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The Court Jester (1955)

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

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




Cast overview, first billed only:
Danny Kaye ... Hubert Hawkins
Glynis Johns ... Maid Jean
Basil Rathbone ... Sir Ravenhurst
Angela Lansbury ... Princess Gwendolyn
Cecil Parker ... King Roderick I
Mildred Natwick ... Griselda
Robert Middleton ... Sir Griswold
Michael Pate ... Sir Locksley
Herbert Rudley ... Captain of the Guard
Noel Drayton Noel Drayton ... Fergus
John Carradine ... Giacomo
Edward Ashley ... Black Fox
Alan Napier ... Sir Brockhurst
Lewis Martin Lewis Martin ... Sir Finsdale
Patrick Aherne Patrick Aherne ... Sir Pertwee


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


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


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

27 January 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Hofnarr See more »

Filming Locations:

Palos Verdes, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,200,000, 31 December 1956
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Dena Enterprises See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This was composer Vic Schoen's first film. He was not officially trained on the mechanisms of how music was synchronized to film, so he had to learn on the job. It took him a long time, but he was very proud of his work. Composer Igor Stravinsky listened to his score and later complimented Schoen, saying he had broken all the rules. See more »


In the jousting scene, the weapons that each has are said to be a "mace and chain" (a spiked iron ball held to a stick via an iron chain) - that is a modern term though. The weapon is more accurately called a 'flail' and that is the medieval term for it. See more »


[first lines]
Hawkins: Life could not better be / Better be, better be / It could not possibly / No sirrah, sir-rah, sirree! / Songs could not gayer be / Sound your do-re-o-mi, re-mi-fa-so-la-see, fa-la-la-la follow me! / Why be gloomy? / Cut thy nose off to spite thy face? / Listen to me / A nose is hard to replace! / Skies could not bluer be / Hearts in love truer be / I say for you or me / Life couldn't possibly, not even probably / Life couldn't possibly better be! Life could not better be / On a ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the cast credits appear, Basil Rathbone's name slides onto the screen two more times, in large type used in ghost or horror films; and Danny Kaye each time knocks it off the screen. See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Gamera vs. Gaos (1991) See more »


Willow, Willow, Waleyc/ Pass The Basket
Written by Sammy Cahn and Sylvia Fine
See more »

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User Reviews

Danny Kaye Jests and Jousts
17 March 2008 | by evanston_dadSee all my reviews

A supremely wacky and delightful Danny Kaye comedy.

Kaye plays a court jester impostor who infiltrates a king's court in order to put in motion a plan hatched by a scrappy band of Robin Hoodesque rebels who want to depose the tyrant and put the rightful heir on the throne. Unfortunately for Kaye, but fortunately for us, the plot is not as simple as it sounds, not when a traitor in the king's court (Basil Rathbone) has formulated his own plan to have the jester assassinate the king, and especially not when the king's saucy daughter (Angela Lansbury) has set her sights on marrying the jester as a way to avoid having to marry a rival king with whom her father wants to forge an alliance.

Kaye is absolutely hysterical, whether he's singing and dancing a big production number with a band of midgets or jousting with a rival knight while wearing a magnetized suit of armor. Glynis Johns plays a member of Kaye's merry band with whom Kaye has fallen in love, and Mildred Natwick plays the witch Griselda, who at one point tries to help Kaye poison a rival by explaining that the pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle while the chalice with the palace has the brew that is true.

Grade: A-

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