The Stratford Adventure (Morten Parker, 1954)

NFBAnother Oscar-nominated NFB documentary, The Stratford Adventure (Morten Parker, 1954) presents Tom Patterson’s efforts in establishing a Shakespearean Festival in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario, a Canadian namesake to the Bard’s birthplace complete with its own River Avon. Parker’s little docudrama relies heavily on plucky ’50s optimism and the rallying presence of famed Old Vic producer Tyrone Guthrie who acted as a consultant and director to the Festival’s first season. Now called The Stratford Festival, it remains one of Canada’s major arts events and an internationally celebrated centre for Shakespearean performance.  Criterion Collection fans will no doubt appreciate the behind-the-scenes perspective on the Festival’s inaugural production of Richard III and the appearance of Alec Guinness.

As per the NFB:

This short film depicts how a small Canadian city, bearing the name of Stratford and by a river Avon, created its own renowned Shakespearean theatre. The film tells how the idea grew, how a famous British director, international stars and Canadian talent were recruited, and how the Stratford Shakespeare Festival finally became a triumphant reality.

The Living Stone (John Feeney, 1958)

NFBWith its mandate to make Canadians familiar with all the regions of their diverse nation, the NFB paid particular attention to the remote, seldom-visited Arctic, filming over 200 works on Canada’s north and its peoples. New Zealand-born John Feeney directed ten NFB productions between 1954 and 1963, focusing primarily on the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic and garnering two Academy award nominations for Documentary Short Subjects – one for The Living Stone (1958) and the other for Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak (1963). The Living Stone was one of two productions Feeney intended on shooting in Cape Dorset in May 1957 but bad weather forced Feeney to return to Montreal with only his film on Inuit sculpture being completed. The NFB previously collected 24 of its best films on the Far North into a DVD box set, Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories, and currently presents the films as a playlist on its streaming website.

As per the NFB:

This documentary shows the inspiration behind Inuit sculpture. The Inuit approach to the work is to release the image the artist sees imprisoned in the rough stone. The film centres on an old legend about the carving of the image of a sea spirit to bring food to a hungry camp.

The Court Jester (Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, 1955)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Court Jester.

criterion logoIn this swashbuckling comic farce, star Danny Kaye plays kind-hearted entertainer Hubert Hawkins who disguises himself as the legendary king of jesters Giancomo.  Hawkins infiltrates the court of the usurping King Roderick (Cecil Parker) and his conniving adviser Lord Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone), but when a sorceress hypnotizes him, royal chaos ensues as Hawkins also believes he is an infamous assassin, alternating identities at the snap of a finger.  Between wordplay and swordplay, Danny Kaye displays his fancy footwork and his comic genius.  With a stellar supporting cast, including Glynis Johns, Angela Lansbury, and Mildred Natwick, Kaye sings and dances among dueling knights and damsels in distress, proving through it all that this jester is one of the original kings of comedy.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 4K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • “The Secret Life of Danny Kaye,” Edward R. Murrow’s 1956 See It Now episode following Kaye on his 10 country, 50,000 mile tour as a UNICEF ambassador
  • Assignment: Children, Paramount’s 19-minute film for UNICEF documenting Kaye’s examination of the conditions children face in the Third World
  • Three appearances by Kaye on What’s My Line?
  • The Secret Life of Danny Kaye, a 2012 BBC Radio 2 documentary narrated by Elliott Gould and including interviews with Kaye, his daughter Dena Kaye, and performers including Shirley MacLaine, Pat Boone, Michael Caine, Rob Reiner, Anne Rutherford, and Glynis Roberts
  • An Evening with Danny Kaye and the New York Philharmonic,” a 1981 episode of Live from Lincoln Center featuring Kaye as guest conductor
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by comedian Bill Hader

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