A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949 film)
|A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tay Garnett|
|Produced by||Robert Fellows|
|Written by||Edmund Beloin|
|Based on||A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court|
by Mark Twain
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Edited by||Archie Marshek|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|April 7, 1949 (New York City)|
April 22, 1949 (USA)
|Box office||$3 million|
Based on the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) by Mark Twain, the film is about a mechanic in 1912 who bumps his head and finds himself in Arthurian Britain in AD 528, where he is befriended by a knight and gains power by judicious use of technology. When he falls in love with the King's niece, her fiancé Sir Lancelot takes exception, and when he meddles in the politics of the kingdom, trouble ensues.
Filmed from October to December 1947, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court was released on April 22, 1949 and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film was a popular success and became one of the highlight films of 1949.
Hank Martin (Bing Crosby), an American mechanic, is knocked out and wakes up in the land of King Arthur. Here he finds romance with Alisande la Carteloise (Rhonda Fleming) and friendship with Sir Sagramore (William Bendix).
Unfortunately, the heroic Hank also incurs the hatred of both Merlin (Murvyn Vye) and Morgan le Fay (Virginia Field). While Hank persuades King Arthur (Cedric Hardwicke), an aged, semi-perpetual, cold-in-the-nose invalid, to tour his kingdom in disguise to see the true, wretched condition of his subjects, Merlin and Morgan plot to usurp his throne. When Hank tries to stop them, he is returned to his own time.
Heartsick over losing the woman he loves, he goes on a tour of a British castle. Its owner, Lord Pendragon (Hardwicke again), sends him to see his niece, who looks just like Alisande.
The film soundtrack was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke. The orchestral score was written by longtime Paramount staff composer Victor Young, who also conducted the orchestra for many of Crosby's Decca Records recordings.
- "If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon" by Bing Crosby
- "When Is Sometime" by Rhonda Fleming
- "Once and for Always" by Bing Crosby and Rhonda Fleming
- "Busy Doing Nothing" by Bing Crosby, William Bendix and Cedric Hardwicke
- "Once and for Always" (reprise) by Bing Crosby and Rhonda Fleming
- "Twixt Myself and Me" by Murvyn Vye (this was cut from the film after its world premiere at Radio City Music Hall, New York).
A highlight of the film is the scene in which Hank Martin teaches the court musicians how to "jazz up" the medieval music they are playing. Perhaps the best-known song from the score is "Busy Doing Nothing", which Hank, Sir Sagramore and the King sing when they are strolling through the woods pretending to be peasants.
The cast made separate recordings of the songs used in the film for Decca Records in December 1947 and these were issued as a 78rpm album set. Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.
- Bing Crosby as Hank Martin/Sir Boss
- Rhonda Fleming as Alisande la Carteloise
- Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Lord Pendragon/King Arthur
- William Bendix as Sir Sagramore
- Murvyn Vye as Merlin
- Virginia Field as Morgan le Fay
- Joseph Vitale as Sir Logris
- Henry Wilcoxon as Sir Lancelot
- Richard Webb as Sir Galahad
- Alan Napier as High Executioner
- David Stollery as Billy (uncredited)
The film opened on April 7, 1949 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and, together with the Music Hall's annual Easter pageant and stageshow, generated the Music Hall's biggest four-day Easter gross at the time, grossing $146,000 in its first week. The following week, with children out of school and the theatre opening at 7:45 a.m. to enable six showings a day, it grossed a Music Hall record $170,000 and became the number one film in the United States.
Contemporary reviews praised Crosby's performance but had mixed assessments about other aspects of the film. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was positive, writing: "The solid, reliable humors of Mark Twain’s 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,' which have already done yeoman service in two films and a Broadway musical show, have been given another going over—with eminently satisfactory results—in Paramount’s new film of the same title, which came to the Music Hall yesterday. And for this we can thank Bing Crosby, primarily and above all, because it is Bing in the role of the Yankee who gives this film its particular charm ... But it is still Bing’s delightful personality, his mild surprises and sweet serenities, and his casual way of handling dialogue that makes this burlesque a success. No one in current operation could qualify, we are sure, to play the Connecticut Yankee the way the old Groaner does. Harrison's Reports also liked the film, calling it "A very good romantic comedy" with "numerous situations that will provoke hearty laughter." Edwin Schallert of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "All in all, I would put this picture well up among Paramount's Crosby features as an effort to accomplish something different ... It is a pleasantly fabulous excursion in the dream classification, and the cutback to the medieval past is effectively enough introduced in this adaptation of the Mark Twain story."
Variety was not quite so enthusiastic. "Picture wears the easy casualness that's a Crosby trademark, goes about its entertaining at a leisurely pace, and generally comes off satisfactorily. It's not high comedy and there’s little swashbuckling." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post wrote that the idea was "so promising that it's a shame the picture collapses," explaining, "The early half of the picture accepts Bing's particular brand of easy charm ... But social welfare work among the downtrodden peasantry (there's even a scene that reminds you of 'Monsieur Vincent') hardly fits into my idea of cheerful musical comedy." John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote that Crosby was "effortlessly amiable," but that the film lacked the wit of the 1931 Will Rogers version and that the songs were inferior to those of the Rodgers and Hart stage musical.
- "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". AFI Film Catalog. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
- Variety 18 February 1948 p7
- "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
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- Reynolds, Fred (1986). Road to Hollywood. Gateshead, UK: John Joyce. p. 187.
- "Commercial Recordings - The Decca Years". A Bing Crosby Discography. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
- "Full cast and crew for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- "New Pix Help B'way; 'River'-Mooney Fast $72,000, Crosby-Easter Pageant Big 147G, 'Champion' Sockaroo $41,000". Variety. April 13, 1949. p. 9 – via Archive.org.
- "Np B'way Easter Eggs; Bing All-Time High $170,000, 2d; 'Belvedere'-Blaine Terrif 160G, 'Champion' Socko 43G 2d". Variety. April 20, 1949. p. 9 – via Archive.org.
- "National Boxoffice Survey". Variety. April 20, 1949. p. 3 – via Archive.org.
- Crowther, Bosley (April 8, 1949). "The Same Old Crosby Playing 'Connecticut Yankee' for 'King Arthur, at Music Hall City Across the River,' Study of Juvenile Delinquency, New Bill at Capitol". The New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
- "'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' with Bing Crosby, William Bendix and Rhonda Fleming". Harrison's Reports. February 26, 1949. p. 35.
- Schallert, Edwin (April 29, 1949). "Bing Crosby Jousts With Olden Knights". Los Angeles Times. p. A6.
- "Variety". February 23, 1949. Cite magazine requires
- Coe, Richard L. (April 29, 1949). "Bing's 'Yankee' Too High-Minded". The Washington Post. p. C9.
- McCarten, John (April 16, 1949). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 95.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
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