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Once upon a Time

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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(Feb 25, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Academy Award(r) winner Cary Grant (Honorary Award, 1970) is at his suave best as slick showman JerryFlynn, a Broadway producer anxious to recapture the magic and reclaim the crowds after a series of costly flops. Outside his theatre one night, Flynn meets a young boy who just might save the day. The boy shows Flynn his pride and joy inside a small box: a caterpillar named Curly that dances to "Yes Sir, That's My Baby." Word quickly spreads about the amazingly talented hoofer, and the caterpillar becomes a symbol of hope for wartime America. Soon, offers are pouring in to capitalize on this sensational insect. Will Curly go Hollywood or will Flynn's get-richer quick scheme go to the bugs? ONCE UPON A TIME is a furry fairy tale that's fun for the whole family.

Cary Grant is, irrefutably, the greatest movie star of all time. For evidence, take a look at Once Upon a Time, an airy soufflé of a movie about a once-hot Broadway producer named Jerry Flynn (Grant), now on a cold streak, who discovers a young orphan boy with a dancing caterpillar. Convinced this will save his theater from being reclaimed by the bank, Flynn skillfully turns the caterpillar into a media sensation and becomes a substitute father for the boy--but he plans to sell the caterpillar to the highest bidder, even though he promised the boy that he wouldn't. The surprise in the movie is not how impossibly charming Grant is, but how willing he was to take chances; Flynn becomes more of a villain than you'd ever expect before he sees the right path, and Grant doesn't shy away from it. A slight movie, but a superb performance. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Janet Blair, William Demarest, James Gleason, Ted Donaldson, Howard Freeman
  • Directors: Alexander Hall
  • Producers: Louis F. Edelman
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 25, 2003
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000083C8L
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,582 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Once upon a Time" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I watched this film a long time ago, when I was a kid, and now being 35 years old, it made just the same effect on me, I was thrilled all the same. It is an innocent, naive little story from another time, that makes you feel like a child all over again!!
Grant's performance is excellent, as the cynical and self centered (at first) producer who, by chance, meets this little kid who states he owns a dancing caterpillar!! This child actor, Ted Donaldson, is absolutely believable as the kid, and gives a heart-wrenching performance, like an old pro.
James Gleason, once more, is all right as Grant's pal, and Janet Blair, a beautiful, lesser known actress from the '40s, is very good as the kid's elder sister, and besides, she's pretty, sexy and has a beautiful voice.
Apart from a couple of trailers, the dvd edition hasn't got any bonuses at all, and the picture quality is OK, but not as good as that of another Columbia Classic releases, but nevertheless, if you're a classic film buff, and you still got a kid's heart, hidden there inside, this movie belongs to your dvd collection.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Subtly effective fantasy drama - you never see the dancing caterpillar in the box, but the movie is about the people and how they react to the simple, almost insignificant miracle, and the relationship between the sneaky showman (unusually cynical role for Grant) and the boy who owns the caterpillar. Their relationship is wonderful except for one thing: Grant is trying to steal the boy's pet and sell it to Walt Disney, though he promised he wouldn't. For a mild, subtle story, the surprise ending is surprisingly satisfying. The DVD quality is fine.
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Format: DVD
Cary Grant had the uncanny knack for making even the most hollow of plots seem like high art. Consider the irrefutably light-hearted "Once Upon A Time" in which Grant is Jerry Flynn - a has-been Broadway producer who discovers an orphan with a dancing caterpillar. Flynn's savvy for creating a media event, turns the caterpillar into an off Broadway sensation. But when Jerry decides to sell his investment to the highest bidder, he must choose between fame and fortune and the respect and genuine love that the orphan has developed for him. The genuine surprise in this film is not how irrepressibly charming Grant is, but how willingly he steps into the unbecoming role of the villain who eventually chooses goodness over celebrity - a subtle bit of advice that most stars of today would do well to heed. "Once Upon A Time" is not high art, but it remains an enjoyable movie helmed by a finely wrought performance.
THE TRANSFER: Relatively clean for Columbia Tri-Star. The gray scale has been nicely balanced with solid blacks and nicely rendered contrast levels. There's a lot of age related artifacts for a picture that is inconsistent and not very smooth. However, once you've accepted these shortcomings, the film becomes reasonably enjoyable to view. Fine details are nicely rendered. There are no digital anomalies. The audio is mono but very well represented.
EXTRAS: Nothing of merit.
BOTTOM LINE: "Once Upon A Time" offers the chance to appreciate Cary Grant at his most subtly challenging and engagingly.
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Format: DVD
The large cast in this is wonderful, from Cary Grant to virtually every contract player who has a line; the production values as well. It would be impossible to cast a film like this with that kind of wall to wall talent now; its a small monument to the lost studio system. The problem is that with an intriguing premise and Cary Grant going for it, the film falls short in comparison to what Preston Sturges could have done with it in one direction or Frank Capra in another. It straddles being a children's tale or an adult's tale with a child at its center, probably for calculated economic reasons. It almost moves you, it almost becomes a giddy satire, it almost makes you believe the story, but just stops short. The ending is just right. And watching Cary Grant dance through the theatrical role makes you dream about what he could have done with "Twentieth Century". With a Sturges rewrite polish, this could have been...but it isn't.
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Format: DVD
Schmalzy story with a predictable ending. No need for a spoiler warning. Unless you're 5 years old - you already know how it ends within a minute of our introduction to "Curly" The Dancing Caterpillar.

Interesting Cary Grant vehicle as he doesn't play to his strengths in that this is more-or-less a children's movie. Quite possibly the only one he ever did, though he did adore children in real life. This is a proto-Disney film using a formula that Disney himself wouldn't realize for another half a decade, moving beyond animation for live action films.

And speaking of which...

Notable for having a rare Walt Disney onscreen performance, portraying himself.

There's something almost... sinister... in the way his "character" approaches the situation of Moke and Curly. The opportunistic dealing, Disney casually wants what he wants, using money as the grease to get things to swing his way. I'm not knocking the man - but this short screen appearance reflects the drive and energy that the early Disney Company displayed in becoming the modern 21st century corporate goliath it is today.

Overall a decent film for fans of Grant as he delivers a decent performance being a manipulative shyte-heel who realizes the errors of his ways and, like the unseen multiped hero, transforms into the truly nice guy that was hidden underneath the hardened business shell.
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