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
Based onbiography The Brothers Grimm by Dr Hermann Gerstner
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] or $6 million[2]
Box office$8,920,615[3]

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 and Jacob, and is biographical and fantastical at the same time. They are working to finish a history for a local Duke, 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 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 Studios, which had been his base for a number of years. In March 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 adapted from a biography of the brothers by Dr Hermann Gerstner.[4] (Pal had bought the screen rights to Gerstner's biography in February 1956 and hired Harmon in March).[5])

Pal signed an agreement with MGM to finance Galaxy's slate, the first film produced being tom thumb (1958), based on a Grimm fairytale. In 1957 Pal announce he wanted Grimm to follow tom thumb with Alan Young and Eddie Bracken in the leading roles.[6] In April 1958 he signed Mary Brown to do the costumes.[7]

However in May 1958, after discussions with MGM, Pal decided to make The Time Machine (1960) instead.[8]

In August 1959 Pal announced that key roles would be played by Russ Tamblyn, Alan Young and Yvette Mimieux. Tamblyn would make the film - which would be shot in Europe - after he got out of the army.[9] In December 1959 Pal was reportedly seeking Bing Crosby for a lead role.[10] That month Stan Ferberg was reportedly adding "special material" to the film.[11]

In July 1960 Hedda Hopper reported that Pal would make the film in America, not Europe.[12]

Pal then delayed the film again so that he could make Atlantis, the Lost Continent.[13] In August 1960 it seemed the film would be postponed indefinitely when Pal announced he intended to make The Return of the Time Machine.[14] However that film was postponed (it would never be made) and in January 1961 Pal announced Grimm would definitely be his next film.[15]


Pal wanted to cast Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness as the brothers, but was over-ruled by the studio.[16]

In March 1961 MGM reported Edmund Hartmann was working on the final script.[17] In March 1961 Pal confirmed Alan Young would appear in the movie.[18]

In April Laurence Harvey was cast as William Grimm.[19] The same month Karl Boehm was cast as his brother with Yvette Mimieux to play his wife.[20]

Mimieux wound up playing the dancing princess in the film while Barbara Eden was borrowed from 20th Century Fox to play Boehm's love interest.


The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm was produced and exhibited in the original three-panel Cinerama widescreen process. MGM had signed a deal with Cinerama to make four films that attempted to tell a cohesive story, unlike previous productions, which had all been travelogues. How the West Was Won would be the first film and in March 1961 MGM announced Grimm would be the second.[21] (After these two a single-lens Cinerama was used for narrative films.)[22]

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.[23]


Pal left for Munich in April 1961 saying he will use "every trick in the books" in the film. "We hope to get some wonderful special effects especially."[24]

Filming started 1 July 1961 (How the West Was Won started in June.) It took place on location in Bavaria, at Rothenberg and Dinkelsbuel. (Kassel, where the Grimms lived, had been bombed out.) After two months filming in Germany the unit returned to Hollywood. Henry Levin directed the Grimm brothers sequences while Pal did the fairyale ones.[25]


Box office

By September 1962 the film had been seen by a million people, 60% of them adults.[26]

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm grossed $8,920,615 at the box office,[3] earning $6.5 million in US theatrical rentals.[27] It was the 14th highest-grossing film of 1962.


The film won an Oscar and was nominated for three more:[28]



Pal wanted to cast Laurence Harvey in the title role of his next film, The Seven Faces of Dr Lao, but wound up using Tony Randall instead.[29]

Preservation status and home video

Original high quality elements for the film are damaged and incomplete, and scattered among various international archives.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32][33][34] Since then, other than a bootleg Italian DVD from a low quality source, there have been no further releases on home video.

Comic book adaption

  • Gold Key: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (October 1962)[35]

See also


  1. Sheldon Hall, Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History Wayne State University Press, 2010 p 164
  2. Grimm Film Is Brimming With Fun Los Angeles Times 22 July 1962: A5.
  3. Box Office Information for The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. The Numbers. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  4. GEORGE PAL FORMS OWN MOVIE GROUP: Former Paramount Producer Will Make 'Time Machine' as First of Six Films By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 16 March 1956: 19.
  5. Rock Hudson Will Play Role of Dean Hess, a Flying Parson Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 17 Feb 1956: a6
  6. Simon Bolivar Epic Shaping: Young, Bracken May Be Grimm; David Niven as Leslie Howard? Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 20 Nov 1957: B11.
  7. FILM EVENTS: Paramount in Deal With Ponti Los Angeles Times 8 Apr 1958: B7
  8. WHEELS TURN IN HOLLYWOOD: Columbia, Mirisch Brothers and George Pal Prepare To Launch Impressive Movie Production Schedules By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 4 May 1958: X7.
  9. Entertainment: 'Brothers Grimm' Will Star Tamblyn Los Angeles Times 6 Aug 1959: B8.
  10. Looking at Hollywood: Seek Audrey Hepburn for Role in 'Hawaii' Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 31 Dec 1959: n6.
  11. Palpitating 'Alamo' Windup Reported: Wayne 'Weary but Satisfied' as Budget Pushes $13 Million Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 16 Dec 1959: C15.
  12. Moss Hart Wants Hamilton for 'Act One' Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 7 July 1960: j2.
  13. New Unit Plans Comedy -- Pal Chart -- Addenda By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 21 Aug. 1960: X7.
  14. Bogarde to Star With Ava and Judy: 'Time Travel' Will Return; Remarque's Novel for Harvey Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 9 Aug 1960: 23.
  15. Marshall Reported a 'Miracle' Find: Pal Definitely Sets 'Grimm';. Los Angeles Times 23 Jan 1961: C9
  16. "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". Turner Classic Movies.
  17. Fabian Will Team With Dolores Hart Los Angeles Times 30 Mar 1961: A11.
  18. Nolan May Fly From 'Formosa' to 'China' Los Angeles Times 14 Mar 1961: C9.
  19. Harvey Given Role of Younger Grimm: Steve Forest 'West' Star; Academy Votes Special Oscars Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 7 Apr 1961: 25.
  20. Looking at Hollywood: Yvette Mimnieuxi's Career Will Keep Her in Europe Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 14 Apr 1961: b10.
  21. Of Local Origin New York Times 3 Mar 1961: 19
  22. Broader Uses for the Broadest Screen: Hollywood Letter By John C. Waugh. The Christian Science Monitor 9 May 1961: 4.
  23. GRIMM ELVES ESCAPE FIRE; CREATORS TO 'LIVE' IN FILM Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 26 Nov. 1961: A3.
  24. GEORGE PAL PLANS MOVIE ON GRIMMS: Master of Fantasy Says Film Will 'Use Every Trick' By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times 22 Apr 1961: 18
  25. George Pal to Use Bavarian Palaces: They'll Be Sets for 'Grimm'; Peppard Will Tour the East Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 11 Sept. 1961: C10.
  26. ADULTS OUTNUMBER KIDS SEEING 'GRIMM' Los Angeles Times 22 Sept. 1962: C7.
  27. "Top Rental Films of 1963". Variety, 8 January 1964, pg. 37.
  28. "NY Times: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  29. The Man in the Room at the Top Berg, Louis. Los Angeles Times 21 Apr 1963: P10
  30. Cinerama film preservationist David Strohmaier post, August 1, 2018
  31. Robert A. Harris post, July 30, 2018
  32. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm US VHS listing
  33. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm US LD listing
  34. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm Japanese LD listing
  35. "Gold Key: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm". Grand Comics Database.
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