The Full Wiki

Cuckoo clock in culture: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cuckoo clock has often featured in drama, literature, art and music. Frequently the cuckoo clock is symbol of kitsch. Just as often the comic potential of a mechanical bird is exploited. Although the cuckoo clock functions as a symbol of Switzerland and Swissness, in fact it only has a slim connection with that country in terms of production. The real home of the cuckoo clock is the Black Forest of Germany.




Since its popularization, from the 1850s on, the cuckoo clock has been a common character in children's literature, comics and cartoons, for educational and/or entertainment purposes. All this is due to children are usually enchanted by the “magic” of a happy bird which lives in a house-shaped clock and pops out to announce the hours. In literature for children examples include:

  • "The Cuckoo Clock", by Mrs. Molesworth and first published in Edinburgh (Scotland, U. K.) in 1877, which is the best-known and one of her most celebrated novels for children.[1]
  • "The Story of a Cuckoo Clock" (1887), by Robina F. Hardy.
  • "The Cuckoo in the Clock", a story by Enid Blyton, first published in the book "Round the Clock Stories" in 1945.[2]
  • "Curly Cobbler and the Cuckoo Clock" (1950), written and illustrated by Margaret Tempest.
  • "The Happy Hollisters", a book series by Andrew E. Svenson whose number twenty-four is "The Happy Hollisters and the Cuckoo Clock Mystery" (1956).
  • "Barnaby's Cuckoo Clock" (Tales of Hopping Wood) (published in 1958), text and illustrations by Rene Cloke.
  • "The Late Cuckoo" (1962), text and art by Louis Slobodkin.
  • "Hildy and the Cuckoo Clock" (1966), by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen, illustrations by Wallace Tripp.
  • "Peter Nick-Nock and the Cuckoo Clock" (1971), authored by Dorothy Edwards, illustrations by Alexy Pendle.
  • "Cuckoo Clock Island" (1974), author; Frances Eagar, art by Ann Strugnell.
  • "The Cuckoo Clock" (1986), by Mary Stolz and Pamela Johnson (illustrator).

There is also a novel called "The Cuckoo Clock" (1946) by Milton K. Ozaki.


In poetry can be quoted both two poems and two poetry books with the title “The Cuckoo Clock", which were authored, the first one by the major English poet William Wordsworth[3] between 1836 - 1842, first published in "Poems chiefly of Early and Late Years" (1842),[4] the second one by the American writer and publisher John Chipman Farrar, contained in his booklet "Songs for Parents"[5] published in 1921 and finally the poem books by the Scottish poet and writer Andrew Young (1922) and the Irish Shane Leslie's "The Cuckoo Clock and Other Poems" published in 1987.

There are two poems which share the same name too, it is "My Cuckoo Clock", composed by William John Chamberlayne,[6] included in the book of poems "The Enchanted Land" in 1892 and the other one by Robert W. Service,[7] published in the book "Carols of an Old Codger" (1954).


When it comes to the art of music, there is a musical work of the Spanish composer, conductor and violinist Tomás Bretón entitled "El reloj de cuco" (The Cuckoo Clock) (1898), a one-act Comedy Zarzuela divided into three scenes prose, libretto by Manuel de Labra and Enrique Ayuso. Other classical music pieces are;

And the compositions used for piano and string students (or for family entertainment) such as:

  • "The Old Cuckoo Clock", by Nina Batschinskaja, for piano solo.
  • "Cuckoo Clock Piano Duet", by Stuart Young.
  • "The Cuckoo Clock" (2003), composed by Lauren Bernofsky for elementary string orchestra.
  • "The Cuckoo Clock Duet" (2005), by Andy Beck, for 2-part voices and piano.
  • "Cuckoo Clock" (2006), by Deborah Ellis Suarez, piano solo.

In popular music, serve as examples the Christmas carol "The Cuckoo Clock"[8] by James Hipkins and contained in the weekly British music journal "The Musical World"[9] in 1856, the song "The Cuckoo Clock" (published in April 1909 in “The Ladies' Home Journal),[10] music by Louis R. Dressler and words by William Henry Gardner, the ballad "The Cuckoo Clock" (1916) chanted by Lucy Gates (soprano),[11] and "Cuckoo in the clock" (words by Johnny Mercer and music by Walter Donaldson) recorded by the Glenn Miller orchestra and vocals by Marion Hutton, which became a popular 1939 song in the U. S. To say that the hit was also performed by Johnny Mercer, Bobby Troup, Lena Horne, Sully Mason, Steve Jordan, Mildred Bailey and Martha Tilton.[12]

Years later, in 1962, The Beach Boys released their album "Surfin' Safari" including the theme "Cuckoo Clock". Another example in popular music is Fernando Olvera, the vocalist and leader of the Mexican pop-rock band Maná, who composed one of their most popular and emotive songs “El reloj cucú” (The Cuckoo Clock), from their album “Cuando los ángeles lloran” (1995), nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Performance.


In the art of sculpture exist two pieces titled "Cuckoo Clock", the first one was cast in bronze in 1991 by the Hungarian sculptor Armand Gilanyi and the second one in Styrofoam and acrylic paint by the American artist Bill Davenport (2005).


With regard to this art the cuckoo clock has been depicted in paintings like; "The Fiddler" (1932),[13] an oil on canvas by the Irish painter Leo Whelan, "Old Samovar and Cuckoo Clock" (1997), a cubist watercolor by the Russian Boris Smirnoff and "The Cuckoo Clock" (2007), oil on canvas painted by the American artist Ann Elizabeth Schlegel.

Graphic arts

In the field of graphic arts, in addition to the illustrators already quoted in the Literature section, it is worth to be mentioned a cuckoo clock plate of the British artist Walter Crane for Mrs. Molesworth's book "The Cuckoo Clock", as well as the pictures created by different illustrators for the various editions of the novel, such as; Charles Copeland (1895), Maria L. Kirk (1914), Florence White Williams (1927), C. E. Brock (1931) and E. H. Shepard for the 1954 edition. Also the print by the American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell "Courting at Midnight" (1919) display this clock.

On the other hand it has been drawn by cartoonists such as Vahan Shirvanian in his gag cartoon "Cat Hunting in a Cuckoo Clock", Edward McLahlan's "Cuckoo Clock Judge", Dan Reynolds in "Clown's Cuckoo Clock", etc.[14]


As animated cartoon can be seen in series, shorts and feature films (many made during The Golden Age of Hollywood animation) such as:

Based on a composition by the musician Stephen Coates from The Real Tuesday Weld, the animated music video "Bathtime in Clerkenwell" (2003) directed by Alex Budovsky and being about "The Great Revolution of the British Cuckoos taking over London", won the next awards: The Grand Jury Award for the best animated short at Florida Film Festival 2003, The Best of Show Award from ASIFA-East 2003, the 2004 best animated short at Sundance and the 2004 Sundance Online Film Festival Viewers Award in the animation category.

Lately it is used on computer animation with the objective of telling a story, entertaining and/or commercializing a product. As examples are the French short films "Coucou clock" (2005) and "L'engrenage" (2007) or the stories of "Jack the Cuckoo" (2005), awarded with the Best Viral Marketing campaign (2006),[15] in the area of Internet and Multimedia, in the tenth edition of the Italian awards Mediastars, the authoritative national event dedicated to advertising, corporate design and multi-media communications campaigns.


In the drama in two acts "Ganksklukka" (The Cuckoo Clock) (1962), by the Icelandic dramatist, writer and poet Agnar Thórdarson, the author presents a powerful play on the dehumanizing effect of modern life.[16]


As the seventh art, the cuckoo clock (and its variant cuckoo and quail clock) has figured in different movies through the history of cinema. Examples include:

  • "The Cuckoo Clock" (1912), a short film with Edward P. Sullivan, Julia Hurley and Charles Herman.
  • "M" (1931), by Fritz Lang.
  • Laurel and Hardy's short "Dirty Work" (1933), by Lloyd French.
  • "The Third Man" (1949), directed by Carol Reed, in which Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles) said: "You know what the fellow said—in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." This remark was not in the script by Graham Greene but was added by Welles (in the published script, it is in a footnote); Greene wrote in a letter (Oct. 13, 1977) "What happened was that during the shooting of The Third Man it was found necessary for the timing to insert another sentence." Welles apparently said the lines came from "an old Hungarian play"; the painter Whistler, in a lecture on art from 1885 (published in Mr Whistler's 'Ten O'Clock' [1888]), had said, "The Swiss in their mountains ... What more worthy people! ... yet, the perverse and scornful [goddess, Art] will none of it, and the sons of patriots are left with the clock that turns the mill, and the sudden cuckoo, with difficulty restrained in its box! For this was Tell a hero! For this did Gessler die!" In This is Orson Welles (1993), Welles is quoted as saying "When the picture came out, the Swiss very nicely pointed out to me that they've never made any cuckoo clocks."[17]
  • "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956), a science fiction film directed by Don Siegel.
  • "Lampa" (The Lamp) (1959), a short film by Roman Polanski and one of his earliest works.
  • "The Sound of Music" (1965), by Robert Wise, being part of the popular song "So Long, Farewell".
  • "Bunny Lake Is Missing" (1965), by Otto Preminger.
  • "Blade Runner" (1982), a cult movie directed by Sir Ridley Scott.
  • "Out of Africa" (1985), by Sidney Pollack.
  • "Saraband" (2003), the last film of Ingmar Bergman. Etc.
  • "Mystery Science Theater 3000": "Secret Agent Super Dragon" (episode 504), in which Crow, as Secret Agent Super Dragon pulls a secret message out from the back of a cuckoo clock, says: "Congratulations on your purchase of a Black Forest Cuckoo Clock."


Regarding to television, this kind of clock is, amongst other TV series, on Alfred Hitchcock Presents "Triggers in Leash" (1955) and "The Cuckoo Clock" (1960) or "Realization Time" (1990) of Twin Peaks.

It appears on children's shows as well, like on The Munsters and the Irish educational series Wanderly Wagon where both featured a sarcastic raven, called Charlie on the first one and Mr. Crow on the second one, living inside a cuckoo clock. Other examples include, The Banana Splits Show where it was a secondary character, two same name episodes entitled "The Cuckoo Clock", the first one on Jackanory (season 10, episodes from 36 to 40, 1971) based on Mrs. Molesworth's novel and the second one on Ivor the Engine (1975), as well as some episodes of Fraggle Rock, like “The Thirty-Minute Work Week” (1983) and Goosebumps "The Cuckoo Clock of Doom" (1995), a Canadian/American horror series for children based on the same name books by R. L. Stine. Sometimes has appeared on commercials, like Mentos or Volkswagen.

On the original The Addams Family TV series, the family has a parody of a cuckoo clock with a lion that comes out and roars the hour.

The Munsters had a clock with a wise-cracking raven instead of a cuckoo that often popped out to squawk "Nevermore!" (in a parody of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven), usually in response to a rhetorical question from one of the Munster family.

The British comedy Dave Allen at Large has a sketch taking place in the American West, in which an outlaw loads his revolver and heads for a saloon just before noon, against the pleas and begging of his woman not to go through with it. He tells her, "It's high noon and a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. There ain't no other time I can do it!" He goes into the saloon where there is a cuckoo clock on the wall. At the stroke of twelve, when the door on the cuckoo clock swings open he shoots the bird. He then tells her, "Like I said, there ain't no other time I can do it!"

British comedian Eric Sykes frequently obtained humour from the cuckoo clock in his house in the 1970s sit-com Sykes. The temperamental bird inside was called Peter.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Sanjay Sircar. Classic Fantasy Novel as Didactic Victorian Bildunsroman (...). Project Muse.
  2. ^ Miscellaneous Blyton Story Books. Stella Books.
  3. ^ The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth (1892), page 203. Google Books.
  4. ^ The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth (1892), page 331. Google Books.
  5. ^ John Chipman Farrar. Songs for parents. Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Leslie Retallick. Catalogue of the Art Collections. Torre Abbey (Historic House & Gallery). Lieutenant General W. J. Chamberlayne, page 17.
  7. ^ Robert Service. My Cuckoo Clock. Robertwservice.
  8. ^ James Hipkins. The Cuckoo Clock (A carol for Christmas). The Musical World, Vol. XXXIV, 26 December 1856, p. 819. Google books.
  9. ^ Richard Kitson. The Musical World (1836-1891). National Information Services Corporation (USA).
  10. ^ Louis R. Dressler & William Henry Gardner. The Cuckoo Clock. The Ladies' Home Journal, April 1909, p. 51.
  11. ^ Lucy Gates. The Cuckoo Clock. Can be listened on Internet Archive
  12. ^ Ralph Mitchell. Johnny Mercer's Songs on CD. The Johnny Mercer Educational Archives.
  13. ^ Leo Whelan. The Fiddler. Crawfordartgallery.
  14. ^ Cuckoo Clock cartoons by different cartoonists. Cartoonstock.
  15. ^ Mediastars X Edizione. See Sezioni, Internet & Multimedia, Internet, then Premi I Classificato Viral Marketing
  16. ^ Scandinavian literature: The development of the Icelandic drama. Source: Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. On the website see Comment, paragraph 4. Heniford.
  17. ^ Nigel Rees, Brewer's Famous Quotations, Sterling, 2006, pp. 485-86.
  18. ^ Sykes


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address