“‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.” If you haven’t guessed already, this time we’re here to talk about Alice In Wonderland. No, not the animated 1951 Disney classic, or the more recent 2010 live action remake, it’s the 1933 black and white live action film featuring Charlotte Henry as Alice.
Coming Up Shorts! with… The Ant And The Aardvark (1969)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 15 seconds)
The ant finds a nearby picnic and tries to bring home some food, but is constantly being interrupted by the aardvark. The first cartoon in the series, giving us a typical predator vs. prey cartoon. A bit of fun here, with a few fun gags. Whether any will be remembered as being original, I doubt it, but it’s still a lot of fun, and one of the better cartoons in this set!
And Now For The Main Feature…
One night, while watching a snowstorm and petting her cat, Alice finds herself bored. In the process, she lets her imagination get away with her as she imagines things about a white rabbit, chess pieces and the looking glass above the fireplace mantle. She decides to try walking through the looking glass, and finds a different world there. When she spies the white rabbit, she follows him, only to fall down a rabbit hole. While there, she runs into many different characters, from the Caterpillar, to the Cheshire Cat, to the Red and White Queens, to the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, and many others.
Obviously, most will know of the 1951 Disney classic, but not too many know that Walt Disney had, with Mary Pickford, been trying to plan a live action and animation hybrid in the early 1930s. However, Paramount Studios beat them to the punch and got the film rights first (and had an animated segment in their film for “The Walrus And The Carpenter”). Many actresses were auditioned for the title role of Alice, with some sources claiming that Ida Lupino tested for it and was originally intended to get the role, but it ended up going to Charlotte Henry. It ended up being an all-star movie, as Paramount was hoping the film would help keep them from going bankrupt. However, the movie ended up being a flop.
Like many, I can guarantee that the 1951 Disney animated film is probably the most familiar version of the Lewis Carroll story for me. Not having read the actual stories, I can’t really say how accurate this movie is to the book. To a degree, I can understand why the movie originally flopped. In spite of all the big stars in the cast, most are hard to recognize underneath all those costumes. And speaking of costumes, I would certainly say that some of them might border on being too scary for little children, so this is not necessarily a movie for the whole family. As to plot, this movie is very episodic in nature, without much of a thread to pull everything together.
Still, that’s not a terrible thing, as some scenes are a bit of fun. I know I got a chuckle out of Alice’s conversation with the Dodo (played by Polly Moran), as the Dodo talks about history to help dry out Alice’s clothes (hmm, maybe I should try that sometime with my own 😉 ). While the character essentially seems to be a puppet, Humpty Dumpty is still very recognizable as being voiced by famous comedian W. C. Fields, and is one of the better scenes (even if it does feel too short). Edward Everett Horton seems well cast (and easily recognizable) as the Mad Hatter, and is joined by Charles Ruggles as the March Hare (although he’s not as easily recognizable in his costume) for the tea party scene (which is a lot of fun). As you can tell, I can EASILY go on about many of the scenes here, since they are so much fun (and that’s not even mentioning a familiar voice coming from the “wrong” character, since Sterling Holloway, who would later voice the Cheshire Cat in the Disney film, is the voice of the Frog here, with Richard Arlen voicing the Cheshire Cat here). I do think, when it comes down to preference, I would go with the Disney classic for its music, slightly more coherent story and it’s more family-friendly nature, but this one is still a bit of fun, and worth recommending!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie looks pretty good in high definition. There are some scratches here and there, and the picture isn’t perfect, but, given the fact that the movie didn’t even make its home video debut on DVD until 2010 and is therefore not going to be popular enough to warrant a full restoration (I would assume), this release looks good enough for me to recommend it!
Film Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Design For Living (1933) – Gary Cooper – Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)
Running Wild (1927) – W. C. Fields – The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)
The Eagle And The Hawk (1933) – Cary Grant – Ladies Should Listen (1934)
Dancing Lady (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Going Hollywood (1933)
Design For Living (1933) – Edward Everett Horton – Ladies Should Listen (1934)
Charles Ruggles – Bringing Up Baby (1938)
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