TV… Peter Pan (1976) TV MOVIE



Once upon a time, yours truly was well and truly hooked on this darling classic story…


A 1970s musical retelling about the boy who wouldn’t grow up played by an elfin Mia Farrow. With Danny Kaye in a double role as both a dastardly pirate and a Darling dad.



As a very wee kid at about 7 years old, Peter Pan was my hero. I knew the J M Barrie 1911 novel, Peter Pan more or less off by heart. I avidly hoped for animated clips of the film Peter Pan (1953) in Disney Time (1961-98) every Bank Holiday and remember the 1904 written play as a panto in our local theatre (with if I remember rightly the Carry on star, Anita Harris in the title role).

I listened to You Can Fly on my record (with music and songs from Disney films) constantly and even dressed up as this childhood idol for Halloween (and I tried to convince my sister she was Tinkerbell and not just a fairy). I even talked my dad into taking a photo of the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens for me when he visited my Uncle in London.

I never saw the whole of the Disney cartoon Peter Pan until recently. This was in surprising circumstances, as I saw it while at work here in Finland dubbed into the Finnish language in a Finnish kindergarten. The names had been changed for the Darling kids to Leena, Jukka and Mikko Kultanen (ie Wendy, John and Michael Darling). I identified and empathised with the 6 and 7 year old kids’ wee faces of excitement as they watched the Darling kids learn how to fly with Peter, encountered mermaids and pirates and met that evil villain, Captain Hook this timeless classic.

Somehow in my distant childhood, I missed the musical TV Movie adaptation that was Peter Pan (1976). This I believe wasn’t seen on Scottish telly, with us possibly “having our own programme” (but Scottish readers correct me if I am wrong) and was shown as a one night wonder in America.

After my childhood memories had become disillusioned after seeing Hook (1991) and seeing a grown-up Peter married to Wendy’s granddaughter in this “sequel”. Reading more about this TV musical, I was swung at the thought of the cast with John Gielgud narrating, Mia Farrow as Peter Pan – complete with a pixie cut – and Danny Kaye as two different characters, Mr Darling and Captain Hook.

Now for the to be reviewed, live action, all singing and all dancing, Emmy award winning children’s TV Movie, Peter Pan (1976). The opening credits are shown along with a song which wouldn’t have looked out of place on another musical soundtrack. This is with Julie Andrews singing Once Upon a Bedtime to those Von Trapps in her The Sound of Music (1965) style.

Then it’s a close-up of that Kensington Garden statue. John Gielgud takes over the narration for a wee while, introducing us to the Darling kids who are Spotted among the folk in Victorian costumes. From the eldest to the youngest, there are Wendy (Briony McRoberts), John (Ian Sharrock) and Michael (Adam Stafford).

They are walking home from school with their old English sheepdog and nanny, Nana (Peter O’Farrell). To my horror, Nana (sadly) is a man in a really unconvincing dog costume rather than the then more famous, Dulux dog and I scream silently. As the kids get ready for bed at 6pm, the Darling kids’ loving mother (Virginia McKenna) is freaked out by something at their window. She doesn’t mention what is to her concerned daughter. Nana meanwhile is helping the younger children get ready for bed who are oblivious to this.

Mr Darling (Danny Kaye) enters the nursery in a bit of a flap about not being able to tie his own bow tie. Cue an overdramatic speech expertly handled by Danny Kaye. Mr Darling is both stern to his family and a bit insecure thinking he’s only seen as a breadwinner and that he isn’t loved. He goes on a mini rant to his family and also takes his anger out on Nana (who then hides in her kennel). He then drags Nana and drags her to tie her up in the outside kennel. Nana barks indicating danger afoot (in Wendy’s translation).

While the Darlings’ kids are distracted with childish things, Mrs Darling tells her husband that she saw a face at the kids’ window. She seems worried about this, but her husband is dismissive. She adds it belonged to a boy she had seen before in their kids’ room. This boy had then jumped out the window, and after Nana shut the window behind him, had left his shadow behind. She put the shadow in a drawer.

Later that night, after Mr and Mrs Darling leave for dinner and their three kids are left sleeping. This boy, Peter Pan (Mia Farrow) flies in and returns to look for his shadow with his fairy friend, Tinkerbell (who is seen as a really wee high pitched noisy butterfly). After finding his shadow, he can’t stick his shadow back onto his feet, he sobs in frustration and wakes up Wendy.

Wendy dutifully sews his shadow back on for him, and he congratulates himself on doing this and seems quite boastful and a bit untactful! After a fantastically exuberant song and dance number with his (animated) shadow, he tells Wendy about how fairies are made and Never Never Land, a faraway place where he lives with the Lost Boys. These are boys who fell out of their prams as babies, and he adds that girls are “too clever” as they do not do this.

Peter tells Wendy, he visits the nursery nightly to overhear the stories her mother tells them. He then tells these unfinished stories to the Lost Boys. The pair trade “kisses” with a thimble for him and a button for her which she hangs around her neck. Wendy wants to go to Never, Never Land to finish these stories for the boys. After waking up her brothers the three learn how to fly and then fly off with Peter and Tinkerbell to Never Never Land… as the Darlings’ parents return home.

Meanwhile, in Never Never Land, Lost Boys of all ages – including a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst as Tootles – are debating the attributes and downfalls of having a mother in song.  We later meet the Native Americans who live there, headed by Tiger Lily and visit a creepy lagoon with mermaids. And we meet the villain of this story, Captain Hook (Danny Kaye) and his pirate gang, and this man is plotting to capture Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. This cruel and in his own words “sadistic” Captain has a grudge against Peter as Peter chopped Hook’s arm off and fed it to a crocodile (off screen).

Hook replaced this limb with a hook and is in constant fear that this crocodile – who now has a liking for Hook’s flesh – will catch up and eat him. But luckily time is on Hook’s side, as this crocodile (also Peter O’Farrell, in a more convincing costume) ate a clock and its ticking can be heard as this scaly nemesis approaches… and there are lots more to discover including whether the children return home.

The soundtrack’s 14 songs were all new and written by the actor, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse. This TV Movie initially felt way too whimsical with Julie Andrews singing this sweet as saccharine opening track. Some of the songs and the lyrics that followed this one, I found a wee bit too nauseating and these often rhymed in an irritatingly cliched way. Other songs, in contrast, were more sweet and endearing thanks to those memorable performances.

Mia Farrow seemed too old, too feminine and too American to be Peter Pan. But perhaps this was as I had recently watched this actress as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (1974) which was made just before this TV Movie. Also everyone else in the Peter Pan spoken cast – including her fellow American, Danny Kaye – had a clear English accent. But these negative impressions didn’t last too long…

Virginia McKenna was a less irritating and more likeable mother than her role as the on-screen nagging wife – of Kirk Douglas – and the mother – of Simon Ward – character in The Chosen / Holocaust 2000 (1977). As Wendy, the sadly late Briony McRoberts was a sweet and innocent young girl, and it subtly hinted at her attraction to Peter. Although her character’s jealousy of Tiger Lily was not shown, Tinkerbell was shown as being envious of Wendy, a girl newcomer in Peter’s life who orchestrated Wendy’s shooting and then was unfriended by Peter.

The Peter Pan story was well told in both the narration and the plot. The songs were creatively choreographed, appropriately sung in relation to their content and often added more to the ambience bringing more to their part in their storyline. There was some strong execution of these from all those involved. In a nice touch, both the pirates and Lost Boys sang about their mothers in two different parts of the story, weighing up the positives and negatives. Hook himself, was a surprisingly touching addition to this song in the pirate rendition, as he replaced the solo from Lost Boy who clearly loved and missed his mother.

Farrow’s Peter Pan became a more convincing choice as this character with her alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking performance with her strong acting and singing skills. She convinced me with her portrayal of this role where traditionally a girl plays this boy character. She was easily credible showing the traits of this young male character with his fervent wish not to grow up and as an arrogant, stubborn and sometimes solitary figure.

The songs were sung and danced to in wonderful charming scenes in creative and unique ways by the Lost Boys, Native Americans and pirates. These groups of characters also added some fun touches to their in-group dynamics and their camaraderie. Although I have to agree with a number of IMDB reviews who found the scantily dressed Tiger Lily (Paula Kelly) and her dancers a surprisingly sexy addition to this children’s movie.

Danny Kaye stole the show with both his characters. He immediately showed a new side to Mr Darling, showing him as a more complex character and stern but insecure and unloved. It’s no spoiler to say this character reformed as his children were absent, I was close to sobbing in those final scenes when I remembered the self-imposed fate of this father who later slept in a kennel in “remorse” after his children flew away.

Sadly both John and Michael were reduced to joining in songs and dance routines, with little character exploration although they did add to the comic moments. During the ending scenes and epilogue, I nearly sobbed at scenes with Peter reuniting with the grown-up Wendy (Jill Gascoine), which echoed the novel.

Kaye threw himself into his Captain Hook role with gusto, with his performance all booming voice and bravado, pomp and panache of this pirate. I was triply impressed by his never-ending talents as an all-around entertainer as he had me captivated as he sang, acted and danced his way through this role with his fellow pirate performers. I adored Kaye’s portrayal which he made complete with a plummy British accent – and a few more accents including a Scottish one, in one particular song – and he hammed up this role more than convincingly.

It’s clear he was having fun with this particular role, and I read on IMdb that he had been previously earmarked by Cukor for this role. This was with Audrey Hepburn as Peter Pan in an unrealised project. Kaye’s performance struck a believable balance as he showed this villain as dastardly and full of his own bravado and vulnerable, and as a cowardly man in different layers. He expertly blended the melodramatics and some comic moments for this character.

Kaye was spellbinding in his renditions of his solo songs, and in these and those with others in the soundtrack. In the song where he introduces his character, Kaye is brilliantly over the top in his delightful rendition of They Don’t Make Them Like Me Anymore. Here his character tells how he is always “dressed to kill”, and “depraved” and it seems he is full of his own importance. In contrast, a scene where his fellow pirate and right hand man, Smee convinces Hook that the crocodile wanting to eat him over anyone else is actually a compliment is inspired writing and shows that Hook has his weaknesses.

Kaye’s precision and timing are also shown in a scene where Hook sings as he and Peter Pan narrowly avoid bumping into each other on a small rock as Kaye sings By Hook Or By Crook. This singing performance is wonderfully and convincingly played and takes centre stage in the performance. It showed the talents of this actor and singer in perfect unity. I would easily suggest this as one of his most memorable performances compared to White Christmas (1954), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and the title role of Hans Christian Anderson (1952).

In my own epilogue, before seeing this film, like all childhood loves, I moved on from Peter Pan. I later discovered the joys of Blue Peter (1958-), Dallas (1978-91) and the thrill of getting signed photos of then more random celebrities through the post. But you can imagine my joy in learning Dallas‘s Larry Hagman’s mother Mary Martin played Peter Pan, years after. Later I was devastated that Robin Williams as Peter Pan in Hook showed Peter now as a grown-up. And now I’ve learnt in another remake for the 2020s includes Lost Girls in a new updated look at the story (so much for girls being too clever not to fall out their prams).

But in a happier prologue, this 1976 cast and TV movie brought back to me my love of this J M Barrie story. This film reignited this first love with little remembered and loved touches which it brought back into my mind. These included Peter’s crowing and pipe playing, Tinkerbell’s deadly sacrifice to save Peter, Wendy’s unrequited love, John’s top hat, Michael’s teddy bear and Hook’s panache and villainy. I still do believe in fairies with the applause for these wee sparkly friends and a standing ovation for this sterling cast and crew including writers, songwriters and special effect makers.

So darling readers, discover your lost childhood in this TV Movie with Mia Farrow, Danny Kaye, a Never, Never Ending cast which includes Nana and those Darling cast members. And when you return to Never Never Land, tune in to Danny Kaye’s performances as a father and a pirate. There you will find Kaye as Hook undoubtedly is easily top of “The Rotter’s Hall of Fame” and by hook or by crook, he is also the best in my book.


Weeper Rating 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating: :-) :-)  :-) :-) :-) :-)/10

Hulk Rating: ‎ mrgreen mrgreen mrgreen  ‎/10


The Danny Kaye Blogathon 2023, No 5

This review was added to Poppity Talks Classic Film Danny Kaye Blogathon. Other reviews with the cast include Briony McRoberts in Butterflies, Don’t Wait Up and EastEnders. Danny Kaye in The Muppet Show. Jill Gascoine in Northern Exposure. John Gielgud in Lovejoy, Appointment with Death, Murder by Decree and Murder on the Orient Express. Julie Andrews in The Tamarind Seed, The Sound of Music, The Princess Diaries and SOB. Lynsey Baxter in Bergerac, Tales of The Unexpected and The Ray Bradbury Theatre. Mia Farrow stars in The Great Gatsby, Death on the Nile and Avalanche. Nicholas Lyndhurst stars in Butterflies and Only Fools and Horses. Virginia McKenna in Holocaust 2000. Paula Kelly in The Streets of San Francisco and The Golden Girls. 


19 thoughts on “TV… Peter Pan (1976) TV MOVIE

  1. You really put your heart and soul into this, Gill. It is clear how much the story of Peter Pan has meant to you all of your life. I always found it to be a very special tale. Like yourself, I never saw the full Disney film during my childhood. It was not until the late 2000s that I finally got to see it with my own children who immediately fell in love. (They also change the names for French audiences. Tinkerbell, for example, is named La Fée Clochette!)
    The idea of Mia Farrow portraying the title character is actually quite appealing. I do believe that Mary Martin opened the role up to women without them having to be too boyish in style. In fact, it never seemed strange to me as a kid to see Mary in Peter’s shoes. Larry was sure proud of his mother. 😀
    One of Danny’s many fortés was playing dual characters. In the likes of Lon Chaney, Danny was also a man of a multitude of faces. He is no doubt a perfect Captain Hook. For someone who is so funny and goofy, he can be awfully tender and charming. After reading your review, I am looking forward to the chance of watching this rendition.
    Thank you ever so much for your grand entry and for the enthusiasm you bring to each and every blogathon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this lovely comment. I remembered seeing Danny as a wee kid, as my gran watched his movies. I was so nervous watching Peter Pan but I adored this version more than all the versions I’ve seen Thanks so much for helping me discover this movie, I from both me and my childhood self.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember seeing parts of this when I was 11 years old, and I thought it was a bit scary in places. I liked the 1960 version (which I didn’t see until 1989) more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. The 1960 version is the version with Mary Martin as Peter Pan and Cyril Ritchard as Mr. Darling/Capt. Hook. It had been broadcast live going back to 1955.
      The 1960 version was taped in color so it could be rerun forever, and NBC reran it many times up to 1973 (which I don’t remember seeing) then reran it again on Mar. 24 (Good Friday), 1989 (when I finally saw it). Luke Halpin, who a few years later played Sandy Ricks on FLIPPER, played one of the twins who were Lost Boys. He was 13 years old by then but looked a bit younger.
      The 2014 live version, where Christopher Walken played Capt. Hook but Mr. Darling was played by Smee’s actor, got mixed reviews. I remember a couple brief technical problems from the broadcast which I’m sure wouldn’t exist on a DVD copy of the show now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As I was reading your review, I could almost see Danny Kaye as Captain Hook. I’d like to find this rendition of Peter Pan just for that reason – the British accent, the clothes, all of it.

    I didn’t realize Audrey Hepburn was once considered to play Peter Pan in a project. I wonder how that might have turned out…?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could see Audrey in this role, she has that elfin look about her. I would have liked to see her in this version too, Kaye was the best Hook I’ve seen so far and like you my opinion of him changed after seeing this for the better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like you I grew up with Peter Pan, I saw it as a Christmas panto at the Opera House in Manchester when I was a child. I’m pretty sure Anita Harris was the star in that production too. I don’t recall seeing this adaptation, it certainly sounds preferable to Spielberg’s film. I didn’t see that one either, although I would have done if a certain actress had stepped in for Julia Roberts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wouldn’t mind seeing this sometime, as I do love Danny Kaye, but I grew up with the Mary Martin version and am afraid this might pale in comparison to my childhood attachment to that one. I know the Disney animated version, Hook, and the Hugh Jackman movie all just can’t compete, for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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