Friday, February 12, 2010

The Little Prince (1974) - The Lerner and Lowe Movie Musical Directed by Stanley Donen, That's A Lot

I always thought that The Little Prince was just an animated series on Nickelodeon so it surprised me when I was flipping through Disney Channel and saw that it was also a musical made in 1974. I was 10 back then. I later on found out that all of this, the animated series, the musical, and later on the Rachel Portman Opera was based off of the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The story bring us into the world of an unnamed aviator who gets stranded in the dessert and finds company with a strange boy and his strange stories of planetary travel.
The movie, directed by Singing the Rain director Stanley Donen, is very close to the book, as are most of the adaptations of this story that I've seen. They usually have the same intro involving a drawing of an elephant being eaten by a snake. It's not a hat dammit.

After the intro with the drawing, the aviator gets stranded in the dessert, meets the prince and the prince tells his story, or stories, of what led him from his planet, called B612, and the many people and places he's met in his journeys.
What sets this version apart from other versions is the music by legendary music men Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe who also did the music and lyrics for Camelot and My Fair Lady. The songs are pretty good with "You're a Child" taking up the majority of his planetary visits. The songs do have a tendency to drag though. There are some songs I know i definitely would have cut for time. This movie is not long, it's 88 minutes, but due to songs that kind of drag, it feels loooong. I am a firm believer that music is story in a musical and for the most part this movie follows that rule, but there are one or two songs here that feel unnecassary and stretched too thin.
Gene Wilder and Bob Fosses get top billing in this movie, and neither of them are the aviator or the prince. Gene Wilder plays a Fox and Bob Fosse plays a dancing snake. Both meet the prince in his travels and affect him greatly. Great scenes they are. Bob Fosse's dancing is phenomenal, but it's one of those scenes that I believe was stretched too thin.
The aviator is played by stage and screen actor Richard Kiley. The prince is played by Steven Warner who's only other starring role would be in the disastrous 1976 film version of The Blue Bird. Both actors play off of each other very well really helps keep the story focused.
The effects are amazing with the 2d animated birds who carry the prince through his planetary travels and the fish eye lens that is used as he visits each planet, except for earth of course. Imagine a movie where most of it is shot with a fish eye lens. Scary huh?
A pretty good movie, but would've been much better with a few edits. If you read the book I have no doubt you'll love this. For musical theater fans, you might find enjoyment in the acting and singing and those Lerner and Lowe songs. For the rest of the world though, watch with caution.

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