October 01, 2009

Yea, Verily, Yea: 'Jester' Still Draws Laughs

I have fond memories of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama's 1956 Danny Kaye vehicle The Court Jester from my childhood. Indeed, my sister and I still quote lines from it every so often...perhaps as a way of showing that we remain kids at heart.

So I deliberately pitched the movie as a silly bit of froth to Trudi before showing it to her last night--an effort to create relatively low expectations that would balloon once she realized how funny the film is.

I think my scheme worked. Trudi, like Garbo, laughed.

Of course, it's not hard to laugh at Kaye's antics in TCG, perhaps his most consistently funny movie (yes, even over Knock on Wood, which has a bunch of sublime moments but overall is driven by a bit too much "serious" plot for my taste). TCG, a hilarious and well-mounted spoof of swashbucklers such as 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood (hey, it even has Basil Rathbone in it!), gives Kaye the opportunity to all of his most silly bits, such as linguistic torture, patter songs and impersonations of congested old men. But the film is most remembered for the "get it, got it, good" exchanges and the memorable "flagon with the dragon" debacle...lines that invariably end up in viewers' repertoires of quotable quotes.

Still, Kaye doesn't accomplish all this singlehandedly: Angela Lansbury, Cecil Parker and gravel-voiced Glynis Johns all turn in amusing performances, and Rathbone, whose name keeps turning up ominously in the opening credits, does his usual fine work as the (usual) villain. Frank and Panama, who also wrote the film, keep up a lively pace, though some of the "serious" moments tend to drag. (No one, in my opinion, goes to a Kaye movie for plot, just as no one watches a Marx Brothers flick just for the singing.) Thankfully, the "serious" moments are few and far between...something I believe Trudi appreciated.

Yea, verily, yea.

No comments:

Post a Comment