The Court Jester Reviews
Boy jolly gee am I glad I did! That is, I fucking loved it.
The Court Jester is a mistaken-identity comedy and a spoof of chivalry films, especially the likes of Robin Hood, but without the more grotesque / anarchic elements found in the equally wonderful Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. It's certainly 'family fare' but don't let that cause you to doubt its hilarity and sophistication.
The script, and most of the gags, are nothing short of hilarious. Basically the plot is thus: there's an usurper king on the throne. Hubert Hawkins (played by Danny Kaye) is a member of a rebel organization attempting to reinstate the 'proper' king, who is just a baby. They're having a tough time of things, though they have a plan: if they could manage to enter the secret backdoor of the castle, they could overthrow the usurper king with only a handful of men. The only problem is that this secret backdoor is always locked and the king keeps the key close to his person at all times.
When Hubert Hawkins and love interest Maid Jean (played by the husky-voiced Glynis Johns) have a chance meeting with Giacomo, King of Jesters and Jester of Kings, recently hired to entertain the king's court, they see their chance. They knock out Giacomo and Hubert Hawkins takes his place.
What really makes this film such a delight is how several subplots intertwine:
A) One of the king's advisors, Sir Ravenhurst, actually hired Giacomo, King of Jesters and Jester of Kings, because he was also a skilled assassin!
B) Griselda, a witch and mentor to the princess, attempts to use Hubert Hawkins to seduce the princess and thereby save her own life.
C) Hubert's love interest Maid Jean is picked up by the king's men who were on the search for 'wenches' to bring a little life to the king's party, which he is throwing in honor of Sir Griswold, who he expects to marry to the Princess, who doesn't want to marry him.
Hubert becomes the lynchpin to each of these subplots, yet he really has no idea what he's doing, and it's laugh-out-loud hilarious to watch him bumble through each person's schemes.
Final Say: The Court Jester is tremendously funny, and excellently scripted. Unlike many comedy films today, The Court Jester relies less on grotesquery or pushing the envelope (not that there's anything with that - This Is The End was fabulous) and more on plain old wit. Absolutely worth a watch.
How to Watch It: With others! Comedy always better with other people, unless it involves a lot of sex jokes and you're a teenager and with your parents, who are conservative. Then it's awkward.
Trivia: Practically every single actor or actress who played in this film is now dead - except the Princess (Angela Lansbury, most famous for Murder, She Wrote) and Maid Jean (Glynis Johns). They're 90 and 88, respectively.
This movie is so great. I think anyone can enjoy this, even though it is old (not quite when dinosaurs roamed the earth but close) the humor is ageless. Danny Kaye does an excellent job (as always) and shows some amazing comedic chops. His jester is fantastic and his language impersonation at one point in the film had me in stitches. I think the most memorable part is of course the jousting sequence. In particular finding out which vessel had the poison and which one had the brew that is true. Also if you want to see a young Angela Lansbury you should check this out. This is truly a remarkable movie and if you haven't seen it yet, you should take some time to watch it.
This is on the Green Embers' Recommended List!
The film also stars Basil Rathbone as Roderick's advisor Ravenhurst, Angela Lansbury as the Princess who has a crush on Kaye, Glynis Johns as Jean, a maid who is secretly part of Kaye's group, and Mildred Natwick as Griselda, the Princess's advisor who is also a hypnotist.
Basically, this is The Adventures of Robin Hood with lots more comedy, and that's not a bad thing. I just watched this film recently on Turner Classic Movies, and I left the room with a smile on my face.
Danny Kaye was really hilarious in this film. In every scene he's in, he give us his full comedic range, from his imitations, smart dialogue, and funny facial expressions. His "Pellet with the Poison" speech is laugh-out-loud funny and will probably make a comedy lover pee their pants.
Also entertaining in the swordfight between Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone at the end of the film. Similar to the one in Adventures of Robin Hood, it's pretty entertaining, funny, and suspenseful at the same time. What's really interesting is the fact that Rathbone was in his 60's when he did this scene, which is even more impressive.
If there are any miscasts in the film, it's Glynis Johns. Her romantic scene with Kaye is awkward and weird. She is also a little on the annoying side. But the good news is, she would later play Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins, where she was more enjoyable.
I also found it weird that the kingdom would want to bow down to a baby. Yeah, I know that the baby had a birthmark on the butt cheek and was next in line for the throne, but can the revelation just wait until when the baby grows up? Seriously, you can't worship a baby!
In the end, The Court Jester is a pretty funny comedy with a very funny performance from the legendary Danny Kaye.