Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seuss's Dr. T—we have it!

From NPR's Composer's Datebook by John Zech:
Today's date marks the 1953 New York premiere of a musical movie that flopped at the time, but has since become a cult classic—and for two very good reasons.
First, the movie's script—written by Dr. Seuss—was about a little boy named Bart who didn't enjoy practicing the piano , and who was worried that his widowed mom might marry the dreaded piano teacher, Dr. Terwilliker. The film, entitled "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," is cast as Bart's dream—or nightmare—with surreal scenarios as only Dr. Seuss could imagine them.
Second, the film boasted a score by Friedrich Hollaender, a composer of droll Berlin cabaret songs who found a welcome home for his talent in Hollywood. For "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," Hollaender crafted witty songs and an extravagant instrumental sequence for a whacky Seussian ballet.
Despite all this, The New York Times reviewer was bored: "a ponderously literate affair," he wrote. Little kids who saw the film in 1953 weren't bored; on the contrary, they were scared silly by the movie. Too dull for The Times, too scary for kids, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" did not do well at the box office in 1953.
The film did have its fans, however, and one was a little boy who did like to practice the piano, singer and pianist Michael J. Feinstein, who lovingly gathered together all of Hollaender's used and unused music for the movie for a limited edition CD-set released in 2010.
Above right: One of Theodor Geisel's wonderful "adult" paintings, titled "Fooling Nobody." specializes in limited edition prints and original artworks by Dr Seuss.


  1. I love Dr. Seuss, his books and the film adaptations were such a huge part of my childhood. I've never even heard of this film so I will definitely have to check it out.

  2. I saw this years ago! Easy to see how people just weren't ready for it (they probably wouldn't be now, either!) but it's a wild ride. Anything Seuss touched, in my opinion, is golden!