Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Slipper And The Rose
Welcome back followers! Still going down the more family friendly side of my nature I thought we would also go back and talk about one of my favorite genres of film: the musical. What better way to combine my love of music and movies than to talk about musical films and a very underrated one is The Slipper And The Rose. Of course by the title you may or may not know this is a musical version of the fairy tale Cinderella which is completely a British production filmed in both London and Austria. There is the more famous Cinderella musical with songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein III but The Slipper And The Rose is a little more mature in tone but still a family film and quite beautiful the first time you see it. For those of you who haven't despite knowing the story let's first look at the plot of this twice-told tale...
Once Upon A Time...
In the fictional kingdom of Euphrania, their prince returns home from meeting a princess he has been arranged to marry with less than thrilling results. Our prince, Edward, is a romantic who wants to be able to marry for love but his parents (and much of the royal court) need him to marry in order to keep the kingdom from going to war with neighboring countries. So since Edward has snubbed his chosen bride, a ball is to be held to find himself a wife from one of Euphrania's potential enemy kingdoms.
Since this a Cinderella story we can't go without mentioning our heroine but it's pretty much the same as always: her father has passed away and now she is a servant at the hands of her stepmother and two less attractive stepsisters in her own home. The twist is that before even the night of the ball commences Cinderella meets her fairy godmother who looks less fairy like than you would imagine but she has a way with helping those in trouble and pure in heart and assisting her is a little dog and a lot of wit.
After testing Cinderella's kindness, she helps to send our girl to the ball in wonderful European period dress as "The Princess Incognita" (which I think is quite clever) with the same warnings that at midnight, the magic is over. Once Edward sets his eyes on Cinderella, it's love at first sight for both of them and they dance until the clock sounds its warning and of course a slipper is left behind. Edward searches in vain for his lost love almost to the point of frustration but soon he finds Cinderella and you think our story would end there... but it doesn't it. We go beyond happily ever after... or do we even reach it? Not being of royal blood or born in a country of needed alliance, Cinderella is sent into exile with Edward left to marry for the honor of Euphrania. Will Edward go through with a marriage that is based on duty and not love? Will he ever see his Cinderella again and will she ever get her true happy ending torn from the one she loves?
I can't really remember when I first saw this film but I do remember that when I saw it for sale on DVD that I was intrigued by it because as stated before I love fairy tales. There have been many interpretations of Cinderella and this has to be at least in the top 3 of my choosing for a number of reasons. As I stated the movie was filmed in London and Austria so the backdrop scenery in this movie is absolutely gorgeous especially in the countryside scenes but the palace scenes are also very beautiful...almost as beautiful as the costumes. Since the movie is a period piece set when powdered wigs were the point of high fashion, the costumes are dazzling on not just the women but also on the men and reflect the beauty of the time when Charles Perrault first published the story of Cinderella.
Before I talk about the actors, another thing that makes The Slipper And The Rose such a gem is of course the music and the composers of the film are ones most of us know very well: The Sherman Brothers. Don't know them you say? Well Robert B. Sherman and his brother Richard M. Sherman are responsible for writing a lot of songs for Disney films and many other films from childhood you may recognize (go on and Google them and just see how many!) and were Academy award winning composers when it came time to do music for this film.
Besides composing the songs for The Slipper And The Rose, The Brothers Sherman also wrote the film alongside the director Bryan Forbes and as writers they do a pretty good job if only in my opinion of course. Sadly, Robert passed away in 2012 ending the duo but his brother Richard is still alive so their legacy is still far from being finished. The songs themselves are catchy numbers and beautiful ballads and if you love films like Mary Poppins then you are sure to enjoy the songs in The Slipper And The Rose and will end up humming and singing them inside your head long after watching it.
Now, the film is not all drama and romance there is all hilarious comedy and I believe all three elements work because of The Slipper And The Rose's wonderful cast. The King and The High Chamberlain characters portrayed by Michael Hordern and Kenneth More respectively play off each other very well which provides most of the comedy but the dowager queen played by Edith Evans and Prince Edward's foppish cousin Montague, played by Julian Orchard, also display bits of comedic timing as well.
Even though it is Cinderella's story and I do love romance my favorite character in the film by far is Cinderella's fairy godmother played by Annette Crosbie. She is hilarious in a very lady-like way, poised and kind of soft spoken, but she is clever and witty as well. She doesn't just appear once to grant Cinderella's wish but she also helps drive the story along when needed and the character bows out gracefully when scenes don't call for her.
I guess since this a Cinderella film we should take a look at the actress who portrays her in The Slipper And The Rose, Gemma Craven. I think she makes for a very pretty and sweet Cinderella and she has a nice singing voice but I believe she gets overshadowed by other characters and actors in this film. You wouldn't know that Craven was 26 when she starred in this film because she looks so young and even though she has done acting before and after The Slipper And The Rose, which is a beautiful film but I can see why they don't outright state that this is a Cinderella film because our Cinderella doesn't really shine as bright as her glass slippers here.
If anything The Slipper And The Rose seems to be Cinderella's story told from the prince's point of view and when your prince is played by a handsome actor like Richard Chamberlain it isn't that much of a shock. I'll admit I've always had a small attraction to Richard Chamberlain but it comes from having to watch The Thorn Birds a lot with my mother as a little girl (and there' nothing wrong with that believe me!). Yes, I know now that Richard Chamberlain is gay but you have to admit that you didn't know then because it seems Richard Chamberlain was very good at acting to hide that fact because he seems to be perfect here as Prince Edward. Chamberlain has charm, an excellent singing voice and so much under his belt acting wise before playing this role in The Slipper And The Rose that it is my second favorite role of his even if The Thorn Birds came later.
Besides the obvious there is actually one more actor in this movie that I have to mention and his name is Christopher Gable, who plays the character John, valet to the prince. Not only does the character get his own side story but he also gets two songs to sing in the film which display Gable's good looks and amazing voice and we even get to see a little bit of his dancing skill seeing as Gable was a British ballet star early in his career.
Once again I stand behind my opinion that The Slipper And The Rose is at least in the Top Three of Cinderella movie adaptations (based on my opinion) for its beautiful cinematography, costumes, songs and its fine cast. The Cinderella character may get lost in the adaptation but it is still a wonderful film worth watching whether it is with your family or on your own curiosity.
***This is a first - I could not locate an original trailer for The Slipper And The Rose for you to watch! There is a fan-made trailer but the beautiful music of the film is too loud in one certain scene but you can still find it on YouTube as well as the whole movie (while you still can since copyrights may cause it to be taken down).***
NEXT TIME: Still in a fantasy mood, we going to look at an animated film that deserves a little love and recognition from those geniuses at Rankin-Bass called Flight Of Dragons.