Downtrodden but creative English school-teacher (Danny Kaye) on archeological trip discovers joys of love and circus life with acrobat (Pier Angeli).
Danny Kaye ... Andrew Larabee
Pier Angeli ... Selena Gallini
Salvatore Baccaloni ... Antonio Gallini (as Baccaloni)
Noel Purcell ... Matthew Larabee
Robert Coote ... Dudley Larabee
Patricia Cutts ... Letitia Fairchild
Rex Evans ... Gregory Larabee
Walter Kingsford ... Mr. Fairchild
Peter Mamakos ... Vittorio Gallini
Rhys Williams ... Constable
Tommy Rall ... Ugo Gallini
Directed by top choreographer Michael Kidd, Merry Andrew makes for wonderful entertainment. By the late 50's,the golden era of movie musicals was practically over(Kidd himself starred in another great, late-period MGM musical-It's Always Fair Weather with Gene Kelly & Dan Dailey) Danny Kaye's film career was also in decline by 1958-amazingly 1956's The Court Jester was a costly financial failure, he never had another real hit and his film career was pretty much over by 1963. Merry Andrew isn't a typical Kaye vehicle (I wonder if it was even written with the star in mind?) There are no Sylvia Fine 'patter' songs and very little of the zany comedy at which the star excelled. Instead there are a handful of wonderful Johnny Mercer-Saul Chaplin songs, some great set-piece dance numbers courtesy of Michael Kidd and one of the most charming performances ever captured on film(from Danny of course) Danny Kaye is a treasure- without him this film would have been a minor movie, with him it's a classic.
This film should be made available on DVD. Why has Danny Kaye neglected when it comes to DVD? So few of his films are available.
Danny Kaye used to do a routine (which I saw several times on his television series from the 1960s) where he would speak with a soulful Russian accent, and consider his plight: Should he live for art or "pinney mooney" (his pronunciation)? In MERRY ANDREW the question could be rephrased to: Should I live for love or "pinney archeology"? That imagined misquote sums up the plot of this amusing musical trifle. Kaye (Andrew Larrabee) is a house master and amateur archaeologist in a public school that is run by his tyrannical father Noel Purcell. He is engaged to Patricia Cutts, whose family has known his for years. Both of his older brothers are in education too, but Robert Coote and Rex Evans have managed to get jobs outside of the orbit of their father. As the film begins, Kaye's main problem is his easy and whimsical manner with his students rubs "old school" Headmaster Purcell the wrong way. But he is in a position to solve the problem of regaining his father's respect because he thinks that he knows the location of the site of a Roman temple to Pan, and that the statue of Pan may still be there.
Unfortunately, when Kaye goes to the site it is occupied by a family of acrobats led by Salvatore Baccaloni. The family comprises of five brothers and Pier Angeli. They are going to be using the area for their circus for most of the summer - the very months when Kaye is on holiday from his house master chores and when the digging will be good. Kaye's only solution is to join the circus, and dig for the treasure when he completes the chores. But he and Angeli keep getting into each other's way, and slowly he becomes enamored by her. Her father, a man of ancient Italian spirit, understands the young people are in love and instructs Kaye that he expects him to behave like a gentleman. One night, while out digging, he falls into the ruins, as does Angeli (who is helping him), they spend the night in the ruin sleeping innocently enough, but the brothers find them the next morning and suddenly Baccaloni is demanding Kaye behave like a gentleman and do what is expected: propose. And Kaye does...only to return home that day and find Cutts and her father (Walter Kingsford) there. Kaye would have wanted to tell Purcell, gently, what happened. Instead, he finds he has to make a second marriage proposal. The reason: his discovery of the ruins shows his reputation as an archaeologist is made, so nothing SHOULD prevent their engagement.
THe only disappointment is that the long anticipated statue of Pan is missing. Kaye was certain that it was there when he first fell into the ruin, but it is missing. In any event, Kaye has to now try to figure out how to get out of the embarrassing mess he is currently in.
Then one of his charges from the circus, the chimpanzee, turns up. It delivers the Pan - which the chimp purloined. Kaye now has to return the chimp. But he also has to avoid Baccaloni and his sons, and Angeli, and he has to keep Purcell from recognizing there is a chimp in the headmaster's house (in Kaye's rooms).
Confusing isn't it? But very funny, as is the resolution of the plot. The songs are not classic Kaye patter tunes, like "Anatol of Paris" or "Tschaikovski", but "Tikkity Boo", "Pan", and "Salud" have their charms The second time that "Salud" is sung it helps complete a joke at Walter Kingsford's expense - the activities of the scene ending in the reprise of "Salud" include Kaye and Purcell managing to douse Kingsford with toasting sherry, and as Kay finishes the tune Kingsford gets a third accidental dousing - all of which he accepts with a reverse aplomb, as though apologetic that he had the temerity to be standing where that sherry should have fallen!
Purcell, always wonderful as tyrannical Victorian types, has a choice moment of bewilderment...he was not wearing his spectacles, although he did notice a chess move that his oldest son should have played to counteract Kaye's game (while he passed through Kaye's chambers). However it was Coote he saw, or was it a chimpanzee wearing Coote's smoking jacket?
Then there is the moment that the five brothers, chasing the man who shamed their sister, confront a sixth brother in their midst. Who is the impostor...or were there always six?
Perhaps not in the category of THE COURT JESTER or THE INSPECTOR GENERAL, but definitely a good comedy.
One of Danny Kaye's best, without the need to twist his tongue. The sheer innocence of life shines throughout this film. It needs to be added to the D.V.D. arena, as it deserves to be. It was an unexpected delight to observe, as a child, and to share as time passed on. Graceful as ever, be he swinging around with clowns, or dancing to the skills shared by Micheal Kidd, Danny is a joy to behold. It doesn't matter that this film was produced prior to my birth, for it stands on it's own values, as valid entertainment. It continues to prove that love and laughter remain timeless. Joshing along, and learning to sing with these adorable songs grew so easy, as well. There might be more to this little musical the second time around, for the next viewer, as well.
This is definitely my favorite Danny Kaye film. When I was a child, I was always amused by his antics. When I got older, his silly-ness was 'over-the-top' and completely lost on me. Except, of course, for MERRY ANDREW. It still shines.
The circus provides ample fodder for his comedy. He is a fish out of water, completely lost in this simple world. The story is a down-to-earth, believe-able comedy of errors. A nice love story, an escape from his family's stodgy academic life, lots of music, and a happy ending. To me, less is more. KAYE didn't seem to try as hard for laughs in MERRY ANDREW and the relaxed performance was one of his best.....