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The Court Jester


kevshrop
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While THE COURT JESTER is what I consider one of Danny Kaye's best movies, it still has a lot of that silly stuff that he does when performing that just isn't funny to me, such as in the song the Maladjusted Jester. You know, those noises and facial contortions he does. Just not my thing. I always skip over those parts in his movies. He doesn't seem to do that too much in Hans Christian Andersen.

 

Tonight on the Essentials, Jr. with Bill Hader, his opening remarks said Danny Kaye had years of experience on vaudeville and on Broadway. On vaudeville? I thought vaudeville was all over and not in just one place. All those circuits, etc. I thought his script would have said "in" vaudeville. Was what he said incorrect? Or am I being too picky? Yes to both questions?

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In Basil Rathbone's autobiography, he said Danny Kaye was the smartest man he ever knew. He (Rathbone) had studied the saber for 20 years or more and Kaye had picked up in two weeks what he needed to do in the sword fight in this movie to be believable in the part, and to add the finger-snapping and switches from swordsman to bumbling fool and back again. He said he had gone by Danny's dressing room one day and found him playing the trumpet, and asked why he was doing it. Danny said he was going to play Red Nichols and wanted to learn it really well. Rathbone asked why he didn't just have it dubbed, and Kaye said if he couldn't do it as well as Nichols he wouldn't make the movie.

 

I don't know if he did it as well as Nichols (I don't think that would have been possible), but he did make the movie and was at least good enough to satisfy himself.

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I think Kaye was smart enough to know that he would NEVER learn to play as well as Nichols in the short amount of time he had before shooting on that picture would begin. But he WAS smart enough to know he would learn how to make his cornet playing look convincing enough. I don't know. I never imagined he really did all that horn playing, but at least he made it LOOK like he knew what he was doing.

 

 

As a guitar player( more or less a hack), I get tired of seeing actors not even making the ATTEMPT to make their fingers look as if they're making the chord changes the song they're "playing" is making. Somehow, they got the idea that these little details aren't important.At least, for the movie *The Competition* , Amy Irving, Richard Dreyfus and the others playing competing pianists in the movie spent HOURS studying the hand movements of real pianists playing the music THEY would represent playing in the movie in order to make their portrayals look realistic.

 

 

I also think Kaye's facial expressions and "tics" were his "schtick", and was a large part of his popularity. It goes back to what people seemed to like at the time.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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> {quote:title=kevshrop wrote:...}{quote}

> Tonight on the Essentials, Jr. with Bill Hader, his opening remarks said Danny Kaye had years of experience on vaudeville and on Broadway. On vaudeville? I thought vaudeville was all over and not in just one place. All those circuits, etc. I thought his script would have said "in" vaudeville. Was what he said incorrect? Or am I being too picky? Yes to both questions?

Well, kevshrop, I've noticed Americans say they're waiting "ON line", whereas Canadians mostly say they're "IN line". (As in waiting for pizza or movie theatre tickets or something along those lines. :| )

 

I think that sort of detail in language use varies; it's regional. Maybe Hader hails from a place (like, New York City?) where they routinely say "ON line". So, similar use of that preposition for "vaudeville", IN or ON, same thing.

You say "ee-ther", I say "i -ther".

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I love *Court Jester.* It's a sweet, manic, very funny movie, a great choice for "kid's night" on TCM.

 

But equally (if not more so) entertaining for adults. I watched it last night with my mother, and we both laughed and laughed.

One of my favourite scenes is the one where Kaye is under a spell, courtesy of Mildred Natwick, that makes him dashing, fearless, and strong. But the spell is undone with a snap of the fingers - back on with another fingersnap.

Kaye is hiding behind Princess Angela Lansbury's bed curtains when her father enters the room. Princess and King get into a huge argument, with each one snapping their fingers to prove their point. A whole lot of finger snapping going on, and Kaye is brilliant as he transforms from hero to buffoon, back and forth, within seconds.

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Good post, missW. I agree completely, the snaping scenes especially during the sword fight were a riot. Of course the vessle with the pestle is priceless. :) Seen the film many times over the years and it never fails to make me laugh. Last night, the high speed marching scene, with Danny's hanging gold lame pants had me in hysterics. Just a terrifically funny film. I love Danny Kaye, hammy or not, I think he was brilliant.

The whole cast is so good in the film, Basil, Glynis Johns, Mildred Natwick especially, Robert Middleton, were all great. A most enjoyable 2 hrs.

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I think that sort of detail in language use varies; it's regional. Maybe Hader hails from a place (like, New York City?) where they routinely say "ON line". So, similar use of that preposition for "vaudeville", IN or ON, same thing.

You say "ee-ther", I say "i -ther".

 

 

Regional, definitely. I was amazed at hearing "on line" as a description of people waiting for something. We'd never say that in Boston. We were "in line."

 

I expect it's just as much a shock to them to hear us say "in line." Regional expressions can be a delight in some cases. I remember being in an aquarium in London, where a lady and her little boy were watching a shark trailing a string of something behind him. The little boy asked what that was, and his mother said, "He's having the loo, dear."

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> {quote:title=Sepiatone wrote:}{quote}

> I think Kaye was smart enough to know that he would NEVER learn to play as well as Nichols in the short amount of time he had before shooting on that picture would begin. But he WAS smart enough to know he would learn how to make his cornet playing look convincing enough. I don't know. I never imagined he really did all that horn playing, but at least he made it LOOK like he knew what he was doing.

>

> As a guitar player( more or less a hack), I get tired of seeing actors not even making the ATTEMPT to make their fingers look as if they're making the chord changes the song they're "playing" is making. ...

>

I absolutely agree. As a pretty mediocre amateur musician myself and frequent audience member for many kinds of music, I know what a real musician looks like when playing. So it always bugs me when actors playing musicians in a movie obviously don't know how to move their hands on the instrument. Fake guitar players seem to be the worst, often using all four of their fingers at once to fret the strings, which is very obvious because a guitar player's hands are so exposed to view. Fake piano players aren't much better, often flapping their elbows like they're trying to fly rather than play a song, and moving their hands wildly up and down the keyboard, regardless of the notes they're supposed to be playing.

 

I haven't seen THE FIVE PENNIES for a while, but I remember Danny Kaye being pretty convincing on the cornet. I'm sure he knew going into the movie that the real Red Nichols would be actually be playing on the soundtrack, so I wouldn't be surprised if he might have studied Red's movements in preparation for the role. (I thought Jimmy Stewart was similarly convincing as Glenn Miller.)

 

Kaye was definitely someone who worked hard at whatever he did. He was well known as an expert cook, focusing on Chinese and Italian food and having a specialized stove installed in his home. He was also a licensed pilot, flying everything from single-engine planes to multi-engine jets. (He flew his own plane on his frequent UNICEF fundraising tours.) And he also conducted symphony orchestras -- sure, it featured his comic shtick, but he led the orchestras convincingly, although Leonard Bernstein had nothing to worry about. So it makes perfect sense that Kaye would have prepared scrupulously for his film roles, whether they involved fencing or playing cornet.

 

I've loved Kaye since I was a kid in the 60s, when he had a network TV show in which he seemed to intentionally do at least a little material in each program that kids could appreciate. When I got older and saw some of his movies, I was equally impressed. Yes, he could be silly and a ham, but there was always some warmth that tempered the sometimes manic quality. He's occasionally too broad for my taste, but I just like the guy when I see his movies.

 

The Library of Congress, which holds the Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine collection donated by his family, had a small but interesting exhibit this spring in commemoration of Kaye's centenary. Movie posters, programs from early stage shows he was in when he was barely more than an amateur, scripts, family photos. If you're coming to DC, check the LOC schedule to see if it's still there.

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