Here's my next entry for the Cinderella Week blogathon! It's a review of the 1914 silent film Cinderella, starring Mary Pickford, known back then as "America's Sweetheart" (even though she was Canadian). Her husband at the time, Owen Moore, plays Prince Charming, which is kind of neat. I watched this here on YouTube, where I also got my screencaps. It's also available on DVD, and my daughters were getting a huge kick out of watching this when I was getting my screencaps, so I'm thinking I might have to spring for the DVD so they can see it a bit better. IF it's got any better quality -- you never know. This movie is over a hundred years old, after all, so we take what we can get.
ANYWAY! Time for the movie. I'm not sure if these title cards are from the original production or if they're modern -- like I said, watched it on YouTube. Sometimes it's easy to tell if the intertitles are newer or not because the image quality is either as wonky as the film's or suddenly crystal clear, but since it was on YouTube, everything was kind of unclear, and I couldn't tell, though I suspect they're modern versions of the originals. Either way, they are lovely! Here's how it opens:
In the first scene, we see Cinderella being mistreated by her stepsisters and stepmother -- they slap her, shove her, and generally abuse her physically. It looks like they're yelling at her as well. Poor thing! And they're all WAY taller than her too. The meanies.
You can see from this close-up she's not all that thrilled with her lot in life.
But things are about to change! Because look who gets introduced next:
We first see the dear Fairy Godmother disguised as a woman in a really tall hat, begging by the house.
Subtlety is kind of missing from a lot of silent films, and this one is no exception. Either that, or the stepsisters are named Egotism and Cruelty? Either way, not very subtle.
They make fun of the old beggar woman and refuse her supplications, then flounce away.
Ahhh, but here's something much nicer!
You can tell from the way she's smiling at the old woman that Cinderella is a Very Nice Person, even if we didn't have that title card to tell us so in advance.
Look! A nice mug and chunk of bread or something.
Did you know that if you give food to old beggar women, it transforms them into beautiful Fairy Godmothers with daffy headdresses? It even transforms the food into flowers! So magical.
Cinderella doesn't know about the fairy godmother, though -- she's hurried off to the woods to collect firewood because she's a busy little bee, you know. And also a tired little bee; lots of yawning and arm-stretching going on so we're well aware of how tired and overworked she is. The fairy godmother sends a troupe of fairies to help Cinderella -- they collect a big pile of sticks in the forest and leave them where she'll find them.
Meanwhile, Prince Charming and a bunch of his pals are tramping around in the woods too. No earthly idea what they're doing. Slumming for cute kitchen wenches?
Cinderella finds the firewood, looks ecstatic, and promptly stretches out on the forest floor beside it for a quick nap. The fairies gather around her and watch her sleep, because that's never creepy.
She wakes up and goes home with her firewood, but gets frightened by Prince Charming and all his men tramping around in the woods, starts to run away, trips, and scrapes her knee. Prince Charming finds her, consoles her, examines her knee, kisses her hand, and generally does every chivalrous thing he can think up. Now, from her expression here, you might think she doesn't appreciate all that chivalry, but I think she's supposed to be rolling her eyes from ecstasy at having her hand kissed, not rolling her eyes at him because he's silly. Tough to tell, though.
Prince Charming watches her leave, and this might just be the bad film resolution, but he certainly seems to be enjoying watching her walk. Just how often does this guy go gallivanting around in the woods kissing the hands of wood-gathering maidens? The world may never know.
Okay, so then they announce there's going to be a ball, and the stepsisters and stepmother get all in a dither about it, and they go home and tell Cinderella, who goes all dreamy-eyed at the idea of going to a royal ball and promptly knocks over a really big vase. For which they hit her and have a little slapstick fight that culminates in the stepmother chasing Cinderella into the kitchen and threatening to beat her with the firewood.
This seems to happen a lot, or else Cinderella's very calm and levelheaded, because she yells, "A MOUSE!" and the others all freak out and jump up on chairs.
This allows Cinderella to escape to her room, such as it is.
And back we go to the unsubtle expository intertitles.
This fortune teller not only looks like a vaudevillian witch, but she's surrounded by cavorting dwarves who leer and grimace and are generally creepy.
The fortune teller informs them (and us, via a dialog intertitle) that
That goes over really well, and the stepsisters dash home and sneak back into their bedroom. And then we get some more moralizing. You see, Cinderella is lying asleep in her little straw-filled bed, slumbering pleasantly because she has
BUT the stepsisters not only sneaked out of the house, but also visited a fortune-teller, which must be a naughty thing to do because they have
And then they have creepy dreams and visions of those leering dwarves, and wake up looking like this:
But anyway, they get all gussied up to go to the ball with the help of a foppish hairdresser, and off they go with their mother, leaving Cinderella to mope around the empty house with a sad face. Until guess who comes back?
She's still wearing that funky headdress. Tootie (who is 4 now) suggested maybe it's supposed to be her wings, only they stuck them on her head by mistake.
Tootie might not be wrong. Anyway, she comforts Cinderella, then has her bring a pumpkin, some mice, and some rats to get turned into coach, miniature horses, and footmen (full-size footmen, not miniature). Cinderella is not a big fan of mice and rats in this version -- they're in cages stashed in the kitchen and she's kind of grossed out by them. Then the fairy godmother tells Cinderella to go stand in the corner to get her dress transformed, and Cinderella seems to be a bit worried about this whole magic-up-my-dress idea. She puts her hands over her face, and then actually turns around to face the wall.
Voila! Magic! A new dress! Curly hair! A really weird headdress thing!
I wish this was clearer, because the dress has some lovely embroidery.
She's really happy about the sausage-y curls.
Buuuuuuuuuut a little confused about the hat thing. What do you expect from a fairy godmother who got her wings stuck to her head, though?
Glitzy shoes too! Gotta have those.
Into the carriage she goes, after stopping to inspect it and poke at it a bit.
Here comes Cinderella's carriage! Now you see what I mean by miniature horses -- they're totally just ponies or something. Also, most of those footmen just walked alongside the coach to the palace. I'm kind of thinking Cinderella lives very close by, as we'll see later on.
I really like this shot because it keeps Cinderella's carriage front and center the whole way without having everything boringly balanced exactly symmetrically on either side. It's a nice shot, and they milk it for all it's worth.
Meanwhile, the stepsisters have their turn to curtsy and simper.
When they do, Prince Charming freaks waaaaaaay out and hides behind the king's throne!
It's absolutely hilarious. He cowers back there, making shooing motions and grimacing until they leave. One of the stepsisters thinks he's flirting and keeps waving her fan at him as she's forcibly escorted out.
Outside, Cinderella exits her carriage. She's pretty awed by the sight of the palace, and doesn't seem to believe this is all real. So she pokes her footman's chin. And then tickles him. Um, yes.
She finally makes her way inside, where her stepmother and stepsisters peer at her in confusion, trying to decide if it's Cinderella or not.
Then everyone dances for about fourteen seconds.
At the first opportunity, Prince Charming leads Cinderella outside to this little Grecian gazebo or whatever it's supposed to be.
There he tries to kiss her, points out points of local interest off-camera, and generally attempts to woo her in his own um... charming way? I got distracted by his hat, I must admit.
I guess she decided one silly hat deserves another, because next thing you know, they're sitting on a bench, where she notices a clock that say's it's 11:55 and promptly faints into his arms. Twice.
When she revives the second time, she runs off because That's How the Story Goes. And I suddenly had the deep desire to see a version of Cinderella where, when the clock starts to strike, she decides, "What's the worst that can happen?" and sticks around to let him see her transform into a regular person. I may have to write that sometime.
But she doesn't do that, she flees, leaving her shoe because That's How the Story Goes.
She runs down the steps, and as she does...
...the magic wears off right then and there! Pumpkin, mice, and rats are back, along with her tattered dress and ratty hair. She flees.
Prince Charming runs after her for about four steps down the stairs, then decides it's no use, or he's too tired, or whatever. He turns around, picks up her shoe, and kisses it reverently. Which my daughters thought was so funny, we had to rewind it and watch the shoe-kiss moment four times.
I'm really unclear what this refers to. Was it disobeying the fairy godmother by not leaving before the clock struck? Or was it disobeying her stepmother by going to the ball? I don't know. Either way, it's Cinderella's turn for freaky dreams about dwarves.
Not only dwarves, who in this dream are banging the bell on a clock and making it strike twenty-three, but the numbers on the clock start to slide around, and the hands go all Salvador Dali.
The stepmother and stepsisters come home, sneak into her room, wake her up, and start smacking her around again. I don't know if they'd for sure recognized her at the ball, or if they're just mad that she's wearing shoes in bed. No title cards to clear things up for us, alas. When they leave, Cinderella kneels by her bed, where she presumably repents of her disobedience.
The prince does the expected Search For The Girl Who Fits This Shoe. Cinderella mopes around the house.
At the castle, the prince tries that shoe on EVERY SINGLE GIRL IN THE KINGDOM. Except the kitchen maid next door. And then someone reminds him about said servant living at that house nearby, so he and two of his attendants walk over there to find her. But they don't bring the shoe along. Because um... I don't know, they just don't. He finds her and recognizes her, even in her rags.
So he leads her back to the palace. They seriously must have been living next door all this time.
In the palace, the king has fallen asleep because he's so bored with all this shoe-trying-on nonsense. Prince Charming makes Cinderella sit in his mom's throne. Then he puts the shoe on her foot, and when it fits...
...her magical dress and hat and curls come back!
The prince rejoices! He makes everyone bow down to her and recognize her as their future princess and eventual queen. Including the stepsisters and stepmother.
And then, he announces this:
Ummmmmmm, what now? My reaction pretty well matched theirs:
Yeah. Kind of out of left field, that. It's okay, though -- Cinderella pardons them. She even kisses them each on the cheek before they're led away. Then Prince Charming takes her back out to the garden, which seems to be his favorite wooing spot. He really has a thing for trees, maybe? Anyway, the clock starts to chime twelve, and Cinderella flips out because she's convinced everything's going to disappear again, but he folds her in his arms and kisses her until it stops chiming.
And just so we're all Really Clear About How This Whole Rewarding Morality Thing Works:
And lest there be any doubt...
Yay! Actually, that was a really cute movie. I love the random bits of humor here and there. I could do without the incessant moralizing, but since this was probably somewhat aimed at children, I'll let it slide without further annoyance. It's very family-friendly, though the dreams might scare little kids a bit, as they're kind of creepy. Easy to fast-forward through, though.
This is also my first movie reviewed for the Period Drama Challenge!
I usually try to pay a bit of extra attention to costumes and hair for PDC posts, so here are a few more shots so you can see more of what they're like. This first one is the people gathering to hear the proclamation about the ball, where you get to see some full-length costumes.
I have no idea what period they were going for -- I'm pretty bad at recognizing that sort of thing. I suspect the wardrobe department just went for "fancy and old-fashioned," and it works for me.
Here's a full-length shot from the back of Prince Charming and Cinderella walking around in the garden in the "moonlight." Her dress has quite the train!
And here's one more shot of the fairy godmother just because I'm kind of fascinated by her costume. The wingy cape thing wafted and billowed very nicely a few times. I suspect they just wrapped her in some curtains and wired a Christmas tree ornament to her head, but it does the trick :-)
Overall, cute and enjoyable silent film, and I'd like to watch it again some time.