreal. Most of the film is set within Roderick's castle, however, which is no less attractive visually. Producers/directors/writers Melvin Frank and Norman Panama and their crew certainly got the period setting right. The Court Jester is just as authentic feeling as Knights of the Round Table (1953) or The Black Knight (1954), both part of a popular trend of the era of Arthurian and related films, leading to this satire.

The cast is excellent, even if some members such severely underused, such as Carradine and to an extent Rathbone. Of course, The Court Jester is really a showcase for Kaye's considerable and diverse talents. Kaye was adept at quickly changing characters, as in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), and gets to put that skill to great use here, first in disguises, then as the jester, and most importantly, as a hypnotized pawn in a number of "games". Princess Gwendolyn's matron, Griselda (Mildred Natwick), finds cause to put Hawkins under a spell to make him fall in love with the Princess, making a finger snap the cue for his hypnotic transitions. This leads to a hilarious extended sequence where different characters are interacting with Hawkins for different covert ends--some fueled by mistaken identity--and continually snapping their fingers. Kaye as Hawkins as Giacomo has to keep toggling back and forth between two personalities, neither of which knows about the other. Meanwhile, complicated plans are being made which he is expected to follow. Even funnier is that despite himself, he basically manages to follow the plans.

It's a bit silly, but the humor in The Court Jester is all about silliness--it's appropriate for the titular role and more importantly, it's just plain funny. From the finger snapping sequence through the end of the film is one long build up with increasingly outrageous situations, until we finally arrive at pandemonium, complete with tens of acrobatic midgets battling a cadre of knights in a scene remarkably prescient of the anarchic screwball comedies of the latter half of the 1960s.

Kaye's vocal talents are also put to considerable use, both in songs and in rapid-fire, sometimes nonsensical alliterative rhymes. There are a number of very famous--and rightfully so--instances of the latter throughout the film including the "vessel with the pestle/chalice from the palace/flagon with the dragon/brew that is true" bit, which has oddly taken on a life of its own outside of the film, and which like all of the comedy throughout the film slowly builds up to a hilarious climax.

Kaye also does a lot of physical comedy, including my favorite bit--the super-fast knighting ceremony, and he even does a bit of mostly serious fencing with Rathbone. Watching The Court Jester can only make one lament that Kaye was not featured in even more films; he was extremely talented and very unique.

The Court Jester has influenced many later films, including such diverse works as Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) (and by extension Jabberwocky, 1977) and A Kid in King Arthur's Court (1995). But influence or not, this is a masterpiece despite its flaws, and should be viewed at least once by any cinephile worth his or her weight in purple pimpernels.

Reviewed by jhclues 10 / 10

It Could Not Possibly Better Be

Yea, verily, yea; in days of old when knights were bold, and intrigue was a staple of the Royal Court, there were Utopias usurped, kings killed, querulous queens, knights knighted, dukes daily doing whatever it is dukes do and ladies forever in waiting. And in every court there was also a fool; a merrymaker, an entertainer, one with access to the royal ear and often a doer of different kinds of deeds, such as the one portrayed in `The Court Jester,' directed by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank. Danny Kaye stars as Hubert Hawkins, an entertainer by trade, who due to circumstances within his control becomes jester to the court of King Roderick I (Cecil Parker). Roderick, however, is a false king, sitting upon the throne in the stead of the real heir to the throne, still a baby, who bears the undisputable truth of his birthright in a birthmark of a scarlet pimpernel upon his backside. And yea, verily, yea, the intrigue mounts as Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone) jostles for position within the court, while a rebel known as the `Black Fox' (Edward Ashley), along with his beautiful daughter, the Maid Jean (Glynis Johns), and his band of merry men attempt to install the true king to the throne. While in the midst of it all, there is Hawkins, now known as `Giacomo, king of jesters, and jester of kings,' proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that in the end, it is laughter that is, indeed, the Ruler of any court.

Co-directors Frank and Panama deliver a real gem with this delightful comedy, bringing the story to life with humor, music and song, and creating some truly memorable moments along the way. From the `Initiation of Knighthood' sequence, to the famous tongue-twisting `The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true' scene, to Kaye crooning a lullaby to a baby, this film is rich with humor and song that has an innocence and purity about it that makes it readily accessible to any audience. This is humor that runs deep; humor with a heart and soul you'll want to embrace. Simply put, this is terrific stuff; the timing-- especially by Kaye-- is impeccable, the delivery is perfect and the jokes work.

The real key to the success of this movie is, of course, the multi-talented Danny Kaye, who sings, dances, jokes and mugs his way through one of his best performances ever. And what makes Kaye so good, and so special, is the `spirit' of his performance, the sense of joy he emanates while proffering his talents. He gives so completely of himself, so entirely and so honestly, that he's just an absolute joy to watch. You'll never find a false moment in his performance either, and that's something that is discernible in his eyes; it's that twinkle of laughter and love in his eyes that separates and elevates him from so many other performers, in whom you will often find a pretentiousness upon close scrutiny. That's something you will never find in Danny Kaye, a consummate entertainer who obviously loved what he was doing, and was able to successfully convey it to his audience. He was unquestionably unique; a true one-of-a-kind.

The lovely Glynis Johns brings beauty and vitality to her role of Jean, acquitting herself quite nicely alongside Kaye's abundant antics. Though not a part that stretched the limits of her considerable talents, she creates a credible character and most importantly, she makes a nice fit with her co-star and lends a beguiling presence to the film. A nice bit of work by Johns, who some eight years later would create one of her most memorable roles, that of Mrs. Banks in `Mary Poppins.'

Basil Rathbone is a delight, as well, in a role that is essentially a parody of others he's played, specifically his Sir Guy of Gisbourne in `The Adventures of Robin Hood,' opposite Errol Flynn. The success of his Ravenhurst, however, lies in the fact that he plays him straight, without a hint of the humor or parody inherent in the character as presented within the context of this story. It goes without saying that he is perfectly cast here, and his swashbuckling duel with a bewitched Giacomo is a lark.

Also turning in a notable performance, in a role that is minor, yet integral to the story, is Angela Lansbury, as the king's daughter, Princess Gwendolyn. It's a part that demands little more of her than being beautiful and charming, and she succeeds on both accounts. Her screen time is fairly limited, but it's enough to leave an impression, and a good one at that.

The supporting cast includes Mildred Natwick (Griselda), Robert Middleton (Sir Griswold), Michael Pate (Sir Locksley), Herbert Rudley (Captain of the Guard), Noel Drayton (Fergus), John Carradine (Giacomo), Alan Napier (Sir Brockhurst), Lewis Martin (Sir Finsdale) and Patrick Aherne (Sir Pertwee). A fun, feel-good film, `The Court Jester' is a virtual showcase for the versatile Danny Kaye, and he responds with an unforgettable performance. This is true comedy at it's best, and proves overwhelmingly that a movie doesn't have to be hip, crude, rude or vulgar to inspire real laughter. Most of the `comedies' produced in the past decade or so wouldn't even make it to the bottom of the chart this one tops. For some real laughs, just call for a Kaye comedy: Completely conducive to contemporary conviviality. Get it? Got it. Good. Yea, verily, yea. It's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 10/10

Reviewed by skallisjr 9 / 10

Never Outfoxed

IMHO, one of the top funny films. I saw it when it first came out, and we enjoyed it so much, we nearly bought tickets to see it again, right away.

There are so many high points in the film that listing them would put me over quota. A close relative who's nearly humorless to this day says, "Get it? Got it. Good," when she wants to underscore a point she's made. Once in a while, I'll mutter "The vessel with the pestle..." when things seem to be getting a tad complicated. The film has impacted me significantly.

The lyrics of some of the sings are really good. "The Malajusted Jester" seems like something out of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

This is doubtless Danny Kaye's comedic magnum opus. It isn't a "must see" (what is?) but if you haven't seen it, you're missing a lot.

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