Thespian Thursday: The Court Jester

by The Collected Mutineer

If someone asks me what my favorite film is, I’ll probably say Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Or I might say Casablanca. Maybe The Princess Bride…? Okay, I have a long list of favorites that are difficult to choose from. But one movie that’s been on the list since before I can even remember is perhaps the funniest spoof on medieval epics ever filmed: The Court Jester (1955).

I’m not the only person who thinks that, either. Critic Leonard Maltin gave the film four stars, saying that it’s “one of the best comedies ever made.” But it didn’t always have such a funny reputation. It was an extremely expensive film (in fact, it was the most expensive comedy made at the time) that bombed at the box office and was a disappointment to the studio. But luckily for us, The Court Jester followed in the footsteps of It’s a Wonderful Life, gaining an enormous fan base and becoming a family favorite after being shown to the masses on television.

The Court Jester follows the adventures of a group of outlaws in medieval England who are determined to ensure that the rightful king—a young orphaned baby—is on the throne. Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) is part of the outlaw gang, but not as a “Robin Hood”; he is silly and bumbling, and although he desperately wants to be part of the action, the leader of the group has put him in charge of entertainment. Hubert eventually gets his chance when he and the leader’s daughter Jean must transport the baby king to safety. The pair is inevitably thrown into a den of intrigue, danger, and lies—all with heavy doses of jokes in true Kaye style.

The supporting cast is just as marvelous as Kaye, with stellar performances from Basil Rathbone (making fun of himself in previous films), Angela Lansbury (yes, and she is BEAUTIFUL), and Glynis Johns. Everything in this film adds up to not only being a wonderfully told story but a magnificent spoof with memorable lines from virtually every character in the same realm as Monty Python.

I won’t give the rest away, but there is one scene that you may have heard referenced in other areas of pop culture, and that is well worth watching. I leave you with the film’s most famously quoted exchange: “the vessel with the pestle.”

If you enjoy medieval epics, comedies, or just generally making fun of stuff, you NEED to watch this. You can rent it on Amazon right now!