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The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm is a 1962 American fantasy film directed by Henry Levin and George Pal. The latter was the producer and also in charge of the stop motion animation. The film was one of the highest-grossing films of 1962. It won one Oscar and was nominated for three additional Academy Awards. Several prominent actors — including Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Jim Backus, Barbara Eden, and Buddy Hackett — are in the film.

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
Souvenir program cover
Directed byHenry Levin
George Pal (fairy tale sequences)
Produced byGeorge Pal
Screenplay byCharles Beaumont
William Roberts
David P. Harmon
Story byDavid P. Harmon
StarringLaurence Harvey
Claire Bloom
Karlheinz Böhm
Barbara Eden
Walter Slezak
Oscar Homolka
Yvette Mimieux
Russ Tamblyn
Jim Backus
Beulah Bondi
Buddy Hackett
Music byLeigh Harline
Bob Merrill (songs)
CinematographyPaul Vogel
Edited byWalter A. Thompson
George Pal Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Cinerama Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • August 7, 1962 (1962-08-07)
Running time
135 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.25 million[1]
Box office$8,920,615[2]

It was filmed in the Cinerama process, which was photographed in an arc with three lenses, on a camera that produced three strips of film. Three projectors, in the back and sides of the theatre, produced a panoramic image on a screen that curved 146 degrees around the front of the audience.



The story focuses on the Grimm brothers, Wilhelm (Laurence Harvey) and Jacob (Karlheinz Böhm), and is biographical and fantastical at the same time. They are working to finish a history for a local Duke (Oscar Homolka), though Wilhelm is more interested in collecting fairy tales and often spends their money to hear them from locals. Tales such as "The Dancing Princess" and "The Cobbler and the Elves" are integrated into the main plot. One of the tales is told as an experiment to three children in a book store to see if publishing a collection of fairy tales has any merit. Another tale, "The Singing Bone", is told by an old woman (Martita Hunt) in the forest who tells stories to children, while the uninvited Wilhelm secretly listens through an open window. The culmination of this tale involves a jeweled dragon and features the most involved usage of the film's special effects.

Wilhelm loses the manuscript of the Duke's family history while writing down this third story - he is supposed to be collecting additional information for the family history - and the brothers cannot meet their deadline. They are required to pay their rent, which was waived while they worked. As a result of wading through a stream in an effort to retrieve the manuscript (which fell into the water after his briefcase broke open), Wilhelm becomes critically ill with potentially fatal pneumonia. He dreams that at night various fairy tale characters come to him, begging him to name them before he dies. In the dream, Russ Tamblyn reprises his role as Tom Thumb from the 1958 film. Wilhelm's fever breaks, and he recovers completely, continuing his own work while his brother publishes regular books, including a history of German grammar and a book on law. Jacob, shaken by his brother's experience, begins to collaborate on the fairy tales with Wilhelm.

They are ultimately invited to receive honorary membership at the Berlin Royal Academy, which makes no mention of the tales in their invitation. Jacob prepares to make a speech deliberately insulting the Academy for snubbing Wilhelm. As their train pulls into the station, hordes of children arrive, chanting, "We want a story". Wilhelm begins, "Once upon a time, there were two brothers". The children cheer, and the film ends with a caption card that reads "…and they lived happily ever after".




In the mid-1950s George Pal left Paramount, where he had worked for a number of years. In 1956 he announced the formation of his own company, Galaxy Pictures, saying he would make six films, including an adaptation of The Time Machine written by David Duncan; Captain Cook, based on the novel Lost Eden; a film about Atlantis; and The Brothers Grimm, based on a script by David Harmon based on a biography of the brothers by Dr Hermann Gerstner.[3] Pal ended up signing an agreement with MGM to finance Galaxy's slate, the first film produced being tom thumb.

In 1957 Pal announce he wanted Grimm to follow tom thumb with Alan Young and Eddie Bracken in the leading roles.[4] Pal ended up making The Time Machine instead.[5]

Pal announced that key roles would be played by Russ Tamblyn, Alan Young and Yvette Mimieux.[6] Pal then delayed the film again so that he could make Atlantis, the Lost Continent.[7]

Pal wanted to cast Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness as the brothers, but was over-ruled by the studio who wanted Laurence Harvey and Karl Boehm.[8]


The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm was produced and exhibited in the original three-panel Cinerama widescreen process. It was the first Cinerama feature that attempted to tell a cohesive story, unlike previous productions, which had all been travelogues. It was followed a few months later by a second such film, How the West Was Won, after which single-lens Cinerama was used for narrative films.[9]

George Pal said three fairy tales were chosen which would look good in Cinerama. He also wanted to use lesser-known fairy tales so the audience did not know how they ended: The Dancing Princess, The Cobbler and the Elves and The Singing Bone.[10]


Filming took place on location in Bavaria.[11]


Box officeEdit

By September 1962 the film had been seen by a million people, 60% of them adults.[12]

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm grossed $8,920,615 at the box office,[2] earning $6.5 million in US theatrical rentals.[13] It was the 14th highest-grossing film of 1962.


The film won an Oscar and was nominated for three more:[14]


Preservation status and home videoEdit

Original high quality elements for the film are damaged and incomplete, and scattered among various international archives.[15] As of August 2018, it is the only film originally shot in Cinerama to remain unrestored. The cost of a full digital scan and restoration of the best surviving elements has been estimated by film preservationist Robert A. Harris at between $1 million to $2 million.[16]

MGM/UA Home Video released the film on VHS and LaserDisc in the U.S. in 1989 and 1992, respectively, and on LaserDisc in Japan in 1997.[17][18][19] Since then, other than a bootleg Italian DVD from a low quality source, there have been no further releases on home video.

Comic book adaptionEdit

  • Gold Key: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (October 1962)[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sheldon Hall, Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History Wayne State University Press, 2010 p 164
  2. ^ a b Box Office Information for The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  3. ^ GEORGE PAL FORMS OWN MOVIE GROUP: Former Paramount Producer Will Make 'Time Machine' as First of Six Films By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times... New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]16 March 1956: 19.
  4. ^ Simon Bolivar Epic Shaping: Young, Bracken May Be Grimm; David Niven as Leslie Howard? Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]20 Nov 1957: B11.
  5. ^ WHEELS TURN IN HOLLYWOOD: Columbia, Mirisch Brothers and George Pal Prepare To Launch Impressive Movie Production Schedules By THOMAS M. PRYOR HOLLYWOOD... New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]04 May 1958: X7.
  6. ^ Entertainment: 'Brothers Grimm' Will Star Tamblyn Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]06 Aug 1959: B8.
  7. ^ New Unit Plans Comedy -- Pal Chart -- Addenda By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]21 Aug. 1960: X7.
  8. ^ "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". Turner Classic Movies.
  9. ^ Broader Uses for the Broadest Screen: Hollywood Letter By John C. Waugh. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file); Boston, Mass. [Boston, Mass]09 May 1961: 4.
  10. ^ GRIMM ELVES ESCAPE FIRE; CREATORS TO 'LIVE' IN FILM Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]26 Nov. 1961: A3.
  11. ^ George Pal to Use Bavarian Palaces: They'll Be Sets for 'Grimm'; Peppard Will Tour the East Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]11 Sept. 1961: C10.
  12. ^ ADULTS OUTNUMBER KIDS SEEING 'GRIMM' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]22 Sept. 1962: C7.
  13. ^ "Top Rental Films of 1963". Variety, 8 January 1964, pg. 37.
  14. ^ "NY Times: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  15. ^ Cinerama film preservationist David Strohmaier post, August 1, 2018
  16. ^ Robert A. Harris post, July 30, 2018
  17. ^ The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm US VHS listing
  18. ^ The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm US LD listing
  19. ^ The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm Japanese LD listing
  20. ^ "Gold Key: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". Grand Comics Database.

External linksEdit