“I’d like to get in, get on with it, get it over with, and get out. Get it?”
A lowly performer (Danny Kaye) helps a revolutionary maiden (Glynis Johns) restore the rightful heir — a baby with a purple pimpernel birth mark — to the throne of England by going undercover as a court jester.
Along with his title roles in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and Hans Christian Andersen (1952), Danny Kaye is probably best known for his performance in this spoof of Robin Hood-era swashbucklers. As in most of his other films, Kaye is cast here as a mild-mannered nebbish who is suddenly thrust into a world of excitement and danger, and must call upon inner resources to help save the day (all while tentatively romancing a beautiful leading lady — in this case, Glynis Johns). I find the film on the whole not all that amusing or particularly inventive, but there are some enjoyable sequences — most memorably, of course, Kaye’s confusion over a “vessel with a pestle” and a “chalice from the palace”, one of which is poisonous and the other of which contains “brew that is true”. This lively scene is indicative of the film’s overall infectious sense of wordplay — as in the following exchange (Kaye’s tongue is limber indeed!):
The Duchess dove at the Duke just when the Duke dove at the Doge. Now the Duke ducked, the Doge dodged, and the Duchess didn’t. So the Duke got the Duchess, the Duchess got the Doge, and the Doge got the Duke!
Watch for Angela Lansbury, Basil Rathbone, Mildred Natwick, and John Carradine (among others) in nicely turned supporting roles.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Danny Kaye as Hubert Hawkins
- Glynis Johns as Maid Jean
- The justifiably famous “pestle in the vessel” sequence
- The amusing final swashbuckling encounter between Kaye and Rathbone
Yes. While The Secret Life of Walter Mitty remains my favorite Kaye film, The Court Jester is beloved by many, and should be seen at least once by all film fanatics.