CLASSIC MOVIES: 'The Little Prince' (1974)

'The Little Prince' is a fragile allegory in book form by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Millions of copies of the book have been sold in multiple languages. In college, our student group spent hours discussing it. It was my ex-husband's favorite book. The message it delivers is subtle, thoughtful and delicate. The illusive quality of the book is translated to film in this musical version by writer Alan Jay Lerner.

In the movie, the little prince is played by a handsome, pint-sized English child named Steven Warner with an ethereal voice. He's a beautiful blond boy and dressed up in his princely costume, he has a commanding presence. As far as I know, Steven Warner never pursued a career in theater or movies.

Actor Richard Kiley plays the wandering earthman. Kiley uses his robust voice on songs with precious lyrics that are sometimes caught up in unusual rhyme rather than reason. But Kiley's gorgeous baritone can be astounding and inspiring.

The story itself preaches the cause against wars and artificial borders between people. The peaceful allegory is not particularly easy to understand. Much of it deals with the problem of accepting responsibility. That's a tough thing to explain, especially to young children. Adults who have read the original book may form a cult following for this film, but if you take a child under twelve years of age, parents should be prepared to do some explaining of the film's message.

Best song in the movie is sung by Bob Fosse, who directed "Cabaret" and the movie "Lenny." Fosse sings and dances the part of "A Snake in the Grass." He's a slithering, sibilant, black-suited soul with snakeskin spats. Fosse's dancing is accurate and inspired. It comes like an oasis of fresh, realistic spirit in the parched, imaginary desert of Saint-Exupéry's mind.

Production values are excellent, with Christopher Callis' flawless photography, Norman Reyonolds' art direction, and Johny Barry's production design handled in fine fashion. Producer Stanley Donen might have taken a cue from the book's primary message. "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly. What's essential is invisible to the eye." That's a very difficult premise to work out in a visual film. The movie is now available on DVD for those who wish to experience it. It's probably an acquired taste, and I still treasure it for personal reasons.

I give this movie a B- on Ellen's Entertainment Report Card.

For more information on 'The Little Prince' (1974), please link to:

(After the movie was gone from theaters, I purchased a vinyl recording of the music, which my husband transferred to audiotape cassette. The score to 'The Little Prince' became a favorite of mine for years, perhaps because I had a cute little son. I played that tape so many times, it because unusable. A few years ago, I purchased a VHS copy of the film from a seller at My two grandchildren watched it once and they were both very bored! Perhaps this is a children's story for adults, if there is such a category!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009