Friday, 7 February 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Laugh-o-Gram Cinderella (1922)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

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This week we look at an early animated film version of Cinderella. It was produced by the Laugh-O-Gram Studio which played an important role in early animation. It was started by none other than Walt Disney himself and many of the early pioneers of animation got there start there. In 1921, Walt Disney contracted Milton Feld to animated twelve cartoons. Of the twelve, seven were retellings of fairy tales. Of the original seven fairy tales only four survive--Little Red Riding Hood (1922), The Four Musicians of Bremen (1922), Puss in Boots (1922) and Cinderella (1922). 

This film bears all the hallmarks of early cartoons—bouncy animation and flickery camera work. It tells an interesting story. It also contains some helpful speech bubbles as well as title cards to help you understand the upcoming scene.

Cinderella has but one friend, her cat, who is seen in the opening shot helping her dry the dishes which in my opinion is unhygienic. She lives with her lazy, homely stepsisters who are seen slobbing about, reading magazines and eating bonbons.

Then we see the prince whom the caption describes as a wonderful fellow. Which he is not because he is seen on horseback with a rifle chasing a bear and shooting it in the butt repeatedly. Then it gets even more bizarre. We happen upon what can only be described as a bear jamboree where bears play jazz and do the Charleston. All the bears are having a whale of a good time until the prince arrives. He chases them into a cave where he massacres every bear at the party which I think is meant to be funny, but just made me angry.  A wonderful fellow, my ass.

Then we see an invitation to the ball bearing the curious date of “Tuesday, Friday the 13th.” The prince has his dog deliver all the invitations on a scooter (seriously, I am not making this up.)  The dog gets into a wreck (dogs should not be allowed to drive a scooter!) and is seen all bandaged up with a crutch. Some well-meaning idiot asks, “Are you hurt?” to which the dog rolls his eyes and smacks the man over the head with the crutch. Now that was funny.

The fairy godmother changes her gown into a typical flapper outfit (it is the 1920’s after all) and gives her a snazzy Model T motor car to go in as a carriage. Her cat is the driver of the car (what is it about this film that lets pets dive vehicles?) They arrive at the ball and it is love at first sight not only for her and the prince but for the cat and the dog. Together each couple cuts a rug until the dreaded midnight curfew. Interestingly, the clock shows you 10:00, 11:00 and midnight which is helpful to see the passage of time. Most stories seem to have her arrive, have one dance to fall in love and then it is time  to high-tail it out of there.

She runs away and loses a shoe and then it gets weird. The next day the prince follows what he thinks are her footprints. He and the dog crawl along the street looking at the shoe prints with a magnifying glass, but alas! It is not her footprints, but rather a surly ducky wearing shoes. I told you it got weird.

We see the two stepsisters and Cinderella sitting outside under a tree when the prince and his dog approach. Her cat immediately pulls the dog behind the tree to make out while the prince tries the shoe on everyone. After the second sister tries it on, he turns around and exclaims, “Ah! You!” and everyone (the cat and the dog, the prince and the Cindergirl) live happily ever after.

You can watch it here:

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a Betty Boop Cinderella.

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