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In this hilarious tweaking of the fairy tale, "The Princess and the Pea", Queen Aggravain has ruled that none may marry until her son, Prince Dauntless marries. However, she has managed to sabotage every princess that come along. When Sir Harry and Lady Larken learn that they are going to be parents, wed or not, he goes off to the swamps and brings back Princess Winnifred ("Fred" to her friends). The queen is horrified and immediately begins to scheme, but Winnifred, with some help from Sir Harry, the King, and the Jester, isn't going to be quite so easy to get rid of. Written by
The original Broadway production of "Once Upon A Mattress" opened at the Phoenix Theater (At a total of five separate theaters!) on May 1, 1959, ran for 244 performances and was nominated for the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical. Carol Burnett was nominated for the 1960 Tony Award for Actress in a Musical. See more »
During the Happily Ever After number, Princess Fred gets up on the table and kicks off the books stacked there but when we look down a few seconds later the stack she just kicked off on the right side of the table as we face it has returned. See more »
I fell in love with this cute musical back in the 1960's when it was originally aired on TV in black & white, and loved it again ten years later when it was re-aired in color with only minor cast changes. To the many fans of this beloved play, it is impossible not to compare this new Disney version with the originals.
There is much to like. The look of it is wonderful, complete with a Disneyesque rose-framed window at the end, and a castle full of beautiful, anachronistic rooms, and stained-glass windows with a slightly sinister edge to them. Prince Dauntless and the King are likable, sympathetic, engaging people who you root for, and Sir Harry (the knight) and his Lady Larken are both charming and pretty.
Inevitably, though, as in all previous made-for-TV versions, certain changes in dialog and action have been made, and several songs are absent. I was a little sorry to see the jester's role so reduced (he had a fine song in the original play and the earliest TV version), but I did find it amusing that the Wizard, usually played as the Queen's lover,is this time only an effeminate court sycophant. The G-rating might have been more appropriate had Harry and Larken been secretly married as they were in the 1960's version, which actually makes more sense considering they have defied a marriage law. Otherwise, Larken's pregnancy would simply be an embarrassment instead of a crime. It would also be more suitable for the children watching this film, which after all is a prime-time Christmas offering.
But I saved for last the two starring ladies. Carol Burnett should have been brilliant as the Queen, and in moments her brilliance does come through. But she needed the outrageous brassiness that Jane White once gave the role, and it wasn't quite there. Still, no one else today should play the Queen, if only for the legacy. Carol Burnett forever!
I am not at all sure about Tracy Ullman as Princess Fred, though. She was not bad, she just wasn't great. Fred needs to be so much larger than life. She's not just another princess, she's the kind of princess children love because she's a princess they can hope to be like - not the perfect and pretty ladies like Snow White, Aurora, or Cinderella. Ullman is fun, she's cute, but she does not dominate the screen in the same ways that once made Carol Burnett a star. In those days, the bedroom scene was a broadly hilarious climax to a charmingly funny musical. In this production it is amusing, but little more. And for that alone,I was greatly disappointed.
Yet in spite of these problems, it was a most enjoyable film. I am surprised that Disney has not tried to market it in their "princess series", but time will tell. It is a nice film that looks good and feels good, and to the generations who do not know the older versions, this one should be very satisfying.
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