Faerie Tale Theatre (1982–1987)
4 user 2 critic

The Nightingale 

1:14 | Trailer
A kitchen maid and a nightingale help save the emperor with the power of song and friendship.


Ivan Passer





Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Mick Jagger ... The Emperor
Bud Cort ... Music Master
Barbara Hershey ... The Maid
Edward James Olmos ... Prime Minister
Mako ... Gardener / Minister
Chao Li Chi ... Gardener (as Chao-Li Chi)
Keye Luke ... Imperial Doctor
Bobby Porter ... Death Spirit
Ellen Wakamatsu Ellen Wakamatsu ... First Lady of the Court
Susan Haruye Susan Haruye ... Second Lady of the Court
Ji-Tu Cumbuka ... Emperor's Bodyguard
Jerry Hall ... Pansy
Anjelica Huston ... Primrose
Alberto Isaac ... Servant #1
Maysie Hoy Maysie Hoy ... Housekeeper


A kitchen maid and a nightingale help save the emperor with the power of song and friendship.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

royalty | bird | See All (2) »







Release Date:

10 May 1983 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The production design was inspired by the work of French artist Edmond Dulac, who had in fact illustrated his own version of the fairy tale. See more »


Version of Die chinesische Nachtigall (1928) See more »

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User Reviews

Could have been a total disaster, turned out actually pretty good
18 June 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

There is a lot to like about the 'Faerie Tale Theatre' series. Many of their adaptations of various well-known and well-loved fairy tales are charming, clever and sometimes funny, a few even emotionally moving. 'Faerie Tale Theatre' puts its own magical spin on the best of the episodes while still capturing the essence of the stories.

Expectations for "The Nightingale" were mixed. The story is a lovely one and most of the 'Fairy Tale Theatre' episodes are very good or more with a huge amount to like. At the same time, the casting on paper seemed strange. Mick Jagger as the Emperor? Barbara Herschey as a maid? Edward James Olmos as the Prime Minister, made up to look Japanese? Done wrong and that if the casting came off completely on screen too, "The Nightingale" could have been a total disaster.

Luckily, it wasn't. Some have considered it one of the best (a few saying even their personal favourite) and others consider it the worst. One can see both sides, there is a lot to recommend about "The Nightingale" but it also could have been a little better.

Some of the pacing does get leaden in places, it could have gotten to the point quicker than it did and it's only when the nightingale appears when things do pick up, though the slightness of the story occasionally hampers the momentum. The make-up also is really not convincing, those who are meant to be Japanese don't and look pretty goulish, Jagger especially is not too far off looking like Fu Manchu.

Olmos was a very strange casting choice to begin with and to me he still was miscast and doesn't do much with his role.

However, the production values generally are some of the best of the series, the only misstep being the make-up. The scenery and sets are very lush and the costumes significantly less amateurish than some episodes in the series. It's well shot too. "The Nightingale" also contains one of the best music scores in the series, it's beautiful to listen to and often heart-breaking.

While some of the story and pacing is problematic, much of "The Nightingale" is quite touching as it ought to be, as it is a very poignant story anyway in the latter parts. The writing has the odd amusing part, and some sincere ones, it takes things seriously without going overboard and there is no trouble deciphering who the target audience is (children and adults alike, and the adaptations caters well to both) or what tone it's trying to take.

Bud Cort is the standout of the cast, giving a hilarious performance. Barbara Herschey is convincing enough as the maid, and Anjelica Huston (in an early role) and Jerry Hall pop up as fairies. Mick Jagger was a big surprise, was expecting him to be completely wrong for the role of the emperor, actually apart from a few understandably wooden moments (not being a natural actor) he is fun and sometimes moving in the role.

In conclusion, pretty good and better than the initial mixed expectations. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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