THE LITTLE PRINCE
This is a film adaptation of the Saint-Exupéry story. Here, the story was turned into a brassy, cumbersome American musical. It was written directly for the screen by Broadway musical specialists Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, who had classics like Brigadoon (1947), My Fair Lady (1956) and Camelot (1960) to their name. The film was directed by Stanley Donen, a specialist in film musicals with the likes of Royal Wedding (1951), Singin in the Rain (1952), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1957), Funny Face (1957) and Damn Yankees (1958). Unfortunately for Stanley Donen, The Little Prince came at a point when public interest in musicals was nosediving amid a string of well-publicised flops, and effectively ended his career as a director of musicals.
Even though the film remains faithful to the text of the story, it is ponderous and deadening. Its construction as a classical-styled musical drags the story out. While many of Stanley Donens other film musicals have a frothy effervescence, he fails to give the exercise here much in the way of enervation. The films only enlivening moment is a wonderfully slithery self-choreographed number from famed dance choreographer/film director Bob Fosse of Cabaret (1972), All That Jazz (1979) and Star 80 (1980) fame as the Snake in the Grass. Another dance sequence with Gene Wilder, giving what must be one of the worst in a whole career of awful performances, is excruciatingly over the top. The scenes between the Pilot and Prince certainly play with a wry humour and deft matter-of-fact absurdism but then the score keeps returning to drag proceedings to a standstill.
One of the plus points of the film are its highly unusual sets and effects. The Princes asteroid is a sphere only 15 feet in diameter we see him walk the entire way around the equator, stepping over tiny volcanoes and across The Statesmans borders and countries that are no bigger than a puddle of water. There are other memorable images Clive Revill as the businessmen living in a world filled with towers of books; or the Princes flight through space holding onto a flock of animated silver birds. Eight year-old Steven Warner has a plaintive and sweetly endearing presence as the Prince what ever happened to Warner one wonders?
The Little Prince (2015) is a French-made animated remake, although this invents a far wider story that surrounds the text. A far more impressive version of the story was a short film version made by Claymation animator Will Vinton in 1979. There was a further animated adaptation made for German tv in 1990. There have also been two films based on the life of Antoine De Saint-Exupéry the British production Saint-Ex (1996) with Bruno Ganz in the title role, and the French tv production Saint-Exupéry: The Last Mission (1996) starring Bernard Giraudeau.
Stanley Donens other films of genre interest are: Damn Yankees (1958), a musical about diabolic temptation and baseball; the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore black comedy, the original Bedazzled (1967), a dark satire on pacts with the Devil; and the killer robot film Saturn 3 (1980).