On the heels of C‘s post about the classic films we grew up with, now seems like a good time to introduce a new feature you’ll be seeing here on Relatively Entertaining: the Family Favorites column. In these posts, we’ll profile a movie, show, or some bit of media that we all love. Only the best for you, dear readers.
Today’s Family Favorite is a classic that didn’t make the previous list because it’s in Technicolor, but is well worth a watch (or dozens upon dozens of repeat viewings!): The Court Jester (1955), starring Danny Kaye, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury and Glynis Johns.
C: I remember the first time Dad brought The Court Jester home, some Thanksgiving long ago. I kicked up a big fuss about watching an oooold movie, but they made me watch. All it took was the opening sequence – Danny Kaye singing “Life Could Not Better Be” and dancing around the credits as Basil Rathbone’s name returns multiple times to pester him – and I was sold. “Knights full of chivalry,” “villains full of villainy,” “maidens fair in silks bedecked,” what more could you ask of a movie?
M: Wenches! Don’t forget wenches.
E: And yet it gives even more – most notably, some of the most silly/clever word play ever heard outside of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First” routine. I dare you not to laugh at the “Vessel with the Pestle” sequence. We recited that routine for so many years – well, we still do it. And that’s only the most memorable of many clever bits of wordplay. And if wit isn’t enough, you have slapstick comedy, daring swordplay, class warfare, a kick-butt heroine, and not one but four classic villains. Great Aunts and tiny children alike love it. Get it? (M: Got it!) Good.
M: For those who don’t know him, or only know him from White Christmas, Danny Kaye is quite simply a brilliant comedic actor. His timing, physical comedy and range make him the perfect star for this film.
C: And then there’s Glynis Johns, known to most as the Suffragette mother in Mary Poppins, playing straight-man to Kaye but with some great comic moments of her own; Basil Rathbone (whom our family loved so much, we named the dog after him) fencing and sneering with equal savior faire; Angela Lansbury (yes, Jessica Fletcher!) as a young, pretty, spoiled princess; and many other stellar performances.
E: We first saw this movie in during the heyday of Murder, She Wrote and were stunned to find that Angela Lansbury had been so beautiful. Yes, we’d seen her in National Velvet and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but this is a different Angela altogether. (Also nothing like her classic turn in The Manchurian Candidate, either.)
M: The movie itself is a hilarious spoof of medieval knight movies: the protagonist is a buffoon, who ends up being able to be heroic, and is hilarious in doing it. It’s full of witty lines and exchanges like E referenced above, of silly and goofy ideas (like the heir to the throne bearing a purple flower birthmark), of evil witches helping the good guys pretty much by accident, and, well, Breckinridge’s Scourge. You’ll have to see it to understand that one.
We all love it, and have watched it to the point where we have it pretty much memorized. A good test came when E and I had our kids watch it. They each LOVED it, so it’s become a three generation family favorite! (E: Four generations! Don’t forget the great aunts!)