The Court Jester (1955) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
113 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
9/10
The review that is true
BrandtSponseller8 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. 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.
73 out of 77 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
It Could Not Possibly Better Be
jhclues16 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, 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
56 out of 59 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Never Outfoxed
skallisjr24 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.
53 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A comedy classic – Get it? Got it. Good.
bob the moo14 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!
51 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
More Than Classic Satire; Perhaps Kaye's Best; a Perennial Favorite
silverscreen88817 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.
27 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
I love this movie!
ShariRN326 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.
36 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Terrifically Entertaining Comic Adventure
Snow Leopard25 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.
29 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Charming medieval comedy of errors
dfranzen701 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.
24 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
The Second of my 5 favourite movies of ALL TIME. 10/10
lizziebeth-120 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. Jean, aka Maid Jean (Glynis Johns), who is, of course, beautiful and smart, and could whip his narrow butt in a heartbeat, if only she didn't LIKE him so much. Before they both arrived through different routes at King Roderick's castle, they had one romantic night together in an emergency hut as they sheltered the true heir to the throne. As they talk of politics in the hut, and regret about the loss of the throne, she ends up seducing herself (and it's nice to see how that works) as she reflects to him that "my father made me everything I am". To his credit, Hawkins reassures her that her father "does beautiful work", in a very satisfying gender role reversal for 1956. Sadly there is not enough chemistry between them, and there SHOULD'VE been, because the rest of the scene is very honest.

The homage scenes to The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), the Errol Flynn classic with the much younger Basil Rathbone, are real gifts. They include the procession of robed monks secreting reinforcements, and Rathbone doing himself in the earlier role.

But my personal favourite is the spoof scene of Errol Flynn accidentally cutting through one humungous candle in the 1938 film. In The Court Jester (1956), Danny Kaye, fencing FAR TOO WELL against Rathbone in his hypnosis-fortified guise, deliberately cuts a swath through an entire row of candles without any apparent effect-until he breathes on the candles, and they all drop off their candlesticks on cue. This Court Jester scene has stuck in my mind from childhood.

The entire supporting cast is terrific. Cecil Parker's King Roderick eventually becomes quite personable as he relaxes into his regal position and quips with "Giacomo"; and he's very funny with Maid Jean as a lecherous royal repelled by her clever claim to having an STD! WOW, pretty contemporary for 1956, don't you think?

I really love all the musical numbers as well. They are so well integrated that they provide a deeper understanding of the plot. Kaye's incredible, once-in-a-lifetime-find wordsmith-wife Sylvia Fine crafted ALL his tonguetwisters, including these (songs). And Kaye just flips them off as if they were nothing.

It's a shame we don't see more jester's hard knocks to establish the jester MILIEU. Nevertheless I always get blown away by the final lyrics of The Maladjusted Jester: ".For a jester's chief employment is to kill himself for your enjoyment/ And a jester unemployed is nobody's fool!"

There is a lot of political commentary in this alleged piece of fluff.

Addictively quotable. No more quibbling: 10/10.
46 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Danny Kaye Jests and Jousts
evanston_dad17 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-
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Get it?" "Got it!" "Good!"
theowinthrop1 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.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Maybe the All-Time Funniest Film
marko26 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.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Why this isn't on the top 250 list I will never understand.
spacekat200119 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*MINOR SPOILERS*

This is without a doubt one of the best comedy films ever made. The acting is superb on all counts (Who /doesn't/ love Basil Rathbone as a villain?), the script is witty and quick, and all of the parts are cast perfectly. The psuedo-heroic song at the beginning is just perfect, from the defiant laughter at the beginning to Danny Kaye falling off the pyramid at the feet of the /real/ Black Fox at the end. The costumes are gorgeous and the fight choreography is truely stunning.

If you have not seen this movie, GO RENT IT FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!!!
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Tired phrase, but true: fun for the whole family!
BibChr6 May 2002
Every week I have the pleasure of (A) cooking my special burgers and (B) picking a movie for our family of six, ranging in age from Jonathan (2) to me (46). Finding something for everyone is increasingly challenging.

"The Court Jester" was a hit with everyone. It literally had something for everyone. Not every family member hung on every word, but some did, and all enjoyed one portion or another. The older of us enjoyed the Byzantine layers of intrigue, the younger enjoyed the hypnotism theme, the instant demeanor-changes, the clever dialogue twists, the great sword-fight scene, and of course the classic "The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison..." interchanges.

Deep? Not a prayer! Fun? You betcha!
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Danny Kaye showcase has "the brew that is true"...
Doylenf23 October 2005
If you're a DANNY KAYE fan, you can't afford to miss this one.

The highlight for me is the "vessel with the pestle" tongue-twisting routine that he carries off to perfection in his own inimitable way. That is, until it switches to "the flagon with the dragon", at which point everyone is rightfully confused.

So much plotting, I won't begin to describe this medieval romp. Just sit back and enjoy while Angela Lansbury (looking very radiant and beautiful) as Gwendolyn, Mildred Natwick as Griselda and Basil Rathbone as Ravenhurst (reprising his role as Sir Guy of Gisbourne in THE ADV. OF ROBIN HOOD) all try to play it straight as Kaye goes into one dizzy sequence after another.

The technicolor photography is gorgeous to behold, the sets are jaw-droppingly expensive and thoroughly believable, and the lilting songs performed in clever style by Kaye and others more than compensate for any weaknesses. The final duel between Rathbone and Kaye, involving a spell that transforms Kaye into a super-swashbuckler at the snap of a finger, is extremely well staged for both comedy and excitement. Kaye proves his natural athletic grace and ability while Rathbone makes us yearn for the days when he was dueling Errol Flynn at Nottingham castle.

All in all, a thorough delight from beginning to end. Glynis Johns is charming as Kaye's sweetheart but the real surprise is seeing a youthful Angela Lansbury looking like a storybook heroine with her flowing blond hair and blue eyes radiant in technicolor.

The whole family should enjoy this one!
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
This is one of, if not the, all time best comedy films ever made!
jim-burleigh23 November 2005
This is, in my opinion, the best comedy film ever made. Yes that is saying a lot, but this film has everything. A GREAT cast! Danny Kaye is at his best in this movie and his physical comedy is unmatched in American cinema. You have a young Angela Landbury in a truly great role and she plays it perfectly. Glynis Johns, who later played Mrs. Banks in "Mary Poppins", is delightful. Basil Rathbone is wonderful in the role of the "heavy" and plays the role as a perfect counter to the comedic talents of Kaye. Alan Napier - who later played Alfred, the butler in the 1960's television show "Batman" is another example of the amazing talent that was assembled for this picture. High comedy for the entire family and not one thing that I was uncomfortable with my 6 year old daughter seeing or hearing. An example of the kind of family friendly comedic adventure that would probably never get made in today's Hollywood.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
"What Begins As A Scary Tale, Ends As A Fairy Tale, That's Why Life Couldn't Possibly Better Be"
bkoganbing24 September 2007
The Court Jester finds Danny Kaye in Merry Old England fighting in his own small way the usurpation of the throne by Cecil Parker. The real king is an infant who can only be identified by the royal birthmark that is on all the royal family. It's the purple pimpernel and it's on a spot where the sun doesn't normally shine.

His contribution is small, as small as that group of traveling midget acrobats Kaye travels with. But the leader of the resistance the Black Fox played by Edward Ashley needs entertainment for the troops. Kaye and the small tumblers provide a kind of medieval USO show for them.

But through a bizarre set of circumstances Kaye, his true love Glynis Johns and the royal babe find themselves in Parker's well guarded palace.

It'a a good thing there were a lot of conflicting agendas working at that time. Cecil Parker who likes being king, especially for the perks it provides like Glynis Johns if he can seduce her. There's prime minister Basil Rathbone who's hired the real Giacomo the Jester more for his ability as an assassin. Giacomo, played by John Carradine had the misfortune to be waylaid by Kaye and Johns on the way to the palace.

And we can't forget Parker's daughter Angela Lansbury who does not want to marry roughneck knight Robert Middleton who really does want to marry her. And of course sorceress Mildred Natwick who keeps the bumbling Kaye alive with hypnotism at critical moments.

With all that to consider The Court Jester turns into one of Danny Kaye's funniest comedies. It borrows from a lot of films, The Adventures of Robin Hood being one, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court being another. And that famous Danny Kaye routine about the poisonous vessel with that elusive pestle was taken from Bob Hope's 1939 movie Never Say Die.

Well no one claimed The Court Jester was original, it's just very funny. As the song says it does end like a fairy tale, though I do wonder just what became of Angela Lansbury. You might wonder that too, when you see the film.
20 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A movie favorite for 4 generations
kryssindor20 July 2007
A spoof of the great sword-fighting movies of the classic era such as Robin Hood and Captain Blood, "The Court Jester" holds up even 50+ years after it was released.

I grew up loving classic films – a legacy developed by my father (of course these "classics" were films he often saw in the theaters) – and I always enjoyed this movie, excited to find it on my local television station for the Sunday afternoon classic film festival (this was pre-cable and vcrs were not heard of at the time). Now, my two daughters, ages 4 and 2 1/2, request to watch this movie which I purchased on DVD recently.

However, don't think for an instant this is a "child's movie"; it is a movie full of intelligent wit at every corner, classic acting (a little hammy in some ways, but charming...quite a typical output for a film of this genre in this era) and entertaining songs.

I think what attracted me as a child to this movie were the bright colors of the costumes and scenery, the sweet romance, fun musical numbers and the "incomparable Giacomo" Danny Kaye. He is in his element in this film, with his rubbery face...his playfulness with accents, but most of all, his famous rapid-fire recitation of lines full of alliteration and rhyme that would make lesser men spit and trip over their tongues.

As an adult I continue to appreciate all of the elements that I grew up adoring, but I have also come to understand the brilliance of the humor used throughout the script. A child might simply think it's all just fun, which it is. But now I realize what an extraordinary effort the writers expended in producing such original and hilarious dialogue. The script is chock-full of one-liners...some of the most memorable quotes in movie history...and they weave wonderfully into a plausible storyline.

With a cast as experienced and strong as Danny Kaye, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, and Glynnis Johns, such a terrific script and rich visuals, you can't go wrong with this film, whether you're 4, 24 or 64!

Now, if we could just get more of Kaye's classics released on DVD!
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
I don't give out a lot of 10s, but this is a great film
A-Ron-22 August 2001
What a fantastic spoof... a spoof that does not forget how great the

material is that it is spoofing. I love The Court Jester, BECAUSE it

takes itself (and its source material) so seriously. This film is an

often overlooked gem that skewers Robin Hood and the conventions of the adventure film in a way that few other movies

are able to do (perhaps Blazing Saddles)... and it does it with such

earnestness that one cannot help but to laugh...

Not only is a great spoof, it is a great film in its own right... and a

great family movie. Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone turn in

fantastic performances... and the midget fight at the end is

fantastic...

Also, where many spoofs fail, it maintained the quality of it source

material... whereas The Adventures of Robin Hood had the best

sword-fight, the Court Jester spared no expense and gave us the

funniest.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Undoubtedly Kaye's best
BrianG7 April 2000
I've never been a Danny Kaye fan. I haven't seen all that many of his films, but the ones I've seen haven't impressed me all that much. This one, however, is different. It's uproarious, far and away his best and funniest film, with some hilarious set pieces and running gags. Paramount poured a lot of care and money into this film, and it shows. They gave Kaye a first-rate supporting cast, among them Basil Rathbone, Glynis Johns and Robert Middleton, and two of the best comedy writers of the time, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, who also co-directed the film. The photography is beautiful, the film is well paced--unlike many of Kaye's films, this one doesn't come to a dead stop while he does one of his routines--and is rightfully considered a comedy classic. Very highly recommended. And remember, the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle . ..
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
An absolutely delightful movie for all ages
viswanat-130 December 2006
I saw this movie when it was released in a large air conditioned movie theatre(cinema house) in India. I was about 15 years of age and was a big time Hollywood fan. When most of my class mates went to see dance and song numbers produced by Bollywood, I would wait till Sunday to see one show presentations of Hollywood hits. The Court Jester was one of these and I rented it and viewed it with my wife last night; after nearly 50 years. I remembered the extraordinary skill Danny Kaye showed as a swashbuckler and wanted to see it again. I have seen Basil Rathbone in the Adventures of Robin Hood, and knew Basil was the best swordsman in cinema history but Danny made the fencing sequence more thrilling with his constant switch from a klutz to an adroit at the twinkling of an eye.I especially like the one minute sequence when Danny fences Basil while sipping wine with his left hand. What a delight. Those who like to see fencing skills of old Hollywood movie stars should see The Prisnoner of Zenda and Scaramouche, where Stewart Granger did wonders with the foil fence. He was trained by an Olympic fencing champ and practiced so hard for these films, he wore out several pairs of fencing shoes.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A Perfect example of Danny Kaye's Work
robbenn17 June 2003
This film is one of Danny Kaye's finest moments in what was a delightful lifetime of films. It showcases the brilliant wordplay and slapstick that Mr. Kaye had perfected to a science. The film is colorful and the performances are outstanding considering the genre. It is one of the few films that can make people of all generations laugh through its ageless "Robin Hood" adventure story.

Also take note of the beautiful Angela Landsbury (in one of her earliest roles) and Glynnis Johns who add the sparkle to this enjoyable film. Basil Rathbone handles the job of bad guy perfectly and Cecil Parker is excellent in the role of the evil king who is not really so bad.

One of Danny Kaye's best films and a must see for anyone interested in this wonderful actor's career.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Contageously hilarious laugh fest
dlb19547 September 2007
Born in 1954, I grew up seeing Jester on TV. It molded my sense of humor for all time. It is the single movie in my memory that causes me to break into side-splitting laughter just thinking about it. I don't even have to watch it when I need a good laugh. I just remember it vividly. Recalling a single tongue-twisting line sets me giggling. This is prime Danny Kaye stuff at his ultimate best. A must have for any collection. All performances in this film are superb. It should be counted among Master works and entered into a Hall Of Fame, posthumously awarded. Mr. Kaye and cast are sure to entertain anyone with a funny bone. What a treat it would be to see out-takes from this production. One can tell the entire cast truly enjoyed working on this film.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
This is the best movie
cmolldre10 June 2005
They don't make 'em like this anymore. Today's comedies rarely can allow action, good writing, and great acting at the same time. This movie has it all- and dwarfs to boot. Rarely in this new millennium of film making do movie makers find a way to convey a storyline without using all the newfangled technology that they can, and in doing so they loose the main point of the story- which is the characters, and it is possible to do this- I submit for example The Court Jester. Danny Kaye is brilliant, there is not a dull moment in the entire movie. It knows what it is and it blithely twists and turns through the dance of the plot, which is a pretty complex thing in and of itself. Not to mention all of the great supporting actors and the great writing. It is a wholesome film, it doesn't need to be malicious to be funny or to be naked and filled with sex. Modern film makers could learn quite a few lessons from this masterpiece.

If you are into period however, this ain't it- it's interesting only as an idea of how the 1950s America saw the middle ages (In gold polyester it seems). If you forgive it this, you will be able to laugh whole heartedly.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Funny Danny Kaye.
rmax30482310 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Danny Kaye made a couple of amusing comedies in the 1940s. He always played himself, the bumbling, stuttering coward. He's the same here, although the setting is now Medieval England and his character is mistaken for a court jester or, at times, for a Robin Hood figure called The Black Fox. The plot is too complicated and dumb to be detailed, but the story is successful because of isolated, almost incidental, comic moments.

The writers -- Panama and Frank -- must have had a good time dreaming up some of the gags. They don't stem organically from the plot or the characters. Let me put it this way. "Some Like It Hot" is a comedy from beginning to end. It has continuity. What's funny about it grows out of situations that, seen in context, look inevitable. "The Court Jester" has, instead, amusing scenes that aren't really anything much more than skits.

There's no particular reason to introduce the hypnotic trance that transforms Kaye from a phony and a coward into a confidant warrior and passionate lover except that it's good for laughs. Ditto with the scenes of combat mortal. And WITHIN the combat scene, Kaye's armor happens to be struck by lightning and magnetized, leading to a few ludic incidents that are quickly thrown away when used up.

That doesn't mean it's not a funny movie, because it really is just about the equal of Kaye's best, although it comes late in his oeuvre. He's ten years older than he was at his peak but it hasn't affected his playing or his appearance. (There are several songs, but no gibberish.) Basil Rathbone, as Lord Ravenhurst, looks considerably more aged that he had when he played the same role with Errol Flynn on the other end of the swords. He's a less robust figure, and a comic movie wouldn't suit him if he weren't the hammy heavy, yet he's fit and dances around convincingly in his swordplay. Cecil Parker does well with his usual dithering persona. Glynnis Johns is magnificent, a tiny buxom girl with the biggest blue eyes in the business. Angela Lansbury tosses off her part with panache, as always. She's an extremely good actress.

If there are any clichés in the genre of medieval movies, you'll probably find them here. The battle between knights on horseback, with mace and chain; the good guys disguised as hooded monks; the desperate struggle to lower the drawbridge; the castle overrun by attacking midgets. Wait a minute. The castle overrun by attacking MIDGETS? Well, okay -- that's not exactly a perfect cliché, but if you've seen "Robin Hood" or "The Flame and the Arrow," you'll know what I mean.

Some of the scenes are quite amusing. The hurried marching of Kaye through the ceremony in which he is knighted. The chalice with the palace is the brew that is true. The kids ought to get a kick out of it, as mine did.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed