Danny Kaye Double Feature: The Five Pennies / The Court Jester
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After his breakout success in the forties, and stints at an array of the major studios, Danny Kaye came to call Paramount Pictures home for much of the fifties. It was there that Kaye created some of his most memorable screen portrayals, as evidenced by the pair found in this collection (both of which enjoyed contributions from Kaye's songstress spouse, Sylvia Fine). The epic comic fantasy The Court Jester (1955) sees Kaye playing a fool who gets embroiled in a plot to overthrow a tyrant king. Thanks to the amazing all-star cast (including Angela Lansbury and Basil Rathbone), a score courtesy of Sylvia Fine and Sammy Cahn, and creators Norman Panama and Melvin Frank (and Kaye's considerable talents), The Court Jester is rightly considered a cinema classic. In The Five Pennies (1959), Kaye pairs up with Satchmo himself, the astonishing Louis Armstrong to bring the tale of Jazzman Red Nichols to life alongside a bevy of Big Band greats. Tuesday Weld makes her screen debut, too!
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In "The Five Pennies", Danny plays Red Nichols, a talented jazz cornet player who starts his own band, Red Nichols and The Five Pennies. Fresh from Ogden, Utah, Red sets out for New York City to conquer the music world. He meets Bobbie, a showgirl and singer who thinks Red is nothing but a hick. She gets him drunk on the Prohibition "Tea" served at the club, but after he shows what a great horn player he is, they fall in love and marry. They have a daughter, Dorothy, who loves being part of her father's band, although Bobbie is not too thrilled. Dorothy ends up contracting polio, forcing Red to retire from touring with the band and settling down in Los Angeles. He gave up his music to devote his life to caring for his stricken daughter. Once Dorothy is older and finds out what happened, she and Bobbie encourage Red to pick up his music career where he left off.
This features a fine cast. Barbara Bel Geddes (of "Dallas" fame) has a beautiful singing voice and is wonderful as Bobbie. She is the calm in the Red Nichols storm; Danny Kaye is superb as the outgoing, wild Red Nichols. While Danny pretended to play the cornet, the real Red Nichols actually dubbed the playing in this film. I always liked the little actress who played Dorothy; she reminds me of myself when I was her age. Also featured is a young Tuesday Weld as the 14-year-old Dorothy. And we can't forget the lovable Satchmo, who was a personal friend of Red Nichols.
This movie is well made and wonderful family viewing. I've watched it several times already. I highly recommend it. I haven't watched "The Court Jester" yet, but I love anything Danny Kaye is in. He is quite a talent, not only is he funny, but he is a good singer and dancer, as evidenced by his performance in "White Christmas." Danny was truly a unique talent.