ⓘ The Little Prince (1974 film)

The Little Prince (1974 film)

ⓘ The Little Prince (1974 film)

The Little Prince is a 1974 British-American fantasy-musical film with screenplay and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe. It was both directed and produced by Stanley Donen and based on the 1943 classic children-adults novella, The Little Prince, by the writer, poet and aviator Count Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who disappeared near the end of the Second World War some 15 months after his fable was first published.

The film and its music were unsuccessful at the box office but became somewhat popular after its theatrical run, and has been released for sale on various media.


1. Background

The original Little Prince was first published in 1943, and is the most famous work of the French aristocrat, writer, poet and pioneering aviator Count Antoine de Saint-Exupery 1900–1944. It is a poetic tale self-illustrated in watercolours in which a pilot stranded in the desert meets a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. The story is philosophical and includes societal criticism, remarking on the strangeness of the adult world.

Though ostensibly a childrens book, The Little Prince makes several profound and idealistic observations about life and human nature. For example, Saint-Exupery tells of a fox meeting the young prince during his travels on Earth. The storys essence is contained in the lines uttered by the fox to the little prince: On ne voit bien quavec le coeur. Lessentiel est invisible pour les yeux. "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye." Other key thematic messages are articulated by The Fox, such as: "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed" and "It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important." The Foxs messages are arguably the most famous because of their nature of dealing with relationships.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote and illustrated The Little Prince in New York City and Asharoken, N.Y. in mid-to-late 1942 while exiled in the United States after the Fall of France, with the manuscript being completed in October. It would be first published in early 1943 in both English and French, but only in the U.S. It would later appear in his native homeland of France posthumously, after the liberation of Paris, as all of Saint-Exuperys works had been banned in Nazi-occupied France. Since first being published the novella has been adapted to various media over the decades, including audio recordings, stage, ballet, and operatic works.

The fantasy-musical film adaptation of The Little Prince was directed and produced by Stanley Donen, and stars Steven Warner in the title role, with Richard Kiley as the aviator, titled as The Pilot. Additional cast members included Bob Fosse as The Snake, Gene Wilder as The Fox, Donna McKechnie as the petulant, vain Rose, Joss Ackland as The King, and Victor Spinetti as The Historian. The films desert sequences were shot on location in Tunisia. In real life, The Foxs character is believed to be based on one of Saint-Exuperys lovers, Sylvia Hamilton Reinhardt, with The Rose being attributed to the authors wife, the Countess Consuelo de Saint Exupery.

The production was Lerner and Loewes final musical. The musics creative team were dissatisfied with the films Hollywood treatment, with Loewe refusing to visit London to supervise the arrangement and recording of the score.


2. Plot

Based in the 1943 classic book of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the fable tells the story of an aviator played by Richard Kiley forced to make an emergency landing in the Sahara Desert. There he is befriended by a young boy, the Little Prince, who had descended to Earth from Asteroid B-612. In the days that follow, The Pilot hears about his past and various journeys throughout the solar system.

As he travels through space, the Little Prince encounters several strange grown-ups on different planetoids, all with a skewed or curious way of looking at life. But it is not until he finally reaches Earth, that the Little Prince learns his most important life lessons of all, mainly from The Fox Gene Wilder, and The Snake Bob Fosse. Before the Little Prince dies, he shares those lessons with The Pilot. Although The Pilot tries to keep the Little Prince alive, the boy disappears in the morning and The Pilot searches for him in the desert but gives up after realizing that the Little Prince never existed. Soon The Pilot is able to start his plane and flies away but hears the laughter of the Little Prince in the starry night; he believes the boy has returned to space.


3. Cast

  • Joss Ackland as The King
  • Richard Kiley as The Pilot
  • Donna McKechnie as The Rose
  • Clive Revill as The Businessman
  • Gene Wilder as The Fox
  • Graham Crowden as The General
  • Bob Fosse as The Snake
  • Victor Spinetti as The Historian
  • Steven Warner as The Little Prince

Richard Burton was actively pursued for the role of The Pilot. Burton had a huge success on Broadway with Lerner and Loewes musical production Camelot, but turned down the role in The Little Prince.


4. Musical numbers

  • "Im on Your Side" - The Pilot
  • "I Never Met a Rose" - The Pilot
  • "Its a Hat/I Need Air" - Chorus/The Pilot
  • "Finale: Little Prince" - Chorus
  • "Youre a Child, Pt. 2" - The Businessman
  • Overture - Orchestra
  • "Youre a Child, Pt. 1" - The King
  • "Little Prince" - The Pilot
  • "Why Is the Desert" - The Pilot and The Little Prince
  • "Closer and Closer and Closer" - The Fox and The Little Prince
  • "Be Happy" - The Rose
  • "A Snake in the Grass" - The Snake

5. Production

The film was shot on location in Tunisia.

In 1973, Lerner and Loewe recorded the score at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, with Lerner on vocals and Loewe at the piano. It included "Matters of Consequence", which was cut from the film. It is one of only a few existing recordings of the duo performing together.

The film had production design by John Barry not to be confused with composer John Barry, who later composed a musical adaptation of The Little Prince for Broadway.


6. Release

The film opened at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on November 7, 1974 in a show including The Nativity, The Rockettes and the Will Irwin Orchestra and grossed $215.000 in its opening week.


7. Legacy

Bob Fosse appears in the film as The Snake for one song, "A Snake in the Grass", during which he does a dance sequence that he choreographed, which includes trademark Fosse elements such as hip thrusts, jazz hands and use of hat and jacket as props. This scene in the film has been speculated to have been a major influence on singer Michael Jacksons costume and choreography for performances of his 1982 hit song "Billie Jean". Fosses dance sequence even included a variation on the moonwalk, a dance step that Jackson included in his "Billie Jean" performances that later became his signature move.

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