‘The Court Jester’
Starring: Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury and Cecil Parker.
Running time: 101 minutes
Rated: Not rated
Bottomline: Laughing along with songs and snappy remarks
As fall begins this week, many storytellers including Hollywood screenwriters are pushing their best comedies and dramas into the box office in time for the awards’ season. And the best stories have one thing in comma: good storytelling.
Like many people my age, I grew up watching comedies such as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” These films create a childlike sense of adventure, while never missing a chance for humor.
However, it is a mystery to me how these movies are not eclipsed by “The Court Jester,” a 1955 film chock-full of comedy and witty storytelling.
The story centers on a nonsensical jester who attempts to overthrow a false king of England, Roderick I.
The brutal tyrant Roderick usurped the throne of England by killing all of the royal family except for one small babe.
But while Roderick consolidates power, a ragtag group of woodland bandits lead by the Black Fox challenges his reign. The rebels are the last defenders of the “baby with the purple pimpernel,” an infant child who bears the flower-shaped birthmark of royalty.
Thus enters Hubert Hawkins, the gentle-but-glory-hungry entertainer of the Black Fox’s band. Played by distinguished funnyman Danny Kaye, Hawkins is tasked with transporting the royal babe to safety after King Roderick learns of the rebels’ location.
Shortly after, Hawkins sees an opportunity to save the day. Leaving the babe with fellow rebel Jean (Glynis Johns), he assumes the role of the Giacomo, king of jesters and newly appointed jester to the king of England, in an effort to infiltrate the castle.
Unknown to Hawkins, a group of conspirators summoned the real Giacomo to help kill its political rivals. But when the king’s daughter falls for the lowly born Giacomo, Hawkins finds himself pulled into three different plots.
The best part of “The Court Jester” is the simple joy of watching Kaye cope with each absurd situation.
Whether it is memorizing tongue twisters lest he drink poison or falling in and out of hypnosis at the snap of a finger, Kaye somehow bumbles his way through every ridiculous challenge to equally ridiculous solution. Each time he does, it is with a song and a snappy remark that had me guffawing.
The antics are complemented by a colorful cast of characters. The foolish king, flamboyant rebel, self-obsessed princess and her witch-in-waiting, grizzled suitor and undercover wench bring their own brand of silliness to the foolishness.
Though it ends in much the way you would expect, after a climactic brawl between a troupe of dwarves and a group of knights, “The Court Jester” will put a smile on your face.
“The Court Jester” is available on Amazon Instant Video for $2.99 or free for Amazon Prime members.
Andrew Akers is a columnist for The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.