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  Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, A Nights At The Round Table
Year: 1949
Director: Tay Garnett
Stars: Bing Crosby, Rhonda Fleming, Cedric Hardwicke, William Bendix, Murvyn Vye, Virginia Field, Joseph Vitale, Henry Wilcoxon, Richard Webb, Alan Napier, Julia Faye, Mary Field, Ann Carter
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance, Historical, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: An American vacationing in England of 1911, Hank Martin (Bing Crosby) is keen to see Pendragon Castle because he feels it might be rather familiar. Once he puts an offering in the collection box for the orphanage fund, he walks in to catch the final tour of the day, but on seeing the collection of shields, suits of armour and paintings from King Arthur's day, it would appear he knows more about them than the guide, who is most put out. Hank is summoned to the bedroom of the infirm Lord Pendragon (Cedric Hardwicke) to explain himself, and it's here the story comes out. It all happened back in his Connecticut home, where he was a blacksmith...

This was the musical version of Mark Twain's famous tale, and who better to play the title character than Der Bingle himself? And he brought just the lightness of touch necessary to what was a pretty frothy production, a story of a blacksmith who was knocked out during a thunderstorm when his startled horse threw him and found himself hurtled back in time to the days of Merrie Old England. Naturally, any connection between actual England in the supposed Arthurian era and the Hollywood version of it as depicted here was purely coincidental.

So amusingly innaccurate was the film that the first person Hank meets when he awakes is a knight played by that famed British thesp, erm, William Bendix, bringing a touch of absurdity to the medieval dialogue by keeping his Brooklynese tones. His character, Sir Sagramore, is under the misapprehension that Hank, with his unfamiliar clothes, is a monster and takes him back to meet King Arthur, regaling the court with a made up tale of how Hank is a werewolf he defeated. Unluckily for Mr Martin, as a result he is escorted off to the cells for execution the next day, but not before he has caught the eye of the King's daughter Alisande (Rhonda Fleming).

Considering Twain was one of the greatest wits of all time, you might expect some sharper humour than what you are offered here, but although the plot hops from incident to incident as the book does, there's little that's really laugh out loud funny. And the songs are not the best offered to Bing, all excepting one that occurs quite late on in the film, when the court intrigue develops into a properly captivating narrative. Before that, Hank manages to extricate himself from his predicament of impending doom by using a lens to set fire to the cloak of boo hiss villain Merlin (Murvyn Vye), which those present take to be magic.

This means Hank is free to go, and sets up his own blacksmith's while winning the heart of Alisande, whose name he shortens to Sandy. It all gets more interesting when our hero decides to fight injustice in the Kingdom and persuades the King and Sagramore to pose as peasants, but this gives the bad guys an opportunity to put them in a very difficult position that only a certain eclipse can help them out of. This adds much needed suspense to the film, and although it's not as if the three of them are in any real danger it provides more entertainment than the mild humour. The highlight? Has to be Crosby, Hardwicke and Bendix cheerfully trilling Busy Doing Nothing, three minutes or so of absolute Hollywood charm. Music by Victor Young, with Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke taking care of the songs.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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