The Court Jester (1956)

101 mins | Comedy | March 1956

Cinematographers:

Ray June, Ray Rennahan

Editor:

Tom McAdoo

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson

Production Company:

Dena Enterprises
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HISTORY

During the opening credits, while singing "Life Could Not Better Be", Danny Kaye constantly pushes Basil Rathbone's re-appearing credit off the screen. The Court Jester was the second film by Dena Enterprises, a film production company owned by actor Danny Kaye and his wife, songwriter Sylvia Fine. In partnership with writer-producer-directors Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, Dena Productions had previously filmed another Danny Kaye comedy, Knock on Wood , a 1954 Paramount release (See Entry). Though HR news items report a production starting date of Jul 1954, The Court Jester did not begin filming until late Nov. At that time, NYT reported that the picture's budget had been set at $3,000,000, with its two main sets--the castle interior and its courtyard--having been built on two separate Paramount sound stages at the cost of over $200,000.
       According to the file on the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, The Court Jester was originally given a production budget of $2,487,000, with a forty-eight day shooting schedule. After the first week of filming, cinematographer Ray Rennahan was dismissed from the production and replaced by the credited director of photography, Ray June. After filming for nearly three months, The Court Jester temporarily shut down production on 16 Feb 1955, then resumed on 25 Feb 1955 and finished its initial shooting on 12 Mar 1955. The production was reopened and closed for a single day--18 Mar 1955--for additional cuts and retakes.
       According to a 29 Oct 1955 Paramount breakdown of the film's expenses, The Court Jester 's total cost to that point was $3,702,103, ... More Less

During the opening credits, while singing "Life Could Not Better Be", Danny Kaye constantly pushes Basil Rathbone's re-appearing credit off the screen. The Court Jester was the second film by Dena Enterprises, a film production company owned by actor Danny Kaye and his wife, songwriter Sylvia Fine. In partnership with writer-producer-directors Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, Dena Productions had previously filmed another Danny Kaye comedy, Knock on Wood , a 1954 Paramount release (See Entry). Though HR news items report a production starting date of Jul 1954, The Court Jester did not begin filming until late Nov. At that time, NYT reported that the picture's budget had been set at $3,000,000, with its two main sets--the castle interior and its courtyard--having been built on two separate Paramount sound stages at the cost of over $200,000.
       According to the file on the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, The Court Jester was originally given a production budget of $2,487,000, with a forty-eight day shooting schedule. After the first week of filming, cinematographer Ray Rennahan was dismissed from the production and replaced by the credited director of photography, Ray June. After filming for nearly three months, The Court Jester temporarily shut down production on 16 Feb 1955, then resumed on 25 Feb 1955 and finished its initial shooting on 12 Mar 1955. The production was reopened and closed for a single day--18 Mar 1955--for additional cuts and retakes.
       According to a 29 Oct 1955 Paramount breakdown of the film's expenses, The Court Jester 's total cost to that point was $3,702,103, having used seventy-six actual days for filming, eighteen days of rehearsal, and another eighteen days for second unit work, including location shooting in Palos Verdes, CA. In its Jan 1956 feature article on the film, Life stated that The Court Jester was the most expensive film comedy produced to date.
       According to HR , the extended shooting on The Court Jester almost cost Glynis Johns a featured role in the 1955 Boulting Bros. production Josephine and the Men , as the start date on that film conflicted with The Court Jester 's extended schedule. The scheduling was worked out, however, and the actress did appear in the British film. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, there were two Sammy Cahn-Sylvia Fine songs--"Pass the Basket" and "Where Walks My True Love"--that were approved for use in The Court Jester , but were not performed in the released film. Also, the original title for Fine's composition "The Maladjusted Jester" was "The Court Jester's Lament."
       In his review of The Court Jester , HR critic Jack C. Moffitt claimed that the hypnosis joke, in which Kaye changes from swashbuckler to fool and back at the snap of Mildred Natwick's fingers, was stolen from him. Calling the supposed plagiarism "a feeling of flattered nostalgia," Moffitt stated that he had originally written a similar scene for the 1937 Paramount film Mountain Music (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ) in which Bob Burns falls in and out of love with Martha Raye each time he is hit on the head. Moffitt did admit in his review, however, that he had stolen the comic piece himself from Charlie Chapin's 1931 classic City Lights , which contains a sequence in which millionaire Harry Myer loves Chaplin when he is drunk, but despises the little tramp when sober (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Moffitt also went to lengths to point out that the famous "The pellet with the poison is in the chalice from the palace, while in the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true" sequence in The Court Jester was a "shortened version" of the old Bob Hope tongue-twister routine: "There's a nick on the muzzle of the pistol with the bullet and a scratch on the barrel of the pistol with a blank."
       HR production charts and news items include Marilyn Watson, James Robertson, Joe Ploski, Ethan Laidlaw and George Ford in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, Kaye was trained for his fencing scenes by U.S. Olympic coach Ralph Faulkner. Kaye received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor, Musical or Comedy for his work in the film. Soon after concluding filming on The Court Jester , Paramount released the Danny Kaye short subject Assignment Children , a documentary for the United Nations Children's Fund, for which Kay was Ambassador-at-Large. In Jun 1966, The Court Jester was selected to open the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Danny Kaye Festival, with its opening night fund raiser held on behalf of UNICEF's 50th anniversary. Kaye had acted as the special ambassador for the United Nation's children's organization during its first thirty-four years. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Feb 1956.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jan 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
27 Jan 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 55
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 55
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 55
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 55
p. 3, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 55
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 56
p. 3.
Life
30 Jan 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Jan 56
p. 761.
New York Times
22 Nov 1954.
---
New York Times
2 Feb 56
p. 19.
Variety
1 Feb 56
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Patrick Aherne
Little Billy Rhodes
Leslie Dennison
Paul "Tiny" Newlan
Phyllis Coghlan
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Cam op
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
Props
Prop shop
COSTUMES
Cost
Women's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus scored and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
Dance instructor
Dance instructor
Dance asst
Dance asst
Dance asst
Dance rehearsal pianist
Dance rehearsal pianist
Dance rehearsal ballet dancer
Dance rehearsal ballet dancer
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Tech adv
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Casting
Scr clerk
STAND INS
Double for Glynis Johns
Double for Danny Kaye
Double for Danny Kaye
Double for Danny Kaye
Double for Basil Rathbone
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Life Could Not Better Be," "Outfox the Fox," "I'll Take You Dreaming," "My Heart Know a Love Song" and "Ritual of Knighthood," words and music by Sylvia Fine and Sammy Cahn
"The Maladjusted Jester," words and music by Sylvia Fine.
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1956
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 2 February 1956
Production Date:
22 November 1954--16 February 1955
25 February--12 March 1955
18 March 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Dena Enterprises
Copyright Date:
1 February 1956
Copyright Number:
LP5965
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
101
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17501
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Despite his recent ascension to the throne via his massacre of the royal family, the crown of the tyrannical King Roderick of England weighs heavy, as rumors persist throughout his kingdom that a true heir to his title lives, a male infant who bears the royal birthmark, that of a purple pimpernel. Roderick's fears are well-founded, as one of his spies informs the king that such a child does exist and is being cared for in the hidden forest lair of the masked thief known as The Black Fox. Despite the objections of his top advisor, Sir Ravenhurst, Roderick hopes to secure his crown by making a marriage alliance between himself and a powerful Northern knight, Sir Griswold. Princess Gwendolyn, the king's daughter, rejects such an arranged marriage, proclaiming that she will only marry for love, as prophesized by the witch Griselda. Meanwhile, back in his forest hideout, The Black Fox is warned that the king's soldiers are nearby, so he orders Hubert Hawkins, an ex- carnival performer, and the maid Jean, a captain in the Fox's army, to transport the child king to an abbey in Dover. Disguised as a deaf old man and his mute granddaughter, Hawkins and Jean manage to safely elude the king's men. Later, they are forced to seek shelter from a sudden rainstorm in a woodsman's hut, where Hawkins and Jean proclaim their love for each other. Their romantic interlude is interrupted, however, by the arrival of Giacomo, "King of Jesters and Jester of Kings." After subduing the jester, Hawkins assumes Giacomo's identity in order to gain access to Roderick's court, unaware that he is impersonating a ... +


Despite his recent ascension to the throne via his massacre of the royal family, the crown of the tyrannical King Roderick of England weighs heavy, as rumors persist throughout his kingdom that a true heir to his title lives, a male infant who bears the royal birthmark, that of a purple pimpernel. Roderick's fears are well-founded, as one of his spies informs the king that such a child does exist and is being cared for in the hidden forest lair of the masked thief known as The Black Fox. Despite the objections of his top advisor, Sir Ravenhurst, Roderick hopes to secure his crown by making a marriage alliance between himself and a powerful Northern knight, Sir Griswold. Princess Gwendolyn, the king's daughter, rejects such an arranged marriage, proclaiming that she will only marry for love, as prophesized by the witch Griselda. Meanwhile, back in his forest hideout, The Black Fox is warned that the king's soldiers are nearby, so he orders Hubert Hawkins, an ex- carnival performer, and the maid Jean, a captain in the Fox's army, to transport the child king to an abbey in Dover. Disguised as a deaf old man and his mute granddaughter, Hawkins and Jean manage to safely elude the king's men. Later, they are forced to seek shelter from a sudden rainstorm in a woodsman's hut, where Hawkins and Jean proclaim their love for each other. Their romantic interlude is interrupted, however, by the arrival of Giacomo, "King of Jesters and Jester of Kings." After subduing the jester, Hawkins assumes Giacomo's identity in order to gain access to Roderick's court, unaware that he is impersonating a deadly assassin hired by Ravenhurst to kill his rivals. Matters are further complicated when Hawkins mistakes the evil Ravenhurst for an agent of the Fox, and Griselda, fearful for her life if her mistress Gwendolyn is forced to marry Griswold, hypnotizes Hawkins into believing he is a dashing swashbuckler and orders him to woo the love-sick princess. Meanwhile, Jean and the infant king, who is hidden in a wine casket, are captured by Roderick's men, who have been ordered to search the countryside for beautiful wenches meant to provide "entertainment" at a royal banquet in Griswold's honor. That night, Griselda poisons Sir Brockhurst, Sir Finsdale and Sir Pertwee after the three pledge their lives to the consummation of Gwendolyn and Griswold's marriage, though Ravenhurst mistakenly credits Hawkins with their deaths. Soon thereafter, Gwendolyn publicly proclaims her love for the jester, so the insulted Griswold challenges Hawkins to a duel. In order to meet the rules of chivalry, the commoner Hawkins is then rushed through the sacramental rights of knighthood. Meanwhile, Jean procures from the lecherous Roderick the key to a secret passageway into the castle, and sends it by messenger pigeon to the Black Fox, requesting that he fight in Hawkins' place. A cave-in makes the hidden tunnel seemingly impassable, however, so Hawkins is forced to face Griswold in mortal combat. Though Griselda's attempt to poison the Northern knight fails, Hawkins manages to best Griswold after his armor is magnetized by lightning. Before the victorious Hawkins can claim Gwendolyn as his prize, however, Ravenhurst accuses him of being the Black Fox. Tried before the royal court, Hawkins and Jean are saved from execution when the real Black Fox infiltrates the castle with the help of Hawkins' midget friends. During the ensuing battle, Hawkins slips in and out of Griselda's spell long enough to defeat Ravenhurt in a sword fight. With Roderick's forces now vanquished, the infant king is placed on the thrown of England, and Sir Hawkins' is rewarded with the hand of Jean. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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