Jack and the Beanstalk (1952)
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It was part of a two picture independent deal from Warner Brothers, the second film being Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd. These were the only two films the boys made in color.
The two of them, out of work as usual, take a job for a very precocious and obnoxious young David Stollery as a babysitter. Although it starts out with Costello wanting to read the kid, Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime story, the young lad winds up reading it to Costello. Lou falls asleep and in his dreams he fantasizes he's indeed Jack the Giant Killer.
Buddy Baer who menaced the boys in Africa Screams plays the giant and he's got a giant size Dorothy Ford as his housekeeper. Dorothy was a big girl, 6'2", and you can imagine she had some difficulty being cast except when her height was used as a joke. One of the only players who ever looked down at her was John Wayne in Three Godfathers at 6'4". Henry Fonda and James Stewart in On Our Merry Way also stood barely above her, but again her height was part of a gag.
Shaye Cogan and James Alexander were the princess and prince of the fantasy and they sang beautifully, but couldn't act worth anything. This was the last film of William Farnum who's career dated from the early silent screen days and even to the turn of the last century on stage. He played princess Shaye's father the king.
Some not terribly memorable musical numbers came from Jack and the Beanstalk, save the title song. I well remember as a kid having the 78 record of Bud and Lou singing the song and reciting the story. I was in my early single digit years, but became a lifelong fan of their's through that and their television series.
Jack and the Beanstalk is still a good children's picture for the very young, though I would warn parents to warn their little urchins not to imitate young master Stollery.
Unfortunately, it's been transferred from a poor copy. The modern prequel, shot on tinted stock, is blurry and the contrast, non-existent. Faces are occasionally difficult to make out. Having said that, the actual story is entertaining and Lou comes across as an accomplished actor, more so than in many of the boys' movies.
Once the movie switches to the 'Jack' story, the film switches to 'colour' and I use that term loosely. Most hues are orange or brown. The greens look particularly bad.
Dorothy Ford as 'Polly', the giant's maid, was a big plus for me as I enjoyed her in an early 'Andy Hardy' appearance.
With so many negative comments put down to the actual quality of the print, I'm still happy to give this movie a 7. It gave me a lot of laughs and that's more than the greater majority of comedies I've watched over the decades can manage.
One to watch if you get the chance.
The film utilizes the sepia-into-color transition popularized by THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) between its modern-day bookends and the period-set main narrative; less welcome are the entirely resistible love interest and musical numbers, seemingly compulsory ingredients of this type of family-oriented fare but which now date them most of all! As usually happens, too, most of the characters who appear in the fairy-tale also turn up in 'real life' including, in this case, the Giant (played by Buddy Bear from the afore-mentioned SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES) who also fills in for a burly cop whom the pint-sized Lou Costello aggravates!
The stars are amiable as always and manage to adapt their standard characterizations to the requirements of the familiar formula. Incidentally, this proved to be the boys' fourth of five films with director Yarborough and one of only two A&C vehicles to be made in color (the other being the similarly adventurous ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD ). Atypically for them, this was not a Universal production but rather an independent one distributed through Warner Bros., which explains its public domain status!
Finally, I really ought to spring for those four "Abbott & Costello" DVD collections from Universal one of these days plus I still have a handful of filmed fairy tales/children's classics to go through during this Christmas period...
It IS a comic masterpiece anticipating the Saturday Night Live humour of John Belushi meeting Robert DiNero. The campy feeling of improvisation permeated the film. You knew they were having a great time. They unleash a sexy combination of horror and comedy.
As silly as this may sound, the fact remains, this is the definitive film adaptation of the davey and goliath Jack and the Beanstalk story. For further exploration of such, may I refer you to the musical theatre of "Into the Woods."
Even when he acts in character Bud is the consummate straight man.
Lou looks like he enjoys himself. He sings quite well. He and Buddy Baer (not quite a giant but close enough to count) do their own stunts.
The musical score is excellent, with lyrics at times both thoughtful and hilarious.
Mel Blanc and Arthur Shields lend their voices. Dorothy Ford lends her unique perspective.
Of course it looks like a cartoon. It was supposed to.
You can't get the genius of "Who's On First?" in every clip of a very long-running vaudeville act.
For the very young at heart.
Our daughter has watched many of the old movies with us -- always complaining in the beginning, but most often coming around. She mostly ignored this in the beginning, preferring to check her email, but she started enjoying herself -- many times laughing out loud to the zaniness.
It's wonderful to think you can have a fun evening with a 55yr old. The mono-colour introduction that blends into the full-colour fairy tale. It's a fun twist of a story that everyone is familiar with, that includes a little song and a little dance, along with everything you expect Lou and Bud to delivery.
Watch it with your children and have a very fun evening!
I think that my favorite scene was when Lou was trying to make the giant an omelet, and...well, I'll let you see what happens. As this was an Abbott and Costello movie, they did have a few unnecessary songs, but other than that, it was pretty funny. For other interpretations of the classic story, "Bewitched" and "Gilligan's Island" both had episodes portraying it.
Bud and Lou play a couple of babysitters to a precocious boy and, while the boy reads the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to a semi-literate Lou, the chubby comedian falls asleep and dreams himself into the story. During this framing device, the film is in a sepia tone but switches to colour for the fairy tale sequence in the style of The Wizard of Oz. The budget seems to have been miniscule for this effort, the special effects are mostly second-rate, and the editing is decidedly choppy at times. The colour has faded on the print I watched so that, every now and then it has that washed-out green tint to it which is a shame, because the decision to film in colour was a good one. The fantastical nature of the story lends itself to bright and bold colours. It also requires a bold and colourful hero but our Jack is short and chubby and the 'prince' in the tale, played by James Alexander, is an insipid chap who does nothing apart from mangle the song 'Darlene' which he sings to imprisoned Princess Eloise (Shaye Cogan who, it has to be said, is a real hottie). The comedy is typical of their stuff from around this period not as good as their material from the forties, or from their brief resurgence after this film was made but too often it has to step aside for the romantic interludes. There are way too many songs, especially for a kid's comedy film, although the lyrics in some are admittedly quite humorous: 'I'll be defiant and obstreperous should the giant try to salt-and-pepper-us," sings Costello, unaware of course that the giant, in the form of ex-boxer Buddy Baer, is standing behind him. This one might keep undemanding kids entertained, but Abbott and Costello devotees will be disappointed.
I do enjoy a GOOD Abbott & Costello film, but I'm not a big enough fan to totally enjoy a BAD Abbott & Costello film. This ranks to me as one of their lesser efforts for several reasons. The set up is a lift of the b&w/Technicolour idea from Wizard of Oz, except it doesn't work as well here. The black and white is a terrible washed out yellow. Maybe it was just the print I saw but it really made it hard to watch.
The actual plot is the fairytale with comedy and songs. My main problem was that the songs were too frequent and pushed out a lot of comedy. The comedy that was there was also pretty weak with very basic jokes. The funniest stuff often revolves around A&C's chemistry and it felt like they shared very little time together on screen. I can imagine that this film was sold as `A Technicolour Adventure' rather than an A&C film the focus seems to be on musical numbers and big bright colours.
Abbott and Costello themselves are good when given the chance and to be fair Costello isn't a half bad singer but is this really what we want to see him do? The rest of the cast are the usual B-movie actors that fill up the support role and look `beautiful' if required (Alexander for example).
Overall it has a few moments that I found funny but to be honest this to be pretty low in terms of Abbott and Costello films I've seen. If you dislike A&C then you'll think they spoil `a technicolour adventure'. If you do like them then you'll wish that we had more (and better) comedy and less of this singing and swinging nonsense.
The sepia-tone switches to color for the bulk of the production. Apparently, this was an attempt at something different for the duo, a colorful children's fantasy. It fails, but this is where you get to see Abbott & Costello in color, silent film superstar William Farnum (as the King) make his last performance a bit part, boxer Max Baer's brother Buddy, and Stollery before Disney's "Spin and Marty".
** Jack and the Beanstalk (4/4/52) Jean Yarbrough ~ Lou Costello, Bud Abbott, Buddy Baer, William Farnum
As a young child I liked Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Still only a child but now a few years older I concluded they were really not that funny.
The version of the film I saw was of a poor picture quality, it certainly needs to be restored. Lou is babysitting a kid, reads him a bedtime story and falls asleep. He dreams of the Jack and the Beanstalk story where he plays Jack, the gruff policeman is the giant and Bud is the butcher.
The adventure transforms from monochrome into Technicolour but the thin story is padded out by wretched song and dance numbers.
Lou does his knockabout comedy, Bud is not in it a lot. There are few good jokes but it is infernal stuff.
In this version, a number of people besides jack either climb the beanstalk, or are captured by the giant. This includes Abbott, as Mr. Dinklepuss, who climbs the beanstalk with Lou, as Jack. Princess Eloise (Shaye Cogan) and Prince Arthur(James Alexander)who were captured. Also, Polly(Dorothy Ford), who serves as the giant's maid, and presumably was captured as well. As in "The Wizard of Oz", all these characters are based on people Jack(or Dorothy) knew.
In this version (there have been many versions in the details), the nameless giant(played by Buddy Baer) stole Jack's chicken who lays golden eggs, as well as the cow Jack exchanged for 5 magic beans from Dinkel. Just how the giant managed to descend to earth without a magic beanstalk and transport the cow plus the people up to his sky kingdom is not considered. Later, he needed the beanstalk to descend. Abbott and Costello begin as supposed babysitters for a Denice-the-Menace-type boy(Donald) and his infant sister. Lou is supposed to read "Jack and the Beanstalk" to Donald, but he stumbles in his reading, so they decide to reverse roles. Lou falls asleep and has this dream. At the end of the film, when Lou is awakening, he says "crown me", meaning the king put a crown on his head. Well, Donald 'crowns' him with a porcelain pitcher!
A funny sequence is when Jack mixes some gunpowder in with the chicken feed. When he cooks their eggs, they explode like firecrackers. A&C are standing next to each other, and Lou notices that his shadow is notable longer than Abbott's, despite Abbott's greater height. Turns out the giant is standing behind Lou.
After Prince Arthur sings the romantic ballad "Darlene" to Darlene(also known as Princess Eloise), he later sings another romantic ballad to her: "Dreamer's Cloth", and she responds in kind. Costello and Polly also dance to this tune. At 6'2" in bare feet, Polly looked ridiculous dancing with 5'5" Lou. In one segment, she kept bopping his head with her rotating elbows and otherwise jarring his head. Funny. Remember, she was serving as the giant's maid. Thus, before the others showed up, the household consisted of 2 giants, as ex-boxer Buddy Baer, who played the giant, was 6'7".
The giant gives Abbott the job of putting his magic hen and jewels away. Bad idea. Abbott and Prince Arthur conspire to steal these, which they eventually succeed at. But Abbott loses them on the way down the beanstalk, the villagers below gathering them.
The title song: "Jack and the Beanstalk" is sung during the credits, when Jack and Dinkelpuss begin climbing the magic stalk, and in the finale, when the people arrive from the beanstalk. In the finale, the villagers also sing "He Never Looked Better in his Life", in reference to the now deceased giant.
On the whole, this is one of the more interesting A&C films I've seen, especially suitable for children. The musical scenes fit in well with the rest of the screenplay, and there is a good amount of A&C-style humor. Lou's brother,Pat, wrote the screenplay and served as executive producer of this independently produced film.