The Little Prince (1974)

G | 88 mins | Children's works, Musical | 1974

Director:

Stanley Donen

Producer:

Stanley Donen

Cinematographer:

Christopher Challis

Production Designer:

John Barry

Production Company:

Stanley Donen Enterprises, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The film begins with voice-over narration by actor Richard Kiley in the role of “The Pilot.” The Pilot’s voice-over continues intermittently throughout the picture.
       On 15 Sep 1965, a Var news item announced that playwright and theatrical lawyer A. Joseph Tandet purchased the film rights to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's best-selling children’s novella, The Little Prince (1943). At the time, the story was translated into 28 languages, selling “as high as 20,000 copies annually in the U.S. without advertising.” According to a 23 Sep 2010 article in The Independent , the novella was ranked “among the best-selling books of all time,” with translations into 190 languages and more than 80 million copies sold. As discussed in a 30 May 1993 NYT article, Saint-Exupéry, a captain in the French Air Force, wrote The Little Prince during an extended visit to the U.S. in 1940, soon after France was occupied by Germany. The author was in poor health due to various airplane crashes during his military service. He was also shunned by the French government for his reluctance to publically support General Charles de Gaulle, and despondent about the U.S.’s failure to enter the war to defend Europe against the Germans. According to NYT , Saint-Exupéry felt isolated in the U.S. because of his inability to speak English and was troubled by his wife’s infidelity. Elizabeth Reynal, the wife of Saint-Exupéry's publisher, suggested he seek solace by writing a children’s story. The author subsequently began to pen and illustrate The Little Prince in 1942. As noted in NYT , the ... More Less

The film begins with voice-over narration by actor Richard Kiley in the role of “The Pilot.” The Pilot’s voice-over continues intermittently throughout the picture.
       On 15 Sep 1965, a Var news item announced that playwright and theatrical lawyer A. Joseph Tandet purchased the film rights to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's best-selling children’s novella, The Little Prince (1943). At the time, the story was translated into 28 languages, selling “as high as 20,000 copies annually in the U.S. without advertising.” According to a 23 Sep 2010 article in The Independent , the novella was ranked “among the best-selling books of all time,” with translations into 190 languages and more than 80 million copies sold. As discussed in a 30 May 1993 NYT article, Saint-Exupéry, a captain in the French Air Force, wrote The Little Prince during an extended visit to the U.S. in 1940, soon after France was occupied by Germany. The author was in poor health due to various airplane crashes during his military service. He was also shunned by the French government for his reluctance to publically support General Charles de Gaulle, and despondent about the U.S.’s failure to enter the war to defend Europe against the Germans. According to NYT , Saint-Exupéry felt isolated in the U.S. because of his inability to speak English and was troubled by his wife’s infidelity. Elizabeth Reynal, the wife of Saint-Exupéry's publisher, suggested he seek solace by writing a children’s story. The author subsequently began to pen and illustrate The Little Prince in 1942. As noted in NYT , the novella’s film rights were first optioned in 1943 by Orson Welles, who planned to film the story with animated sequences, but he ended his involvement with the project when Walt Disney Studios was unwilling to participate. After re-enlisting in the French Air Force, Saint-Exupéry disappeared during a reconnaissance flight in Jul 1944, two years prior to his book’s publication in France and only a few months before the end of the war. He died before The Little Prince became a bestseller.
       A 22 Mar 1967 Var brief reported that Tandet negotiated with writer and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to produce the film and Paramount Pictures was set to distribute. Var explained that Tandet, who paid “’six figures’” for the property, would receive an Associate Producer credit while Lerner would be billed as Executive Producer. However, Lerner is not credited as a producer in the film. Var noted that the picture marked the first feature film produced by Tandet and principal photography was set to begin in 1968. As noted in a program from a 28 Apr 1984 screening of the film at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Lerner convinced his former collaborator, Frederick Loewe, to end his retirement to write the music after he finished the screenplay. It was their first picture together since Camelot (1967, see entry). A 22 Dec 1974 LAHExam article described that Frank Sinatra volunteered to come out of his own retirement to play the lead role of The Pilot when Loewe played the film’s songs for him at a Palm Springs party. According to a 22 Mar 1972 LAHExam news item, Sinatra demanded exclusive rights to the Lerner-Loewe music for his own recording company, Reprise Records in return for his participation in the project. Reprise was a subsidiary of Warner Bros., presenting a conflict of interest to Paramount, and, as announced in a 10 May 1972 Var news item, Paramount head Frank Yablans decided to end the deal with Sinatra. Yablans noted the film’s budget was $2.5 million. Although a 14 Apr 1972 DV news item included Sinatra as a cast member in the picture, which was set to begin production in three weeks, a 2 May 1972 HR news item reported that actor Richard Harris was under consideration for the role of The Pilot. DV stated that Joel Gray was cast as “The Snake” and Laurence Olivier was set to play “The King,” but neither actor appeared in the film. A 16 Jun 1972 HR news item reported that although The Pilot was written for Richard Burton, he was not cast for the role and Nicol Williamson and Rex Harrison also tested for the part. HR announced that Lerner and Loewe had recently cancelled production after “refusing to acquiesce to Sinatra’s demands” and were determined to “make it on their own terms.” However, on 31 Jul 1972 HR reported that Richard Kiley was cast to star as The Pilot and the production was scheduled to go forward.
       According to various contemporary sources, including a 26 Aug 1973 LAT article and a 22 Dec 1974 LAHExam article, director Stanley Donen instigated the removal of Sinatra from the cast, not Paramount. As noted in LAT , Donen’s “first official act, to the horror of the studio, was to reject Sinatra” due to the actor’s reputation of being unreliable and difficult to work with.
       LAT also described Lerner’s discrepancies between the novella and his screen adaptation, including the addition of “The Historian” and the elimination of characters in the original text. The LACMA program noted that The Historian was the film’s version of the novella’s “Geographer.”
       A 24 Jan 1973 DV news item announced that six year-old Steven Warner was cast in the title role and principal photography was set to begin at the end of Jan 1973 in Tunisia, Africa. The boy had been selected from 800 hopefuls, according to Donen in a 27 May 1973 LAT article, and although Warner had never acted in a film previously, Donen had an “instinct” that the boy was right for the part.
       According to HR production charts on 27 Jul 1973, the final day the film was listed, shooting began 30 Jan 1973. Shortly after production began, Donna McKechnie, Gene Wilder and Bob Fosse were added to the cast, as noted in HR on 2 Feb 1973 and Var on 7 Feb 1973. A 14 Mar 1973 Var news item announced the production was moving from Tunisia, where exteriors were filmed, to sound stages at Elstree Studios in London, UK. As noted in the LACMA program, Tunisian locations were centered in the southwestern Sahara Desert city of Tozeur. Night scenes were shot on sets in London because it was too difficult to capture the landscape in the dark. The film features “drawing-board animations and ‘The Pilot’s’ black-pencil sketches on a white pad” that replicate original artwork by Saint-Exupéry in his novella.
       The film was nominated for two Academy Awards in the categories of Music (Scoring: Original Song Score and Adaptation) and Music (Song) for “Little Prince.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Nov 1974
p. 4733.
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1973
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1973
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 1974
p. 3, 11.
LAHExam
22 Mar 1972.
---
LAHExam
20 Dec 1974.
---
LAHExam
22 Dec 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1973
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
26 Aug 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1974
Section IV, p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Nov 1974
p. 45.
New York Times
8 Nov 1974
p. 24.
New York Times
30 May 1993.
---
Newsweek
11 Nov 1974
p. 86.
The Independent
23 Sep 2010.
---
Time
18 Nov 1974
p. 5.
Variety
15 Sep 1965.
---
Variety
22 Mar 1967.
---
Variety
10 May 1972.
---
Variety
7 Feb 1973.
---
Variety
14 Mar 1973.
---
Variety
6 Nov 1974
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Stanley Donen Film
A Stanley Donen Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr and lyrics by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Cam op
Stills cam
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATORS
Const mgr, Studio
Const mgr, Loc
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Ward master
MUSIC
Mus ed
Cond by
Arr and orch by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Dubbing ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Photog eff
Spec eff
Main title des by
DANCE
"Snake in the Grass" choreog by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit pub
Loc mgr
Continuity
Continuity
Continuity
Prod exec
ANIMATION
Anim seqs
COLOR PERSONNEL
Lab services
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (New York, 1943).
DETAILS
Release Date:
1974
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 November 1974
Los Angeles premiere: 18 December 1974
Los Angeles opening: 19 December 1974
Production Date:
30 January--late Julyy 1973 at Elstree Studios, Elstree, England and Tunisia
Copyright Claimant:
Stanley Donen Films, Inc. & Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
4 March 1974
Copyright Number:
LP44006
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby System®
Color
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
88
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23841
SYNOPSIS

As a six year-old boy, The Pilot sketches his impression of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, but grown-ups misinterpret the drawing for a hat. Discouraged by the adults’ failure to appreciate his creativity, The Pilot grows to realize he is better suited to live in the air and becomes an aviator. Testing the speed of a new plane on a mission from Paris to India, The Pilot crashes in the Sahara Desert. While The Pilot repairs his aircraft in the desolate landscape, The Little Prince appears and asks him to draw a picture of a sheep. Shocked by the boy’s presence, The Pilot says he can only draw one thing and shows The Little Prince his rendition of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Accurately identifying the image, The Little Prince says boa constrictors and elephants are of no use to him. When The Pilot says he is from Paris, The Little Prince asks if Paris is on Earth. After several attempts at drawing a sheep that are rejected by the boy because the animal appears too sickly or old, The Pilot draws a box and tells The Little Prince that the sheep is inside. Delighted, The Little Prince studies the drawing. Later, when The Pilot inquires where the boy is from, The Little Prince points toward the sky and The Pilot suggests his home is Asteroid B-612. As days pass, The Pilot continues to fix his airplane and The Little Prince asks if sheep eat baobab trees and flowers. Horrified by The Pilot’s response that sheep will eat flowers, even if they have thorns, The Little ... +


As a six year-old boy, The Pilot sketches his impression of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, but grown-ups misinterpret the drawing for a hat. Discouraged by the adults’ failure to appreciate his creativity, The Pilot grows to realize he is better suited to live in the air and becomes an aviator. Testing the speed of a new plane on a mission from Paris to India, The Pilot crashes in the Sahara Desert. While The Pilot repairs his aircraft in the desolate landscape, The Little Prince appears and asks him to draw a picture of a sheep. Shocked by the boy’s presence, The Pilot says he can only draw one thing and shows The Little Prince his rendition of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Accurately identifying the image, The Little Prince says boa constrictors and elephants are of no use to him. When The Pilot says he is from Paris, The Little Prince asks if Paris is on Earth. After several attempts at drawing a sheep that are rejected by the boy because the animal appears too sickly or old, The Pilot draws a box and tells The Little Prince that the sheep is inside. Delighted, The Little Prince studies the drawing. Later, when The Pilot inquires where the boy is from, The Little Prince points toward the sky and The Pilot suggests his home is Asteroid B-612. As days pass, The Pilot continues to fix his airplane and The Little Prince asks if sheep eat baobab trees and flowers. Horrified by The Pilot’s response that sheep will eat flowers, even if they have thorns, The Little Prince argues that flowers are vulnerable and would never grow unless they knew they had thorns to protect them. The boy explains that a special flower lives on his planet and he is outraged by The Pilot’s lack of concern that it might be eaten by a sheep. Exclaiming that the stars will go dark if his flower is destroyed, The Little Prince runs away. Apologizing for acting like a grown-up, The Pilot chases after the boy, but The Little Prince vanishes. One night, The Pilot misses the boy and draws a picture of his likeness. As The Little Prince reappears, The Pilot admits that the boy’s concerns are important and offers a solution. He proposes to draw a muzzle for the sheep and a picture of The Little Prince’s planet so he can put a fence around the flower. Delighted by the plan, The Little Prince describes his solitary, tiny planet. He has three knee-high volcanoes, three baobab bushes for the sheep to eat, and a red rose. The Little Prince recounts the day The Rose, which embodied a beautiful yet demanding woman, blossomed. He says he lovingly tended to The Rose, but her insatiable needs made him unhappy so he decided to leave. The Little Prince reflects that it was wrong to abandon her, but he was too young to understand. Describing his journey, the boy says the first planet he visited was ruled by The King, who berated him for crossing borders without a passport. When The Little Prince inquired why The King needed borders on such a small planet, The King derided his ignorance and claimed he would be out of work without borders. Carried away by doves, The Little Prince landed on the planet of The Businessman, who was trying to calculate the number of stars in the universe. Explaining that he owned them all and wanted to know the extent of his wealth, The Businessman was unable to tell The Little Prince why affluence was important and chided the boy for being naive. Next, the doves took The Little Prince to The Historian’s planet, where the boy announced that he was searching for knowledge. Claiming to be renowned because his work was in print, The Historian gave The Little Prince a book from his immense library, but when The Historian revealed that his job entailed “making things up,” The Little Prince became discouraged by the man’s want of truth and floated away to The General’s planet. The General encouraged the boy to join his one-man army and promised that they would find an enemy as soon as they had amassed their troops. Disillusioned, The Little Prince asked for directions to Earth and the doves flew him to the Sahara. As The Little Prince ends his story with regret that he left The Rose, The Pilot admits he has never known such love and the boy suggests that he wasn’t looking for it. In the morning, The Pilot announces he has run out of water and fears for their lives. Insisting there is a well in the distance, The Little Prince heads into the desert and The Pilot follows. After a day, The Pilot argues that their mission is suicidal. Undeterred, The Little Prince says that if they die, he won’t have to find his friend, The Snake, but when The Pilot requests an explanation, the boy refuses. As they wake the following morning, The Little Prince discovers an oasis and they joyously revive themselves in the water. Returning to the airplane, The Little Prince tells The Pilot his story about The Snake, who was the first “person” he met on Earth. From his black, barren tree, The Snake took the form of a man and told the boy that sorrow is the only thing to be learned on Earth. He advised The Little Prince to leave, but the boy said that he was stuck on Earth because his birds flew away. The Snake counseled The Little Prince, telling him that his poisonous sting could send him to any destination, and vowed to wait for The Little Prince until he was ready to leave Earth. Upon hearing the boy’s story, The Pilot protests The Little Prince’s intention of returning to his planet by dying. The Little Prince then tells The Pilot about The Fox, his second acquaintance on Earth who also transformed into a human. The boy recounts how he met The Fox as he walked through a field of roses, noting that The Rose’s heart would be broken if she knew she was common. The Little Prince asked The Fox to play with him so he would not feel so sad, but The Fox was hunted and suspicious of humans. The Fox explained they could not be friends because he was not tame. He added that if The Little Prince tamed him, they would belong to each other and would never be able to function in the world as they once did. Despite The Fox’s warning, The Little Prince danced with the wild animal and they became friends. When The Little Prince decided to leave, The Fox told him “you always feel responsible for what you have tamed” and these words caused the boy to finally “understand everything.” He knew he had to return to The Rose because he had taken responsibility for her. As The Little Prince ends his story about The Fox, he says that his friend gave him a piece of paper containing a secret as a parting gift. When The Pilot inquires about the secret, the boy gives him the unopened note that reads: “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What’s essential is invisible to the eye.” In time, The Pilot repairs his airplane, but he realizes The Little Prince has disappeared. The Pilot runs through the desert to find the boy tied to The Snake’s tree. Barely conscious, The Little Prince says that they both must return home and asks The Pilot to keep his promise of drawing a muzzle for his sheep. As The Pilot begins to draw, The Little Prince reminds him to include The Rose’s fence and insists he is not afraid. Refusing to leave the boy behind, The Pilot carries The Little Prince back to his airplane. The Little Prince explains he will not really pass away, only desert the shell of his body, and promises The Pilot will hear his laugh again as a bell ringing from the stars. The next morning, The Pilot wakes to find The Little Prince gone and runs back to The Snake’s tree. Finding only the boa constrictor, The Pilot returns to his airplane and cries that the boy was never real. Looking into the night sky, however, he hears The Little Prince’s laughter among the stars and boards his plane to return home. +

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

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