The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953)

Approved  |   |  Family, Fantasy, Music  |  1 July 1953 (USA)
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The bane of adolescent Bart Collins' existence is the piano lessons he is forced to take under the tutelage of Dr. Terwilliker, the only person he admits he detests because of his ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Peter Lind Hayes ...
Heloise Collins
Jack Heasley ...
Uncle Whitney (as John Heasley)
Robert Heasley ...
Uncle Judson
Noel Cravat ...
Sgt. Lunk
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dancer (as George Kerris)


The bane of adolescent Bart Collins' existence is the piano lessons he is forced to take under the tutelage of Dr. Terwilliker, the only person he admits he detests because of his dictatorial nature. Bart feels Dr. Terwilliker has undue influence for these lessons on his widowed mother, Heloise Collins. The one person who sympathizes with Bart, although quietly on the sidelines, is the Collins' plumber, August Zabladowski. Bart hates his life associated with the piano so much he often daydreams when he practices and even during his lessons. His latest dream has him imprisoned in the fantastical Terwilliker Institute in the day before its grand opening. Terwilliker's second in command at the Institute is his mother, although she has been hypnotized into her position, which will also soon be as Mrs. Dr. Terwilliker. Bart tries to convince Mr. Zabladowski, who is there to install the Institute's plumbing, to save his mother and himself from Terwilliker. Bart also hopes that Zabladowski ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Wonder Musical of the Future!


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 July 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Five-Thousand Fingers of Dr. T.  »

Box Office


$1,600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Bart and Mr. Zadlabowski are taken to the dungeon via elevator, there is no reference to a third floor dungeon by the Elevator Operator. The third stanza of the Elevator Operator's song was cut due to increasingly horrific lyrics referring to "household appliances". The complete deleted stanza went as follows: "Third floor dungeon/Household appliances/Spiked beds/Electric chairs/Gas chambers/ /Roasting pots/And scalping devices." (The reference to "gas chambers" was probably regarded as in bad taste since the film was made so soon after World War II and the Holocaust.) See more »


When Bart climbs the huge ladder to escape the guards, when he jumps off of the ladder, you can clearly see a thick wire holding him. See more »


Mrs. Collins: The work for the happy finger method must go on.
See more »


Referenced in Psych: Cog Blocked (2014) See more »


Get-Together Weather
Music by Friedrich Hollaender (as Frederick Hollander)
Lyrics by Dr. Seuss
Performed by Hans Conried, Peter Lind Hayes, and Mary Healy
See more »

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User Reviews

Surreal, funny, poignant... and there IS a logic to it
9 August 2002 | by (Helsinki, Finland) – See all my reviews

I am a European who hasn't read one single book by Dr. Seuss, but I am magically captivated by this movie. I've seen the DVD four times by now, first having seen it twice at film archive shows.

There's only one way to have the seemingly absurd pieces to fall into place. This film is a highly sensitive depiction of a little boy's hopes and fears--occasionally wildly fluctuating between the two. Just try and find another logic behind "Didn't you know? This makes you my old man." "Yeah, I guess it does, at that."

Yes, Tommy Rettig's singing voice was dubbed by Tony Butala. After all, there's only so much one person can do. Hans Conried probably sang himself. After his double voice role in Disney's "Peter Pan" he went on to play the Magic Mirror in several Disneyland TV shows. "5,000 Fingers" must be the finest showcase of his talents.

Repeating the last words of the previous speaker was not a mannerism of Tommy Rettig's. All that is in the script, and Tommy was simply doing his work. The previous year, he was incredible in the neglected b/w movie "Paula" which is basically a two-person drama with Loretta Young. (If anyone watches "Paula" and does not have a lump in their throat at the end they are beyond all hope.)

The "Hassidics" with the Siamese beard ("Or you will get choked by the beard of the twins With the Siamese beard With a terrible twin on each end" as it says in a deleted song) are simply the boy's two great-uncles--their photos can be seen on top of the family piano.

Originally, Dr. Terwilliker did not appear in the parlor scene at the beginning. Some stills are in circulation--one on the VHS tape box--where Bart Collins darkens the eyebrows on the sheet music portrait with a pencil. The same version includes an alarm clock which Bart attempts to set ahead. In the final movie the clock still remains in one scene, at the high end of the piano keyboard. Late in the production, an immense risk was taken; having anyone speak directly to the camera is problematic, let alone a child. But this worked superbly. Some lines were obvious afterthoughts. I've seen a script with the line "One hundred per cent perfect gold plated fony [sic], double fony" added in Tommy Rettig's hand.

The musical score goes to show what years of experience can do. Friedrich Hollaender--Frederick Hollander in America--composed music for pictures as early as in 1931. The simplistic ditty "Ten Happy Fingers" is developed into many superb variations in the film score. As someone who plays himself, I found Bart's "hundred pianos" rendition under the baton of Dr. Terwilliker a sheer delight. (Characteristically, Dr. T. is not satisfied...)

Films like this also remind us about the ephemeral nature of life. At least Peter Lind Hayes, Hans Conried, and Tom Rettig have passed away. Tom--a highly esteemed computer programmer--later said these words in his dBase language, "IF its_time EXIT ENDIF." But they will live forever on film. And when "Bart and the excited dog run lickety-split down the street" you will want to see it all over again... I did.

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