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The Nutcracker (1964)
"Der Nußknacker" (original title)

TV Movie  |   |  21 December 1965 (USA)
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A one-hour version of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet, with a somewhat revised storyline reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz".



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Title: The Nutcracker (TV Movie 1964)

The Nutcracker (TV Movie 1964) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Complete credited cast:
Edward Villella ...
Melissa Hayden ...
Patricia McBride ...
Host / narrator (U.S.version)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ray Barra
Paul Birgk
Hugo Delavalle
Edith Demharter
Renate Deppisch
Peter Grotzsch
Helga Heinrich ...
Heidi Högl
Niels Kehlet ...
Bluebird (as Niles Keleth)
Harald Kreutzberg ...
Monika Müller


A one-hour version of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet, with a somewhat revised storyline reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz".

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21 December 1965 (USA)  »

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The Nutcracker  »

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Did You Know?


The famous "March" is heard during the opening credits to the production (which were made especially for this CBS presentation of the film), but not during the actual film. The actual film begins with the "Overture Miniature", which is also the music that begins the ballet. See more »


As he is speaking during the introductory host sequence, Eddie Albert can quite obviously be seen glancing to the side occasionally to read the cue cards. See more »


Narrator: [from the videotaped introduction to the film] Now why would anybody write about a nutcracker? Well, nutcrackers nowadays are pretty plain affairs, but in the olden days, master craftsmen would outdo one another carving nutcrackers from wood or from metal.
See more »


Version of The Nutcracker (1988) See more »


The Nutcracker
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Franz Allers
See more »

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A short-lived annual tradition
19 July 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This 1965 German-American co-production, first telecast on prime time by CBS-TV just a few days before Christmas, was the first "Nutcracker" I ever saw. An exceptional achievement in its time, it has been dwarfed by all of the later full-length telecasts of the ballet. It was first broadcast at just about the same time that the full-length "Nutcracker" began being performed all across the United States, but after being shown a mere four times (between 1965 and 1968), this version was permanently retired (at least from American television).

It lasts a little less than an hour, and is, of course, drastically shortened from the complete 90-minute ballet. I have not seen it in more than thirty years, when CBS discarded it, instead of turning it into an annual tradition as they did "The Wizard of Oz". What stood out for me about the 1965 "Nutcracker" and makes it such a vivid memory (other than the fact that the music is beautiful and the dancing is brilliant), is that it alters the story line of the ballet and has virtually no special effects, a strange alteration in a work partly written to show off those effects.

The telecast follows the pattern once set by "The Wizard of Oz". Eddie Albert appears on video tape as host of the program, which then leads to a filmed presentation of the ballet---the difference being that you can hear Albert's narration throughout; he does not entirely disappear once the main attraction begins. Because it is on film, the dancers - members of the New York City Ballet as well as several other companies, have far more room to move in.

Those looking for a Christmas tree which grows, and magical toys, will be disappointed here, because, other than the fact that there is a dancing Nutcracker, there just aren't any magical toys. As always, Drosselmeyer gives Clara the Nutcracker as a present, but he does not bring any life-sized dolls who dance. Then, as soon as Clara begins dreaming, the story changes so that now there is no battle with the mice, the Mouse King never appears, and the dolls and toy soldiers never come to life! Instead, Clara and the Nutcracker must travel to the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy so that she can change him back into a Prince (echoing Dorothy's journey to the Emerald City), and along the way they encounter the Russian dancers, Mother Ginger and her clowns, the flowers, etc. Edward Villella dances beautifully as the Nutcracker, but he never appears wearing a Nutcracker mask or makeup; we just have to accept the fact that he is the Nutcracker because Eddie Albert's narration tells us so. (The narration is far more prominent in this version than in the later ones, and will probably annoy some viewers.)

If this version of "The Nutcracker" is ever brought back from TV oblivion, it is worth a look. It made quite an impression on me when I saw it, though later viewings of the full-length ballet eventually made this one harder to accept as "the" television version. Just take it with a grain of salt as an artifact of its time, an unnecessarily watered down, but well danced presentation of Tchaikovsky's great ballet.

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