A DREAM IS A WISH YOUR HEART MAKES WHEN YOU ARE ASLEEP. Says Cinderella.
But like all dreams, I’m afraid this won’t last forever. Replies Her Fairy Godmother.
Well, there’s one thing: they can’t order me to stop dreaming. Cinderella.
The story of Cinderella is not as many imagine, something that was conceived by the Walt Disney studio, that assumption could not be further from the truth, in fact many varying versions of the now well loved story exist, and its origins go back centuries into European folk lore. The Disney animated movie took the basics of those stories and gave it the full Hollywood treatment, colourful and somewhat cliched treatment. It seems that this is the version that many other re-workings of the story took their cue from, maybe because of the film makers who subsequently turned their attention to producing a movie about Cinderella had themselves as children seen the Disney version and thought that it was the template for everything else that followed. However, there are a few that were slightly different and for me also more entertaining and even thought provoking, Could Cinderella really have existed? I suppose it is possible, but probably and sorry to dash your hopes. It is highly unlikely, or is it? In days of old if a man had lost his wife and had children or a child then it seemed the natural thing for them to do was to re-marry, thus gaining a companion for themselves and a Stepmother for their children. In the case of Cinderella, the Step Mother just happened to be a rather spiteful individual and also had two offspring of her own, in the guise of what we often refer to as Ugly Sisters, but this is something too, that does not hold water as in the sisters were themselves contenders for the hand of the Prince (swoon) in many versions of the story. Maybe the Ugly label came from the numerous pantomime versions of the tale, which also introduced another character Buttons, who was supposedly a good friend to Cinders.
It is my opinion that one of the best versions of the CINDERELLA story or at least elements of it, was the movie EVER AFTER. Directed by Andy Tennant, it was certainly different from most other incarnations of the tale and had a slightly more believable atmosphere to it. I think it is an enchanting (forgive the use of this terminology) slant on the story, and I for one love the way it is photographed and scripted, it also had some amazing costume design and a wonderfully subtle and alluring score by composer George Fenton. The composer’s music gave the movie so much depth and emotion, it added comedic and romantic moods and had to it a regal and luxurious quality. The central theme or love theme itself is a touching and delicate piece, the simple but affecting composition purveys fragility and a real sense of sadness, yet it remains hopeful that true love will finally shine through.
Fenton also wove into his score music that was fittingly Royal and also truly haunting, the ever so light and beautiful central theme acting as a foundation o the remainder of the score, the composer presenting it in various guises and giving it a freshness and vitality via his re-working of orchestration throughout. It was written at a time when Fenton was a much in demand talent within the world of film music, and it seemed that one would see a new score by the composer almost every week. A traditional symphonic work, that boasted romantic strings and adventurous sounding brass, with proud and vibrant thematic qualities, that seemed to flow and adorn the film with colour, texture in a very similar way that an artist adds colour to a blank canvas. It is a heartrending tale and the music mirrors the emotions that are displayed within the movie’s storyline. The film is literally awash with a musical excellence and filled to brimming with a score that ingratiates and supports every frame and scene. In short this is one of Fenton’s most accomplished scores for film. Amidst its romanticism, drama and grandeur there is a poignant and emotive musical persona present. The composer’s sensitivity for the subject matter created so much romantic atmosphere and when scenes between Danielle/Nicole/Cinderella (Drew Barrymore) and Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) were on screen their acting was further enhanced and made even more convincing and intimate by the composers delightfully subtle and impassioned soundtrack. The cue THE FIRST KISS, for example is such a beautifully crafted piece, the composer employing lilting solo piano and underlying strings to fashion a graceful yet powerful composition, the piano initially laying out the love theme, and then strings joining to give it a more expressive sound that is filled with intimacy and fragility.
This mood is re-introduced to an even greater degree in the cue THE RUINS, in this we hear the sadness that being experienced by Danielle but is trying to hide it from Henry and also the realisation of the Prince that he has at last found his true love, piano again is utilised to much effect, the love theme begins to grow as the string section is ushered into the proceedings, but it does not swell into a grand statement, instead it falls away as Danielle leaves her Prince behind.
I think that the central characters too were portrayed with positivity and one actual believed in them, if that is possible in a screenplay that was based upon what is essentially a fairy tale. But maybe all movies of this kind are fairy tales? And when I say that I include the likes of STAR WARS too, IN A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY, I suppose is another way of saying ONCE UPON A TIME, or WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF MAKE BELIEVE. Add to this an eloquent but at times a quite modern sounding script in terms of language and terminology, breath-taking cinematography by Andrew Dunn and stunning locations the movie was pleasing and hugely entertaining. Set in 16th Century France, director Tennant delivers a feisty version of the Cinderella story which worked mainly due to Drew Barrymore’s inspiring performance. The supporting cast was like a who’s who in cinema, with Anjelica Huston as the Stepmother, Timothy West as King Francis, Judy Parfitt as Queen Marie, Patrick Godfrey as Leonardo Da Vinci and Richard O Brien as Monsieur Pierre Le Pieu (the villain of course, with a name like that how could he be anything else).
The film also featured French screen icon Jeanne Moreau, who portrayed The Grande Dame, who in effect is the story-teller. After inviting the Brothers Grimm to her Palace in the 19th Century to discuss the story of Cinderella, the Brothers are stopped by the Grande Dame as she shows them an old glass slipper and a painting of a young womans face, and then begins to tell them the story of Danielle de Barbarac (Cinderella). The movie also featured Dutch born actor Jeroen Krabbé, playing the part of Danielle’s Father who has a heart attack and passes away at the beginning of the movie. The film does have a happy ending eventually, but it is as I say rather different from other Cinderella movies, and I think therefore is why it is so appealing.
The story of CINDERELLA was originally written by French author Charles Perrault, (1628-1703). It was Perrault that laid the foundations for the genre of stories that would be called fairy tales, he was also responsible for writing the classic tales of LE CHAT BOTTE-PUSS IN BOOTS, LE PETIT CHAPERON ROUGE- LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT-THE SLEEPING BEAUTY and BARBE BLEUE- BLUEBEARD. Perrault’s stories influenced the writings of The Brothers Grimm, who published their own versions of his works in Germany some 100 years after he originally wrote them.
The story of CINDERELLA has been committed to celluloid many times, these have been animated features, or spin off animated films, live action movies, filled with romance and drama and there a have been a handful of musical adaptations. One such musical re-telling was included in the movie INTO THE WOODS.
Which had originally been musical stage show and was finally brought to the big screen, with a star encrusted cast, this was a contemporary or novel twist on the fairy tale, as the production brought together famous stories and intertwined them cleverly into one, where we see characters from LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, CINDERELLA, RAPUNZEL and JACK AND THE BEAN STALK linked together via a story about a baker and his wife that are desperate to start a family and their dealings with a Witch, who has cursed them. Its all set to music and contains lively and incredibly clever lyrics by the highly talented, Stephen Sondheim.
Then even more recently we were treated to a sumptuous and magical production which was directed by Kenneth Branagh, CINDERELLA (2015) was a more traditional take on the story, with an impressive cast and state of the art special effects, and a lush, melodious and salubrious score by composer Patrick Doyle, which include sparkling and vibrant themes, that like EVER AFTER contained romanticism and sensitivity. Doyle’s symphonic score containing a rich and magical sound that not only worked wonderfully within the movie but had to it a life away from the images on screen. The opening cue of the soundtrack A GOLDEN CHILDHOOD sets the scene perfectly for what was to follow musically, melodious and affecting compositions that are hauntingly charming. It also contained a handful of waltzes and an energetic polka, that for me evoked the music of British cinema from the 1940’s and put me in mind of composers such as Walton, Bax and Vaughn Williams.
The movie was as I have already said a more traditional re-telling of the CINDERELLA story, filled with a magical air and spirit. A young girl named Ella, is kind and pure of heart, after her Mother dies, she becomes the centre of the Universe for her Father. He subsequently re-marries but soon after dies leaving Ella to the mercy of her cruel stepmother and two sniping step sisters, who treat her like a servant, Ella never complains, and eventually meets her true love in the form of The Prince, and with a little help from her fairy Godmother, finally finds happiness with him. This version of CINDERELLA is a luxurious production, and one of the more entertaining reworkings of the tale. Doyle’s sumptuous score adding much to the production, with the composer utilising the traditional English folk refrain LAVENDERS BLUE DILLY DILLY, to fashion a delicate and affecting theme for Ella.
In many ways the music for the 2015 production has much in common with the score for THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955) as composer Bronislau Kaper too integrated Polkas, and Waltzes into the fabric of his score.
It was also a suitably regal sounding work, but did I have to say have a slight Hollywood show sounding sound present. The need for a hit tune or even a song being the order of the day then. However, it is a good score that is filled with themes and has to it a lavish and luxurious style. Performed by the MGM studio orchestra conducted by Kaper. The movie is an enchanting take on the story of Cinderella. It is set against a colourful and fantastical storybook land. Although billed as a musical it is not really a musical per say as there is only one song in the movie, which is performed by actor Michael Wilding, but it is not his voice we hear as he was dubbed by a vocalist for this part of the film. Wilding was openly unhappy about being involved on the movie and was said to have asked his co-star Leslie Caron to demand a new leading man, something she felt she could not do. The “musical” tag on the film I think is something that was put upon on it because the film contains three ballet sequences, which are dreamed by Cinderella (Caron). In which the actor performed.
The movie did not do as expected at the box office, this was probably due to audiences expecting a full-on Hollywood musical. But when one sits and watches it today, it does have a certain magical appeal. From the GLASS SLIPPER to the SLIPPER AND THE ROSE (1976) now this was a lavish production, directed by British film maker Brian Forbes, I always liked the work of this director, he managed to get things out of actors that maybe other filmmakers could not.
THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE was a musical it contained the lyrics of Robert B Sherman and Richard M Sherman and had an original score by Angela Morley who surprisingly was un-credited for her work on the movie. It was chosen for the Royal Performance film of 1976, and billed as the most acclaimed movie to come to London, ok not too sure about that, but it was a faithful re-telling of the CINDERELLA story, with Richard Chamberlain as the Prince and Gemma Craven as a fresh faced and sparkling Cinderella.
The soundtrack contained approx.; a dozen songs, performed by Chamberlain, Craven, Michael Horden, Kenneth Moore, Edith Evans and others. It is a charming movie and has to it a fairy tale appearance thanks to the cinematography of Tony Imi who photographed it beautifully. Considering that it was chosen for the Royal film and the impressive cast that included Margaret Lockwood as the evil Stepmother, the film has in recent years fallen by the wayside, which is a great shame. The soundtrack was released on LP on the EMI label and received an issue on MCA records as well as various international releases. The CD was also released in later years and is now highly sought after, being offered on various sites for prices in excess of 100 pounds. Angela Morley composed a lavish and suitably noble score for the movie which enhanced the action and underlined the romantic interludes as well as complimenting the vocals. Prince Edward is the heir to the throne of the small Kingdom of Euphrania, his Father is coming to the end of his life and realises he must arrange a marriage for his son, but, Edward is convinced and also determined he must marry for love. Meanwhile Cinderella who has recently lost her Father is forced by her stepmother and stepsisters to do servant duties in her own house. She is assisted in these by her Fairy Godmother played by Annette Crosbie who even manages to get Cinderella to the royal ball where the Prince is told he must find a bride. The Prince is immediately attracted to Cinderella, but as the clock strikes midnight she must leave the ball and leaves behind a lone glass slipper, which drives the Prince to search the Kingdom for his true love.
A grand and lavish production filled with romanticism and adorned with magic and sparkle and that’s what fairy tales are all about are they not? Magic, sparkle, escapism, adventurism and romance. What would bedtime be without a fairy tale? Well I suppose just bedtime! So, from the 1976 SLIPPER AND THE ROSE let’s move on to other incarnations of the famous tome, CENDRILLON from 1899, which is the first known movie version of the story, a silent version which was produced in France, directed by the renowned filmmaker Georges Melies.
Then to the 1911 silent movie which starred Florence La Badie, again entitled CINDERELLA. Which was also the title of the silent 1914 film that starred Mary Pickford. A few years later a silhouette shadow play short film appeared, ASCHENPUTTEL (1922) was directed by Lotte Reiniger, the silent movie utilised a rather stark and sparse background on which distorted figures were imposed, that created a somewhat ghost like effect.
It’s interesting that the latter was based upon the Brothers Grimm story of events, which is a little more gruesome than the Charles Perrault original, but still features the core of his work. It has the Motherless heroine of the story, who goes from a much loved and cared for young girl to a despised and overworked servant when her Father re-marries, the evil stepmother has two greedy daughters, who also work the young girl hard and treat her badly. One day when the Father is going to market he asks all three girls what they would like him to bring them, the two greedy girls ask for riches and jewels but Aschenputtel only asks for the first branch that touches her Fathers hat, which when given to her she plants in the ground close to her Mother’s grave. It is a place she goes regularly and weeps so much that the branch grows into a tree, from the tree emerges a little white bird who grants her what ever she asks for. The bird and his comrades held the poor girl to do all her work, and make her a dress to wear to the ball, where she meets the Prince but like in the original story she has to leave in a hurry and leaves behind not a glass slipper but a golden one. There is also an Irish version of CINDERELLA, which was penned by M. Damant, in which the central character is known as ASHLEY PELT, which is obviously a variation of ASCHENPUTTEL, she has with her a magical black sheep, the ewe tells her to hit a stone three times, by doing this she will get her wishes granted. She does as she is asked by the ewe and wishes to go to a grand ball. Again, she departs in a hurry and leaves her, not golden or glass but silk slipper behind. The prince goes in search of her and finds the ewe who tells him where she can be found, again there is a happy ending.
We are also told that there will be yet another version of the story coming to screens near you in February 2012, this CINDERELLA is billed as a comedy, fantasy, musical and set in a contemporary time period. Directed by Kay Cannon it is set to star, Camila Cabello, Minnie Driver, James Corden, Romesh Raganathan and Billy Porter, with rumoured involvement from Idina Menzal, Missy Elliot and Pierce Brosnan, which could be interesting or maybe be another CATS scenario? Cant wait…
From future rumoured productions lets go back to Disney, or at least one Disney version. The animated 1950 version of the story, as brought to the screen by the Walt Disney studios is probably the one which most think of when CINDERELLA is mentioned. I know I do. Like SNOW WHITE, SLEEPING BEAUTY and many other animated fairy tales that Disney produced it is an iconic piece of cinema. An appealing one also because it was aimed at the younger cinema goer’s, but has over the years become a firm favourite with children of all ages. The movie of course was an attractive one in full colour, the soundtrack was sugary and sweet, but also had to it a certain attraction and an air of sophistication. Filled with songs and delightful musical nuances, proud regal sounding pompous interludes, and robust comedic musical lines. Oliver Wallace, Mack David, Jerry Livingston, Paul J Smith were just some of the names that collaborated on the score and the songs. And as I already stated it is probably this version that many filmmakers look to or remember most when they are preparing to make their own version of the story.
BIBIDI BOBIDI BOO.
It is a classic film and one that keeps on giving, inspiring and entertaining. Disney have also made other versions of CINDERELLA,
some being musicals with lyrics by Rogers and Hammerstein, others being modern day takes on the classic tale.
So, we have movies that were full versions of the story or at least contained a reference or maybe a fleeting appearance of the Cinderella character within them, such as, ELLE, A MODERN CINDERELLA TALE (2012), THE 10TH KINGDOM (2000), AFTER THE BALL (2015), Cendrillon au Far West an animated film, (2012), CINDERELLA 80 (1984), YEAR OF THE FISH (2007), A CINDERELLA STORY (2004) and of course CINDERFELLA which starred Jerry Lewis, but I don’t think we really need to go any further on that one do you? The majority of these tales all ended up with everyone living HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Of course, nowadays the story would probably end up very different, Cinderella would meet and get her Prince charming, and everything would be blissful and happy. Then you just know it, the paparazzi get involved, there is no privacy for them so Cinders throws her glass slipper out of the royal coach and demands that her and the Prince withdraw from Royal duties, sound familiar, yep sure does don’t it.