Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
Last week we looked at the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of Cinderella. This week I want to look at the musical The Slipper and the Rose. This musical was a British film that was produced in 1976 and was selected as the Royal Command Performance motion picture selection for that year. The music was provided by the American duo The Sherman Brothers who were responsible for the songs in such films as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Charlotte’s Web, The Aristocats and The Jungle Book (except the Bare Necessities which was written by Terry Gilkyson.) They are also responsible for that earworm “It’s a Small World.”
The cast is full of the crème de la crème of (mostly) British actors—Gemma Craven as Cinderella, Richard Chamberlain as the Prince, Michael Hordern, Kenneth More, Edith Evans and Annette Crosby. Several of the songs were nominated for an Academy Award. The Georgian era costumes are stunning. So why did I hate it?
I know I am here merely to report to you, my loyal readers, versions of Cinderella. Having watched countless videos of it on YouTube for research for today’s blog post led me to same conclusion over and over—I found it extremely boring with forgettable songs. There are highlights—Michael Hordern is quite funny as the King but overall, I felt it was dreadful.
So now you must suffer through it too. Here is the plot:
Prince Edward of Euphrania wants to marry for love but is told that he must marry tactically to form an alliance so that his country will be safe from invaders. If he marries someone from a neighbouring country it will prevent war in the future. It is decided there will be a “Bride Finding Ball” so that he can find a match. Richard Chamberlain sulks. His slightly pervy and very camp cousin, however, is delighted. He says, “I realize that I won't have first pick, but that doesn't matter to me because I'm not proud. I'm just desperate." They sing about women as if they are merely objects or property (which they were in Georgian times, but still) while Dr Kildare rolls his eyes a lot.
Cinderella is tasked with making her stepmother and stepsisters new clothes for the ball out of old ones--a clearly impossible task. A local woman appears and helps Cinderella re-work the old gowns into something more fashionable and reveals she is a Fairy Godmother. She agrees to borrow some magic to help Cinderella's dream come true, but as the magic is borrowed it must be returned by midnight. I appreciated this idea as the arbitrary midnight deadline has always bothered me. I thought the effects in this scene were good, but the song "Suddenly It Happens" sung by Annette Crosby is tuneless and forgettable.
As you would expect in this story, Cinderella and the Prince meet and fall in love at first sight and then sing a forgettable number about their newfound love in their "Secret Kingdom."
Then we have the midnight escape, the lost shoe and all the elements we are familiar with that make this a Cinderella story. This is the part that differs from our traditional tale as we do not have our happy ending just yet. The pair of lovers are reunited and go before the King and Queen. While they are impressed with the strength of their love, duty comes first. A military alliance must be secured as their kingdom is on the brink of war. A tactical marriage has to happen quickly or the fate of Euphrania is at stake. The prince simply cannot marry a commoner like Cinderella. In order to save the kingdom, she bravely allows herself to be exiled. She lies and sends a message that she does not love him ("Tell Him Anything But That I Love Him") so that he will marry the wrong person and save the kingdom. I found this to be the best part as well as the worst part of the film. It was, by far, the best song--the most passionate when all the others had been quite bloodless. But it is also worrying. It is presented like "Isn't she noble for sacrificing her happiness for the greater good" but women often sacrifice and sabotage their happiness for men which is not a good message to be sending. There is also a whiff of "You won't understand all these important tactical things because you are just a girl, but don't worry your pretty little head about it, just give up your dreams."
After being in exile for a bit, she does worry her pretty little head about it and decides that her happiness counts too. With the help of her Fairy Godmother she crashes the wedding wearing a wedding dress and gets to have her happy ending. The country is saved too because the foppish cousin who was happy to have sloppy seconds in the Bride Finding Ball gets to marry the Princess and form a tactical alliance and save the kingdom from war and destruction. So it's a happy ending for everyone (except perhaps the poor Princess used as a pawn by her own father and then just given to another man) but the film portrays that it was love at first sight for her and the cousin, so I guess that excuses it.
That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a trip Into the Woods.