The opening scene of the movie describes it best: "Once upon a time there lived in Denmark a great storyteller named Hans Christian Andersen. This is not the story of his life, but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales."
At the turn of the century, Duke and Chester, two vaudeville performers, go to Alaska to make their fortune. On the ship to Skagway, they find a map to a secret gold mine, which had been ... See full summary »
The throne of rightful king of England, the small babe with the purple pimpernel birthmark, has been usurped by the evil King Roderick. Only the Black Fox can restore the true king to the throne--and all he needs is the king's key to a secret tunnel. And while he's trying to steal it, someone has to change the king's diapers. The task falls to Hawkins, the gentlest member of the Fox's band. The Fox's lieutenant, Maid Jean, guards Hawkins and the babe while they travel, but when they meet the King's new jester on the road, they decide to initiate a daring plan for Hawkins to replace him, become an intimate at the court, and steal the key. So, humble Hawkins becomes Giacomo: the king of jesters and jester to the king. But things begin to get zany when the King's daughter falls for Giacomo, the King falls for Jean, people randomly sing what are supposed to be recognition codes, and a witch with very effective spells (and poison pellets) begins to interfere. Written by
Unimpressed with him in tights, the producers made Danny Kaye wear "leg falsies" to improve the shape of his legs. This adds a touch of irony when Hubert Hawkins offers the princess all of him, including his legs and calves. See more »
When Hawkins and Ravenhurst are fighting at the end of the movie, Griselda and Gwendolyn appear in a doorway facing them. But when Hawkins and Ravenhurst are on the battlements, they've disappeared. When Hawkins falls off the battlements, they're still not there, but in all the subsequent shots, they are. See more »
During the opening credits, Danny Kaye dances around the credits while singing a song about the movie. The lyrics of the song relate to the credits. For instance, when the music credits go by he sings about the music and when the screenwriter credits go by he sings about the story. See more »
More Than Classic Satire; Perhaps Kaye's Best; a Perennial Favorite
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.
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