A young boy dreams that he is in an imaginary world where, assisted by his family's plumber, he must save other piano-playing kids like himself from the dungeons of his dictatorial piano teacher who also mind-controls his mother.


Roy Rowland


Dr. Seuss (screenplay), Allan Scott (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Peter Lind Hayes ... August Zabladowski
Mary Healy ... Heloise Collins
Hans Conried ... Dr. Terwilliker
Tommy Rettig ... Bartholomew Collins
Jack Heasley Jack Heasley ... Uncle Whitney (as John Heasley)
Robert Heasley Robert Heasley ... Uncle Judson
Noel Cravat Noel Cravat ... Sgt. Lunk
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
George Chakiris ... Dancer (as George Kerris)


The bane of young Bart Collins' existence is the piano lessons he's forced to take under the tutelage of Dr. Terwilliker, the only person he detests because of his dictatorial nature. Bart feels that Dr. Terwilliker has undue influence on his widowed mother Heloise. Bart constantly daydreams of a place--the Terwilliker Institute--at which the evil madman is its overlord. The mad doctor's built a piano so immense that it needs 500 children to play it. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You've got to see the fiddle-headed fiddler-faddlers playing fit to bust a gut - yours, for instance! See more »


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


During one preview, audience members began leaving the theater fifteen minutes into the showing. See more »


While Dr. T is sleeping Bart climbs up to get the key to the safe that is in the metronome above the bed. When the camera shows a close up shot of Bart, Dr. T is facing the left edge of the bed face to face with Bart. When the camera shows a distant shot Dr. T has rolled over to the other side of the bed. The next close up shot he is back face to face with Bart again. See more »


Mr. Zabladowski: Children seldom have a choice of parents and that, perhaps, is a good thing too. If kids had their way, practically no parents would be born at all!
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Edited into TNT 100% Weird (1992) See more »


Ten Happy Fingers
Music by Friedrich Hollaender (as Frederick Hollander)
Lyrics by Dr. Seuss
Performed by Tommy Rettig (dubbed by Tony Butala)and Mary Healy
See more »

User Reviews

A creative, colorful, surreal musical nightmare
16 October 2008 | by LCShackleySee all my reviews

As I grew up taking piano lessons, I can remember times when I attributed all sorts of evil motives to my kindly (but task-masterly) piano teacher. Dr. Seuss must have had a similar experience, because he created the perfect piano student's nightmare of oppression by and ultimate revenge on the musical establishment.

What struck me the most about seeing this film (after about a 30-year gap) was the brilliance of color: big swatches of primary colors and every shade in between. And if you're a fan of Dr. Seuss's illustrations, you will love the sets which seem like the pop-up book version of his surreal landscapes. This film delights the eyes with mind-boggling props and Daliesque sets which Fritz Lang would have loved.

Tommy Rettig is a child actor with just the right amount of "cuteness factor" to make him watchable without being unbearable. And Hans Conreid (here in his mid-30s) steals the show with his bombastic delivery and expressive face.

Some of the songs drag on a bit too long, but all in all this is a delight to watch for pianists of all ages.

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Release Date:

1 July 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Five-Thousand Fingers of Dr. T. See more »

Filming Locations:

Hollywood, California, USA


Box Office


$2,750,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Stereo (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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