Jeri's pick for Movie Night last night was The Court Jester, starring all sorts of familiar faces. Danny Kaye, of course, was the main attraction, but I also spied Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, and the mom from Mary Poppins (all young and attractive).
The movie is a Farce For All Seasons. It is chock-full of goofy concepts that are introduced throughout the movie (all the way to the end): first, a former circus performer must transform into an old man in order to smuggle a baby into a castle; then he must assume the identity of a court jester (who is, unbeknownst to him, also a master assassin hired to kill several nobles), and get the keys to secret passageway in the castle that will enable them to put the rightful king (the baby -- who has a purple pimpernel on his butt signifying his royal blood) on the throne; once in the castle, he must locate the other mole by whistling a particular tune, but he mistakes an evil noble for this mole and dismisses the good guy as a peasant; he meets the king who quizzes him on his supposed Italian background, so he has to BS his way out of it; then he is hypnotized by the princess's witch into becoming a dashing hero who will win the princess's heart (the sound of a snap brings him in and out of this condition, of course, so you can see where this leads); then his love interest is accidentally chosen to be the king's wench for the weekend; then he is discovered and made to fight this big brute guy, but before the match, his armor is struck by lighting, which magnetizes it; the witch also poisons one of the cups of wine that will be drunk before the match, and he must remember which is which; the guy he is fighting also discovers the poison, and must try to figure it out ("The poison is in the pestle, while the chalace of the palace holds the brew that is true!" ** "Now the pestle has the brew that is true, and the flagon with the dragon holds the poison!"); then he gets into a sword fight with Basil, and keeps snapping which switches him between himself and a master swordsman; meanwhile the secret passageway has collapsed, leaving a hole big enough for children (or the little people that he is friends with at the beginning!).
I'm probably leaving some of it out.
This was my first Danny Kaye movie, and it's easy to see his appeal. He's a very talented singer, dancer, and actor. He was perfect for this sort of comedy, and carries the show the whole way.
The only thing I didn't like about the movie was that his contact within the castle, the mole named Fergus, gets tortured and killed off-screen and gives up the secret of the baby king. In the whole rest of the movie he's this earnest, competent, hard-working guy who does his job thanklessly, and that's his reward? To get killed off-screen and be known as the guy who gave up their secrets under torture? We are notified of his torture and death by one line uttered by a villain, then he is never mentioned again. The movie ends on a happy note without another word of acknowledgement towards his role in the success of the plan. Bum deal, man. Reminds me of the cop in The Lookout.