THE COURT JESTER (1955)

Although it is now considered Danny Kaye’s best film, THE COURT JESTER originally lost money at the box office and received only tepid reviews. Repeated television screenings, however, have made it a favorite among his fans who relish its lavish re-creation of medieval times and Kaye’s comic bravado in scenes where he switches from heroic knight to cowardly jester at the snap of a finger. The famed scene in which Mildred Natwick cautions him that “the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle” has become a classic. Kaye and the writing-directing team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama were looking to re-create the manic comic inventiveness of his stage and nightclub work on film. With this tale of a troubadour masquerading as a jester to save an infant king from usurpers, he got his wish. He also got to work with an impressive cast, including Glynis Johns as his love interest, Angela Lansbury as her rival and Basil Rathbone as the villain. The medieval rebirth drove the budget up toward $4 million, the highest for a comedy at that time. But it also gives the film a fairy tale quality that perfectly fits Kaye’s frenzied comic style and will be showcased to great effect with this world premiere restoration. (d. Melvin Frank, Norman Panama, 101m, DCP)

In attendance: ILLEANA DOUGLAS, FRED WILLARD