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The Five Pennies (1959)

Danny Kaye , Barbara Bel Geddes , Melville Shavelson  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)

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The Five Pennies
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Product Details

  • Actors: Danny Kaye, Barbara Bel Geddes, Louis Armstrong, Harry Guardino, Bob Crosby
  • Directors: Melville Shavelson
  • Writers: Melville Shavelson, Jack Rose, Red Nichols, Robert Smith
  • Producers: Jack Rose
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: December 13, 2005
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BDH6B2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,310 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Five Pennies" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Danny Kaye shows off his keen musical sense in the lead role of The Five Pennies, the life story of cornet master Red Nichols--or at least the Hollywood version of Nichols'd life. The movie gets off to a kicky start as Nichols joins a big-city band, meets his future wife (Barbara Bel Geddes), and sits in on a speakeasy session with Louis Armstrong. Armstrong's in the movie a lot, and there are smaller roles for other musical names such as Bob Crosby and Ray Anthony. The tunes include a batch of standards but also new songs written by Sylvia Fine, Danny Kaye's wife and the creator of his signature wordplay routines. The film's main dramatic device--that Nichols eventually sacrifices his career to care for a sick daughter--must be slogged through while the decent jazz sequences come and go. Whether you're a Danny Kaye fan or not, this film emphasizes his very real musical "touch" (in his manner, not his cornet playing; Red Nichols dubbed the horn himself). It also proved Kaye could handle melodrama at least as easily as frantic comedy, and yet this 1959 film was near the end of his run as a movie actor. Director Melville Shavelson, most associated with comedy, does an atmospheric job of staging the jazz numbers, especially in the colorful clubs. This is well-served by a snazzy transfer to DVD--even the opening credits are a treat, a cool example of late-1950s graphic design. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Five Pennies is Worth Its Weight in Gold December 21, 2005
Times change. Stars fall and are forgotten. Even worse, an actor is remembered for only one type of role and his unique work is pushed to the background. It is our good fortune to finally have one of Danny Kaye's finest performances on DVD. The Five Pennies is now available on a barebones release.

Kaye is known for some brilliant comedies including The Court Jester, and for some more subtle performances like Hans Christian Anderson, but here he combines the best of the two. In what purports to be the life story of famous cornet player, Loring "Red" Nichols, Kaye is wonderful. Along for the ride is Barbara Bel Geddes (Broadway's Maggie the cat) as wife Bobbie. With her close, squinty eyes and squat shape, she is not exactly a movie babe, but she is terrific actress and great acting partner for Kaye.

Three things up the ante of this film to excellent: the Oscar-nominated color photography in VistaVision by Daniel L. Fapp, the music performed by Louis Armstrong and Nichols himself as Kaye mimes the playing, and the performance of child actress Susan Gordon as Dorothy Nichols.

Kaye's scene with Gordon as he croons the Oscar-nominated title tune (written by his wife Sylvia Fine) is as touching a moment ever captured on film. Kaye and Gordon seem to transcend themselves to actually become father and daughter. Their poker scene is charming. Gordon (who grows up to be Tuesday Weld later in the film) holds her own musically with Kaye and Armstrong and is a movie moppet to be adored.

Illness in the family, quitting show business, and other problems populate the final third of the film, but it is all presented with the proper sentiment. When Red picks up his cornet again, we are glad.

The Five Pennies, its superb cast, 20 great musical numbers, and beautiful settings would be a welcome addition to your collection. Kaye will touch your heart, and Gordon will make you smile with a tear in your eyes.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Single Movie Ever Made in the World November 17, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Words cannot describe how wonderful this movie is. My grandma got me this movie when I was 9 years old, and this enspired me to take up the cornet. This movie will make you cry with tears of joy. I takes you to the life of Loring "Red" Nichols and how he struggled to make it big. His Dixiland arrangements were looked down upon at first, until his "five pennies" which included such people as Jimmy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman were known nation wide. No other acter more perfectly fits the shoes of Red Nichols than Danny Kaye. Once you get into the first five minutes or so, pressing stop will be the hardest thing you've ever done. So if Louis Armstrong's bright golden tone sends shivers up your spine and the sound Big Band music makes you tap your feet, buy this movie as soon as you can. You'll wonder why you didn't sooner.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly delightful - Danny Kaye's best! April 4, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
A funny, warm, and perfectly wonderful musical -- the best kind of family entertainment. Danny Kaye is simply perfect as Red Nichols, the great jazzman of the 20's, and the bonus is the terrific music (many of which, I was surprised to discover later, were all Nichols' own songs). Wonderful work by Barbara Bel Geddes and the other featured players, especially the adorable little girl who plays Kaye's daughter. I've watched it again and again -- I think you will too.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another person begging for DVD September 17, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This is one of my all-time favorite movies from my childhood. I was a teenager when I learned it was really a true story.

The performances by all concerned were much Louis Armstrong can't possibly be anything BUT a good thing. And Danny Kaye, as always, makes you just love the man.

This movie is so great on so many levels. Yes, it often tends to be a sentimental tear-jerker, but I'll take that over watching Bruce Willis and Ahnold blow things up any day.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure! March 16, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Like other reviewers, this movie was a childhood favorite of mine- I was only 4 when I first saw it, but I actually remember some of the scenes from that first viewing. What a treasure to have it on DVD-- with such a beautiful transfer. Colors are vibrant, the acting is great, story is a "classic", and the music is out-of-this-world. Get it if only for the Louie Armstrong performances with Danny Kaye. If you don't own a large-screen TV, this movie will make you want to get one! Great for family viewing to introduce your kids to New Orleans/Big Band sounds and teach them a little about history (polio epidemic of the 40s/50s).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Five Pennies DVD and audio CD release? July 14, 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This is a wonderful film, a real moving tear jerking classic. An excellent performance by Mr. Kaye, as always, and unique footage of Louis Armstrong. Wonderful jazz harmonies. When will this movie receive the credit it deserves and be released on remastered DVD and audio CD? Movie studios you have been told!!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars *****BEST MOVIE EVER MADE!! August 27, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
This movie shows Danny Kaye at his best. Not only do we get to experience his signature comedy, but we also get to see another side of him. This is a touching story about a father's love for his daughter and should be seen by anyone who has ever known the kind of love where you would sacrifice everything for the happiness of another. This movie is far too neglected in its recognition as a great film.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked Classic February 14, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
I had never heard of this movie when I came upon it on tv one day, but I have always been a Danny Kaye fan, so I decided to watch, never expecting to be absolutely floored. This is such an entertaining and heart-warming film that I recommend to anyone! The songs between Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong (especially When the Saints Go Marching In) are so spirited that they are worth the entire movie! But as an added bonus, it just so happens that the plot and the acting are also superb! This is more than just a "cute" Danny Kaye film. This is really quite a masterpiece. For anyone who thinks of Danny Kaye as a comedian, watch this movie and you'll learn that he is a great actor. He will bring you to tears. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie!
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Topic From this Discussion
Cost: why is "Five Pennies" so expensive
I don't get it either...I LOVE this movie, but it's up to nearly $100 now. That's ridiculous. Not since VCR's first came out and I paid $60 for a video tape of Friendly Persuasion have I seen such a high price on a feature movie. I've paid that and more for things like "War and... Read More
Dec 31, 2011 by Lorelei_1 |  See all 2 posts
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