In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Danny Kaye was a huge movie star. Largely forgotten today, he made only three movies throughout the 1960’s, though he did star in his own variety show from 1963-67. Essentially retiring early, Kaye made only a sprinkling of appearances until his death in 1987.
While Kaye’s most popular film is undoubtedly 1954’s White Christmas, 1955’s The Court Jester, a box office disappointment in its initial release, has since become a beloved classic. In 2004, the film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
In 12th century England King Roderick (Cecil Parker), has killed off the royal family except for a baby boy who bears the royal birthmark, a purple pimpernel, on his rear end. The baby is cared for by an outlaw named the Black Fox (Edward Ashley) who wants to return the rightful king to the throne. When the Black Fox learns that the king’s soldiers are nearby, he sends Hubert
Hawkins (Danny Kaye) a bumbling ex-carnival performer and the pretty maid Jean (Glynis Johns), a captain in his army, to transport the baby king to an abbey in Dover. Things don’t go as planned when Giacoma (John Carradine), “King of Jesters and Jester of Kings” arrives from the Italian court and intrudes where’re Hawkins is romancing Jean in the forest. After Jean whacks Giacoma on the head, Hawkins assumes his identity in order to gain access to Roderick’s court. However, he doesn’t realize that Giacoma is an assassin hired by the king’s right hand man, Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone) to kill his three rivals.
Hawkins, the baby, and Jean end up in the king’s castle after a series of misadventures, putting all of their lives in danger. During all this, the king’s daughter Princess Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury) is being forced to marry Sir Griswold (Robert Middleton), a powerful knight her father wants to form an alliance with. But she chooses to marry the court jester< and has her lady attendant Griselda (Mildred Natwick) cast a spell on the court jester to make him fall in love with her and be brave enough to whisk her away. Griselda has one warning, “If he dies, you die.”
Essentially spoofing Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, The Court Jester is smartly written. Fun and plus to Kaye’s best talents. He’s clearly having fun and sings five songs by his wife Sylvia Fine. Fans of White Christmas who haven’t seen this film would be advised to check it out.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Paramount has provided an excellent visual presentation. Get past the opening credits and sharpness is solid. Only one or two moments of softness appear in what is a precise image. Grain is appropriate throughout, and print flaws are absent. The bright, varied palette of the film impresses with colors that appear to pop off the screen. Blacks are dark and deep, while low light scenes had notable clarity.
The DTS-MA monaural soundtrack isn’t anything special, but it does its job well. Speech is slightly metallic, but given its age, the sound is better than average.
English, French and German subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Filmmaker Focus (HD, 7:03) Comments about the film by critic Leonard Maltin.
- Trailer (SD, 2:24)
The Court Jester (1955)
Movie title: The Court Jester
Duration: 101 min
Director(s): Melvin Frank , Norman Panama
Actor(s): Danny Kaye , Glynis Johns , Basil Rathbone , Angela Lansbury , Cecil Parker , Mildred Natwick
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Adventure , Family