The Court Jester Poster

The Court Jester (1955)

Adventure | Family   
IMDB Rayting:   7.9/10
Country: USA
Language: English

A hapless carnival performer masquerades as the court jester as part of a plot against an evil ruler who has overthrown the rightful king.

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BrandtSponseller 8 July 2005

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. Meanw

jhclues 16 December 2001

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,

skallisjr 24 April 2005

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.

bob the moo 14 September 2001

Danny Kaye is excellent in this old fashioned family comedy mixed some musical numbers, slapstick humour with wonderful wit and wordplay. The story moves along regardless of the fact that some events occur just to set up some of the jokes, and also some of the editing effects in one scene are really dated! But you're laughing so much that it doesn't matter.

This is a wonderfully old fashioned family comedy that despite it's age still feels freshly funny and acts to show us how crude and ham-fisted comedies such as American Pie etc really are.

Go and find this and watch it today!…..Get it? Got it! Good!

silverscreen888 17 June 2005

If this satire of the Middle Ages and hereditary monarchs is not the most hilarious film ever made, in most viewers' books it stands right next to their favorite. The inspired casting of Danny Kaye as a performer who wants to be a patriotic fighter, gorgeous Glynis Johns as his stern captain, Angela Lansbury as a love-prone princess, Cecil Parker as her lascivious and bumbling evil father (a usurper of course), Basil Rathbone and Michael Pate as his co-conspirators and Robert Middleton and Mildred Natwick as roadblocks to the restoring of a baby as the rightful king of the realm guaranteed a film filled with well-acted fun. The script and direction of this colorful, vivid and side-splitting film were delivered by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank. Mention should also be made of the gorgeous Edith Head costumes, the art direction, sets makeup, hairstyling and blocking and the songs by Sylvia Fine, Sammy Cahn and others. Other stalwarts in the cast who do very well also include Alan Napier, Herbert Rudley, Noel Drayton, Edwin Astley as The Black Fox (Kaye's boss), John Carradine and more. Millions to this day are still laughing about: the "An Unemployed Jester" song; the switches from hypnotized bumbler to dashing super-swordsman that afflict Kaye in the course of his penetration of the royal stronghold; the classic duel Kaye fights with with the Gruesome Griswold (Middleton); the switching of poisoned drinks that occurs just before the duel with everyone repeating "The poison is in the vessel with the pestle, etc."; and the high-speed knighting of Kaye that precedes both these scenes. The climax of the film features a battle between midgets and foresters doing combats against the usurper's misguided loyalists, and Kaye's exhibiting the royal birthmark on the baby king's bottom to prove his right to lie on the throne. What ends with a song called "Life Couldn't Possibly Better Be" and begins with "You'll Never Outfox the Fox" has by that scene traversed areas of hilarity few have ever ventured upon, or even dreamed to reach. A key to the film lies in the comedic use of Mildred Natwick as a spell-casting Svengali exercising power over the Princess (lansbury) who is besotted with the idea of romantic love; half the goings on are due to her machinations that complicate an already astonishing situation. The rest is made possible by Kaye's impersonating the jester Giacomo (Carradine) who has been sent for by the bad men to do in the opposition. The colors are gorgeous in this film, the acting far above average, and Kaye is at his absolute best whether doing faked accents, signing a lullaby to the boy king or proving that courage is not a matter of muscles at all. This is a movie to fetch out of the vault on any holiday, or for any other excuse. With a bit more care at cutting down Sylvia Fine's vaudeville- type material for Kaye, the movie might have been as appreciated when it was first released as it is now.

ShariRN3 26 March 2004

I have seen this movie literally hundreds of times but everytime it is on TV, I sit and watch it again. This is a sweet, funny, light-hearted movie that the entire family can watch--no gratuitous sex, no four-letter words--just fun. They don't make them like this anymore. I still laugh about the "pistol with the poison is in the flagon with the dragon, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true". Danny Kaye is a genius, no one can utter tongue twisters like he can. This movie also features a very young and beautiful Angela Lansbury (for you "Murder, She Wrote" fans). Of course there is Basil Rathbone, who is of course, suave and dashing. What more could you ask of a movie? Watch this movie--you'll be glad you did.

Snow Leopard 25 June 2001

"The Court Jester" is a terrifically funny movie, with a wonderfully complicated comic/adventure story, memorable characters, and outstanding dialogue. It also offers a great showcase for star Danny Kaye's many talents.

The story is a nicely done comic version of the Robin Hood-type adventure tales. Kaye is one of a band of rebels hiding out in a forest, led by "The Black Fox", who are opposing an evil king who has usurped the throne. Their secret plan to restore the rightful king involves having Kaye impersonate the evil king's new court jester, so that he can gain the monarch's confidence. But even as the rebels plot, the king's own nobles are maneuvering for advantage amongst themselves, some with murderous intent. The question of whom the king's daughter should marry also comes into play. The early part of the film moves somewhat slowly as all of this is established, but then things get delightfully complicated, and the laughs and adventure both start coming quickly. There are several outstanding sequences, and a fittingly wild sword fight finale.

The cast is filled with outstanding actors - Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, and many others - who make their characters entertaining and memorable. The dialogue is terrific, and the cast does justice to it every time. The story and the medieval setting also make a great showcase for Kaye's varied talents such as singing, dancing, role-playing, and his other comic gifts.

All of this makes "The Court Jester" a wonderful and timeless film, great comic entertainment done with exceptional skill and talent. Don't miss it.

dfranzen70 1 March 2000

Not much goes wrong with this movie, a delightful spoof of action-costumer movies. Danny Kaye is an absolute delight as the young rebel impersonating a jester in the court of an evil king (although in this film, his evil is blunted) but mistaken for a hit man. There have been few performers who could light up an entire scene by their mere presence, and Kaye is one of them. Who in this day could do what he did? He could sing, he could dance, and he could make you laugh so hard you could only take liquids the next day. And in this movie he gets a chance to do all three, plus do some swashbuckling! Also along for the ride are the elegant Glynis Johns, who plays his superior in the slight rebel force trying to return the throne to its rightful owner, and Basil Rathbone, who could play the clever, suave cad as good as anyone in movies. Film buffs may remember Rathbone's turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1939's "The Adventures of Robin Hood," which starred the eminent Errol Flynn. In that movie, Rathbone has a memorable sword-fighting scene with Flynn; here, that scene is copied, with Kaye a hilarious stand-in for Errol. This movie is a true delight, a must-see for all ages.

lizziebeth-1 20 September 2002

The Court Jester (1956) is a superlative, priceless treasure of the 20th Century. This classic tale combines several grand legends such as Robin Hood, Giacomo, and Dartagnan's Daughter with the more base nobility of the little baby's royal birthmark. (Once seen, it is impossible to forget the repetitive flipping scene used to obtain more converts.)

Everyone should by now know the plot: once the hapless carnival entertainer Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) assumes the identity of the new court jester Giacomo (who happens to well deserve his reputation as a skillful assassin), Hawkins is thrown into one court intrigue after another, each beyond his control or understanding.

As the socially powerless court jester, Hawkins has to survive not only accidents and royal petulance, but deliberate attempts at his execution as part of court intrigue.

So I won't waste time recapping all that.

Instead, I'd like to mention the still potent generation gap politics and gender politics that routinely consumed the weakest of mediaeval society, sometimes court jesters, or often just women.

King Roderick has a rather cynical and self-possessed daughter in the Princess Gwendolyn (a shockingly young and beautiful Angela Lansbury), whom he nastily views as more a threat than a loved one, and their war of wills is hilarious. But he needs her alive because he has no male heir, so Gwendolyn regularly threatens suicide whenever she doesn't want to do something: "Harm one hair on her head, and I throw myself from the highest turret", she announces when her father tries to get rid of Gwendolyn's nanny.

The king schemes to get his daughter out of the castle by marrying her off "way up North" to the "grim and grizzly, gruesome Griswold".

Of course, she has no intention of going. "I am the King. If it pleases me, you will marry Griswold", he tries to command her. "-If it pleases you so much, you marry Griswold!" retorts his witty daughter.

Gwendolyn has a nanny/personal confidant in Grizelda (Mildred Natwick), the "witch" (actually a scientist, they just didn't have a word for that yet), who has raised the Princess to believe in more girlish romance, partly to soften up Gwendolyn's belligerent cynicism. Unfortunately, with such a brutal horse-trade as her proposed marriage to Sir Griswold of Macklewein, girlish fancies of romance are starting to fly out the window of Gwendolyn's heart, and she matter-of-factly threatens Grizelda with a dirk (a small dagger) if "the witch" can't arrange a better alternative.

Desperate to save both their lives, Grizelda (look, she ain't no witch. She has pills and potions. That makes her a chemist, alright?) pulls out every trick in her book. She first proffers the court jester as a romantic alternative to the princess, and then mesmerizes him to make sure he courts the princess as ardently as the princess wants. Grizelda's hypnosis of "Giacomo" imbues him with super-confidence, so he CAN fight for his life as well as Gwendolyn's hand. Mildred Natwick obviously had a terrific time pretend-hypnotizing Danny Kaye. "Master, you can snap me in and snap me out", he drools at her; and later, Kaye's impeccable talents at physical comedy have him jerking to every unconscious snap of everyone's fingers.

However, Hawkins is already in love with the only woman from their guerilla group back in the forest, Capt. Je

evanston_dad 17 March 2008

A supremely wacky and delightful Danny Kaye comedy.

Kaye plays a court jester impostor who infiltrates a king's court in order to put in motion a plan hatched by a scrappy band of Robin Hoodesque rebels who want to depose the tyrant and put the rightful heir on the throne. Unfortunately for Kaye, but fortunately for us, the plot is not as simple as it sounds, not when a traitor in the king's court (Basil Rathbone) has formulated his own plan to have the jester assassinate the king, and especially not when the king's saucy daughter (Angela Lansbury) has set her sights on marrying the jester as a way to avoid having to marry a rival king with whom her father wants to forge an alliance.

Kaye is absolutely hysterical, whether he's singing and dancing a big production number with a band of midgets or jousting with a rival knight while wearing a magnetized suit of armor. Glynis Johns plays a member of Kaye's merry band with whom Kaye has fallen in love, and Mildred Natwick plays the witch Griselda, who at one point tries to help Kaye poison a rival by explaining that the pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle while the chalice with the palace has the brew that is true.

Grade: A-

theowinthrop 1 May 2006

This film was Danny Kaye's biggest success as a musical comedy. Set in Medieval England, it followed the career of would-be "Robin Hood" type, Hubert Hawkins, who is one of the peasants determined to overturn the tyrannical regime of King Roderick (Cecil Parker) and Lord Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone). Hubert is a master (?) of disguise - witness his impersonation of "Fotheringay, the wine merchant" who has an annoying catarrh. He replaces a visiting court jester from Italy named Giacomo (John Carridine, regretfully in a cameo performance only). Using this role he invades the castle of King Roderick, not realizing that Giacomo is not only Italy's greatest jester, but it's leading hired assassin - and that Ravenhurst has sent for him to get rid of his competition to solidify his political power and to aim at marrying the Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury). Hubert's girlfriend Maid Jean (Glynis Johns) is on hand to try to assist, only to watch as Princess Gwendolyn finds the "jester" attractive - and when Hubert is hypnotized by Gwendolyn's sorceress maid Griselda (Mildred Natwick) he becomes - well a dashing swordsman and adventurer, like the real Giacomo...so long as he does not snap his fingers! Kaye had some delightful dialog, particularly with Rathbone as straight man - such as the alliteration in the "Summary Line" between them, and in their mad duel scene, where a briefly arrogant Hubert calls Ravenhurst a "Ratcatcher". Of course the best bits are the description of the (apparently) mutually fatal confrontation of the Doge of Venice, the Duke, and the Dutchess, and the business of the pellet with the poison in the various goblet, flagons, and chalices (which eventually Kaye shares with an equally tongue tied Sir Griswold (Robert Middleton). Parker, a usurper who seems ruthless like Richard III but is far more easily befuddled (watch how Johns handles him when he makes a play for her), is quite amusing. The film never flags (a problem with some of Kaye's comedies at times), and deserves it's position as his best work.

marko 26 September 2000

If you can watch this movie without laughing, please seek immediate medical attention -- you may not have a pulse!

Much is made of Danny Kaye's outstanding performance in this film; it is clearly his best. Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, and Mildred Natwick also do some of their finest work.

A word about the writing: this is not an adlib fest, a la Robin Williams. It is not a cornucopia of bodily functions, as in "Something about Mary." What it is, is a finely crafted example of comic writing that meshes like a fine Swiss watch. But you'll hardly notice as the cast and script click, because you'll be laughing too hard.

Note: "Princess Bride" aside, this movie also contains the finest swordplay ever captured on film.

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