Friday, November 04, 2016

indelible moment: Donen's "The Little Prince"

In the mid-1970s, Stanley Donen teamed up with Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe - you know, the guys who did "My Fair Lady" - for a musical film based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry beloved gem, "The Little Prince"/"Le Petit Prince." The film was troubled given that the casting of The Pilot - Frank Sinatra, Gene Hackman, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Richard Burton were all suggested - proved gnawingly elusive.

Reliable Richard Kiley would play the role.

The resulting film ran a trim 88 minutes which was considered perfect in some quarters and suspect in others. Studio intervention? Hmmm. Donna McKechnie's role as The Rose seemed particularly truncated. But, overall, the movie is a tiny gem. Donen got it right, particularly in his casting of Bob Fosse as The Snake and, truly inspired, Gene Wilder as The Fox.

The film's stand-out moment is also the book's: It comes when Wilder, with his champagne-colored, fluffy hair and dressed in a handsome auburn suit, scurries about and stops in a field of wheat to intone:


                "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly.
                     What's essential, is invisible to the eye."

Lovely. And, yes, indelible.

12 comments:

Adrian said...

There has been a great deal written about Donen as a stoyteller, but no one ever mentions his talent as visual stylists, and, with the possible exception of "Two for the Road," as a social commentator. I think he achieve both in "The Little Prince."

Abby said...

OH MY! How have I never seen this movie! Not only is Gene Wilder one of my favorite actors he is my neighbor! Hello Netflix?

joe baltake said...

Abby! You're in for a treat. -J

joan said...

I so love this movie. For all the reasons you name, and especially for the long, lingering shot of Wilder, stock still in the middle of that field; however, nobody ever mentions the child. Donen's casting genius on this film must have reached some sort of apparitional high point in choosing the most perfect, most sober yet winsome child actor to portray the LP. Amazing

elane said...

One of my favorite movies, based on one of my favorite books. Charming.

Alex said...

Great moment!!!

Charlotte said...

That moment in the book always brings tears to my eyes and Donen honored them by the way he visualized that moment. Brilliant!

Joe Amodei said...

Do you know what happened to the new version of this film and why it was recently pulled from release? I too love this film!
Joe

Joe Amodei said...

This is a lovely film that has never left me since seeing it fr the first time upon release. There was a remake that was recently pulled from release and I am not sure why.

joe baltake said...

Hey, Joe! A voice from the past. Yes, the remake. An animation with a lot of high-powered voice actors - Jeff Bridges, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Bud Cort, Benicio Del Toro and Paul Rudd. (Did I miss anyone?) But, based on this synopsis provided by IMDb, it doesn't sound very promising: "A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince." Sounds like the makers gave it an unnecessary wrap-around story. Not good. -J

smoggyinla said...

Joe Baltake! I read so many of your reviews for the Sacramento Bee back in the mid-to-late 80s when I was a young twenty-something just discovering the magic and the power of cinema, and years before I'd make it to L.A. myself. Your writing always inspired, and taught me what to look for. It's great to see you on here.

joe baltake said...

smoggyinla! Many thanks for the kind words and apologies for my belated reply. I have fond memories of my time in Northern California even though, as a critic, I never received so much hate mail! Which the powers at the Bee loved. Actually, the reader reaction was exhilarating. I miss that, too! -J