Experience the tongue-twisting musical mastery of Hollywood legend Danny Kaye on March 21 at 6pm with “The Inspector General” and “The Court Jester,” part of Tibbits Classic Film Series at Tibbits Opera House.
Leading man Danny Kaye left school at the age of 13 to work in the so-called Borscht Belt of Jewish resorts in the Catskill Mountains. From there he went through a series of jobs in and out of show business. In 1939, he made his Broadway debut in “Straw Hat Revue,” but it was the stage production of the musical “Lady in the Dark” in 1940 that brought him acclaim and notice from agents. Danny could sing and dance like many others, but his specialty was reciting those tongue-twisting songs and monologues.
Samuel Goldwyn signed Kaye and put him in a series of Technicolor musicals, starting with “Up in Arms” (1944). His debut was successful, and he continued to make hit movies such as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1947) “The Inspector General” (1949), and “White Christmas” (1954), which was based on the Irving Berlin song of the same name. In 1955, he made what many consider his best comedy, “The Court Jester” (1955), with the brilliant Pellet with the Poison routine. Some of his last roles were also his most memorable, such as an intense Holocaust survivor in “Skokie” (1981) and as a kind but goofy dentist in an episode of “The Cosby Show” (1984). He also worked tirelessly for UNICEF.
The first film of the evening will be “The Inspector General.” An illiterate stooge in a traveling medicine show wanders into a strange town and is picked up on a vagrancy charge. The town’s corrupt officials mistake him for the inspector general whom they think is traveling in disguise. Fearing he will discover they’ve been pocketing tax money, they make several bungled attempts to kill him. In addition to Kaye, this film stars Walter Slezak and Elsa Lanchester.
The night will close with the musical spoof “The Court Jester.” Former carnival performer Hubert Hawkins and maid Jean are assigned to protect the infant royal heir from tyrannical King Roderick. While Jean takes the baby to an abbey, Hawkins gains access to the court by impersonating the king’s jester, unaware that the jester is really an assassin hired by scheming Sir Ravenhurst. Hawkins is able to persuade Roderick and his men that he is indeed a jester, but his espionage work gets complicated when Princess Gwendolyn falls in love with him. “The Court Jester” also stars Basil Rathbone and Angela Lansbury.
“Danny Kaye Musicals” is the fifth installment of the Tibbits Classic Film Series, a set of monthly double features showcasing Hollywood classics from every decade. Coming up are “Bogie and Bacall” in April and “The Swift Sword of Errol Flynn” in May. The Classic Film Series is sponsored by Dr. Matthew Christopher, DDS. Admission to the film series is free. Concessions, including a cash bar, will be available for purchase. For more information, please visit Tibbits.org or call 517-278-6029.