A hapless carnival performer masquerades as the court jester as part of a plot against an evil ruler who has overthrown the rightful king.
Reviews

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

ON DISC
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Biography | Family | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

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."

Director: Charles Vidor
Stars: Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Zizi Jeanmaire
Adventure | Comedy | Family
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Two carefree castaways on a desert shore find an Arabian Nights city, where they compete for the luscious Princess Shalmar.

Director: David Butler
Stars: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
Comedy | Family | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A singing mechanic from 1912 finds himself in Arthurian Britain.

Director: Tay Garnett
Stars: Bing Crosby, Rhonda Fleming, Cedric Hardwicke
Action | Adventure | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

When a popular daredevil proposes an automobile race across three continents, his arch rival vows to beat him, while an ambitious female reporter has her own plans for victory.

Director: Blake Edwards
Stars: Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon
Certificate: Passed Adventure | Comedy | Family
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

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 »

Director: Hal Walker
Stars: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
Pollyanna (1960)
Drama | Family
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A young girl comes to an embittered town and confronts its attitude with her determination to see the best in life.

Director: David Swift
Stars: Jane Wyman, Hayley Mills, Richard Egan
The Love Bug (1968)
Comedy | Family | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A race car driver becomes a champion with a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own.

Director: Robert Stevenson
Stars: Dean Jones, Michele Lee, David Tomlinson
Houseboat (1958)
Comedy | Drama | Family
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A widower, his three young kids and a bombshell nanny get to know each other better when circumstances have them living together aboard a badly neglected houseboat.

Director: Melville Shavelson
Stars: Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Martha Hyer
Drama | Family | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

In prerevolutionary Russia, a Jewish peasant contends with marrying off three of his daughters while growing antisemitic sentiment threatens his village.

Director: Norman Jewison
Stars: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey
Adventure | Comedy | Family
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Adaptation of Jules Verne's novel about a Victorian Englishman who bets that with the new steamships and railways he can do what the title says.

Directors: Michael Anderson, John Farrow
Stars: David Niven, Cantinflas, Finlay Currie
Comedy | Family | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

On the Carolina coast, Godolphin College's new track coach lodges at Blackbeard's Inn, run by the Daughters of the Buccaneers who claim to be descendants of the notorious pirate and who risk losing their hotel to the local mobster.

Director: Robert Stevenson
Stars: Peter Ustinov, Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette
Mary Poppins (1964)
Comedy | Family | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A magic nanny comes to work for a cold banker's unhappy family.

Director: Robert Stevenson
Stars: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Cecil Parker ...
...
Robert Middleton ...
...
Herbert Rudley ...
Noel Drayton ...
...
Giacomo
Edward Ashley ...
Black Fox
...
Sir Brockhurst
Lewis Martin ...
Sir Finsdale
Patrick Aherne ...
Sir Pertwee
Edit

Storyline

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 Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

king | jester | fox | key | poison | See All (45) »

Taglines:

The Musical Romantic Adventure Of This Or Any Year! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

27 January 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Hofnarr  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The "flagon with a dragon" routine had an antecedent in the Bob Hope Paramount comedy Never Say Die (1939): "There's a cross on the muzzle of the pistol with the bullet and a nick on the handle of the pistol with the blank." The credits do not list any writers in common on the two films. See more »

Goofs

When Hawkins is in Gwendolyn's chambers, the fur rug and the rose repeatedly change positions between shots. See more »

Quotes

King Roderick: The Duke. What did the Duke do?
Hubert Hawkins: Eh... the Duke do?
King Roderick: Yes. And what about the Doge?
Hubert Hawkins: Oh, the Doge!
King Roderick: Eh. Well what did the Doge do?
Hubert Hawkins: The Doge do?
King Roderick: Yes, the Doge do.
Hubert Hawkins: Well, uh, the Doge did what the Doge does. Eh, uh, when the Doge does his duty to the Duke, that is.
King Roderick: What? What's that?
Hubert Hawkins: Oh, it's very simple, sire. When the Doge did his duty and the Duke didn't, that's when the Duchess did the dirt to the Duke with the Doge.
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Spoofed in NCIS: Tribes (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Life Could Not Better Be (Reprise)
Written by Sammy Cahn and Sylvia Fine
Performed by Danny Kaye and Chorus
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
The Second of my 5 favourite movies of ALL TIME. 10/10
20 September 2002 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews



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.


40 of 47 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Movie Bombed PlascenciaCar
Favourite Lines/Scenes?? Elastigirl_
how come this is not in the top 250 ? yveslavandier
who was the BABY? missevy
Most quoted movie? Alex_58
A song I'd never heard... Elastigirl_
Discuss The Court Jester (1955) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?