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The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roy Rowland
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Dr. Seuss, Allan Scott
Starring Tommy Rettig
Mary Healy
Hans Conried
Peter Lind Hayes
Music by Frederick Hollander
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) July 1, 1953
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. is a 1953 musical fantasy film. It is best known for being the only feature film ever written by Theodor Seuss Geisel ("Dr. Seuss"), who was responsible for the story, screenplay, and lyrics. It was directed by Roy Rowland. The film was rereleased in 1958 under the title Crazy Music.



Young Bart Collins lives with his widowed mother Heloise. The major blight on Bart's existence is the hated piano lessons he is forced to endure under the tutelage of the autocratic Dr. Terwilliker. Bart feels that his mother has fallen under Terwilliker's sinister influence, and gripes to visiting plumber August Zabladowski, without much result. While grimly hammering away at his lessons, Bart dozes off and enters a fantastical musical dream, in much the same fashion as Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

In the dream, Bart is trapped at the surreal Terwilliker Institute, where the piano teacher is now a madman dictator who has locked up all non-piano-playing musicians in a dungeon and constructed a piano so large that it requires Bart and 499 other enslaved boys (the aforementioned 5,000 fingers) in order to play it. Bart's mother has been turned into Terwilliker's hypnotized assistant and bride-to-be, and Bart must dodge the Institute's guards as he scrambles to save both his mother and himself. He tries to recruit Mr. Zabladowski, who has been hired to install all of the Institute's sinks ahead of a vital inspection, but only after much skepticism and foot-dragging is the plumber finally convinced to help. The two of them empty their pockets and construct a noise-sucking contraption which ruins the mega-piano's opening concert. The enslaved boys cheerfully run riot, and the "VERY atomic" noise-sucker explodes in spectacular fashion, bringing Bart out of his dream.

The movie ends on a hopeful note for Bart, when the real-life Mr. Zabladowski finally notices Heloise, and offers to drive her into town in his jeep. Bart escapes from the piano, and triumphantly runs off to play.


Although he had written the original treatment and all the song lyrics, Geisel regarded the finished film as a "debaculous fiasco" and omitted any mention of it in his official biography with Random House.[1] At the film's Hollywood premiere, it was reported that patrons walked out on the film after 15 minutes, and box office receipts were equally disappointing.[2] Nevertheless, the film has gained a cult following over the years, and has been favorably compared to the live-action adaptations of Seuss's works made since his death.

Featured cast

Actor Role
Tommy Rettig Bart Collins
Mary Healy Heloise Collins
Hans Conried Dr. Terwilliker
Peter Lind Hayes August Zabladowski

Healy and Hayes were married in real life when they made the movie.

Musical score

The film is almost entirely musical, with either background music or actual musical numbers. Composed by Frederick Hollander (born Friedrich Hollaender) with lyrics by Dr Seuss, the score was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953. Along with standard orchestral instruments, the score also uses a theremin. A soundtrack CD was released by El in Association with Cherry Red Records Ltd (ACMEM126CD). In addition to the film's score the CD includes 11 songs that were not included in the film. They are

  • My Favorite Note (Hans Conried)
  • Oh! We Are the Guards (The rollerskating Siamese Twins)
  • I Will Not Get Involved Parts 1 and 2 (Peter Lind Hayes)
  • Grindstone (Peter Lind Hayes)
  • Money (Peter Lind Hayes)
  • Terwilliker (Hans Conried and Mary Healy)
  • I Will Not Go To Sleep (Hans Conried)
  • Many Questions (Mary Healy)
  • One Moment Ago (Chorus and Orchestral versions) Stills exist of Hayes and Healy singing this in a duet but the track is lost.

There was also an additional verse to the Elevator Song, which was in the original release of the film, but edited out for the re-release and television runs of the film.

Influences on other works

  • A Broadway musical version of the film, with a new score by Glen Roven, was developed in 2000.[3]
  • The character of Bart Collins has been adopted in a UK anti-drugs advert. Promoting the service "Talk to Frank" - a drugs advice line. He appears in various locations asking questions such as "what do you use this vase for?" (about a bong), and "how long are you going to feel like that for?" (to a girl clearly on a comedown).
  • The Simpsons: Villain Sideshow Bob takes his last name "Terwilliger" from this film.[4]


  1. ^ Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography (NY: Da Capo P{ress, 1996). p. 136.
  2. ^ Thomas Fernsch, The Man Who Was Dr. Seuss (NY: New Century Books, 2001), pp. 104-105
  3. ^ Lefkowitz, David (2001-09-27). "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T Will Have to Wait Till 2003". Retrieved 2009-12-13.  
  4. ^ Carroll, Larry (2007-07-26). "'Simpsons' Trivia, From Swearing Lisa To 'Burns-Sexual' Smithers". MTV. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  

External links



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