I consider myself a Cinderella expert/historian and have made it a point to see every film version that looks like it might be accurate. When it comes to books, I can't say that I've come upon many specifically, but I do tend to gravitate toward the Cinderella plot. But I must say right now that I am an incredible critic. I don't approve of just any Cinderella-story. It has to have just the right elements to attain my approval; it's never guaranteed.
Today I am going to introduce to you one of my favorites. The Glass Slipper. When I was growing up I watched this one recorded on VHS. It was poor quality which resulted in my watching it often alone. To this day, there are a few in my family that say I have been endowed with the gift of interpreting poor (vocal) quality movies. But it all boils down to the fact that I never liked to say no to a movie I loved watching, no matter how hard it was to hear what they were saying.
After our VHS player stopped working some years ago, I've been dying to get this one, and a few others (e.g. The Desert Song), on DVD, Blu-Ray, or on download. I was pleasantly surprised when I got it for Christmas last year and soon after, I made my family watch it with me. They didn't mind since they could understand it this time.
And that is the reason for today's review!
This is the classic story of Cinderella in that, still part of the family, she is made to work as a servant and in the end rises to riches. But as all Cinderella stories go this version has its differences.
Ella, as she is originally called, works day and night taking care of her stepmother's household but she is spirited. She despises how they treat her and truly wishes instead to be accepted by them and the townspeople. In her heart she tells herself she doesn't want their approval and dreams of one day living in the palace, a prediction her mother was given by a gypsy woman before she was born. Her actions are not always kind in response to theirs and so leads the people to despise her even more. Their jeers threaten to make her lose all hope of a better life.
One day when she has slipped away to her special place in the woods she meets an old lady who calls herself Mrs. Toquet. The lady is so congenial that Ella likes her. Soon Ella realizes she now has a friend. But when she mentions Mrs. Toquet to her step-family, they criticize the old lady, accuse her of stealing, though it's obviously harmless enough, and laugh at Ella for befriending for her. Angry at them for laughing at her only friend, Ella runs to the clearing to get away.
Near that same time, the Duke's son, Charles, having just returned from years of study in Paris, comes upon Ella's clearing. Charles speaks of a time when he was young and saw a little girl weeping and running through the streets. He notes her big, dark eyes to Kovin, his friend, who listens with mild interest.
Just then Ella arrives and sees the two men. When Charles in turn sees her he immediately recognizes her as the weeping girl. She mistakes his response and pushes him in the pond, running away once again. Kovin and Charles have a good laugh and Charles sends Kovin to find out what he can about Ella.
What Kovin finds out makes him less than happy about the Prince's interest. He reports that no one in town has anything good to say about her, but unlike the townspeople, Charles recognizes her struggles as hurt and the desire to be loved.
Some time later, Cousin Loulou is visiting Ella's step-family but when she sees Ella's barefeet, Ella is sent to get her shoes at once. Having left them at the clearing after pushing Charles, whom she believes to be the son of the palace cook, she returns to get them.
She is surprised to find Charles already there. He kindly apologizes for the misunderstanding and offers her an invitation to the Duke's ball. Ella says she can't possibly go because she doesn't dance. A problem easily remedied in the Prince's eyes, he takes her in his arms and teaches her a few of the latest dances. When he concludes the lesson, he kisses her. Ella is shocked and not sure how to respond to these new and sudden feelings.
The night of the ball arrives and Ella is busy assisting her stepsister's in their preparations. Once they leave, Ella prepares to spend the evening alone. Only she is not alone for Mrs. Toquet suddenly appears. She takes Ella out to the garden where she has left a beautiful gown, all white with rose petals and diamonds. Ella recognizes the dress as one Cousin Loulou mentioned and realizes the old woman pinched something rather serious. Mrs. Toquet assures her she will return it before it is missed and quickly gets Ella dressed and ready for the ball.
When she arrives at the ball, Ella is noticed by everyone. She dances with almost every man there but refuses to heed their constant questions by not speaking a single word. Instead she watches the servants, looking for the son of the cook. The next gentleman takes her in his arms to dance and she hardly notices. But when he calls her name, Ella sees Charles. He explains then that he is not the son of the cook but the son of the Duke.
Without much of a chance to respond, Ella notices her step-family and knows that it is time for her to leave. Cousin Loulou suddenly spots Ella's dress and tries to get a better look at it. Charles assists her escape until he is caught by the entourage.
The carriage hastily gets underway, but soon their speed becomes perilous. The carriage topples and sends Ella onto the ground, unconscious. When she awakes she is in her own bed and Mrs. Toquet is there. No worse for wear, she sighs happily at her memories and goes back to sleep.
After the ball has concluded, Charles muses while sitting in a parlor with his father and Kovin. The Duke is discussing the mysterious princess with Kovin who tries to cover her real identity. Suddenly Charles interrupts and asks his father what he would say if he decided to marry someone not of the peerage. His father quickly reminds him of his duties and Charles begins to grow angry. But then the Duke good-naturedly admits that he knows who the mysterious "Egyptian princess" really is and grants Charles his wish.
The next day the whole town is abuzz with the news that the Prince has chosen someone to be his wife. When Ella hears the news that the Prince is going to marry an Egyptian princess she is heartbroken. Her hopes are dashed, as unreasonable as they may have been. She sets her mind to leave the town for good, though she has no idea where she should go. Making one last trip to her place in the forest, she finds Mrs. Toquet and pours out her feelings. The old lady tries to comfort her in her own way, but nothing can help the hurt she feels. Mrs. Toquet leaves her sobbing on the grass.
Some time later, she is brought back to the present by a voice she never thought she'd hear again. Charles raises her from the ground with a loving smile and drapes a royal robe around her shoulders. Realizing the truth now, Ella watches with joy as Charles puts her on a horse and leads her to the castle while the townspeople and her step-family follow behind.
A Musical Adaptation
One of the main differences in this movie compared to most others is that it is a musical. There are two ballets performed in this film, both the courtesy of the Ballet de Paris, of which Leslie Caron was a part. They are set during her dreams. The first she dreams of Charles as the son of the cook showing her around the palace kitchen. Following the typical ballet set and style of imagination over reality, Caron dances with some assistance from Michael Wilding. There is nothing I have been able to dig up about his dancing abilities and therefore am guessing he had none. I even heard someone say he was poor at it but since it is apparent Caron is the star of the ballet I have always assumed they didn't want a distracting partner for her. He may not be trained in ballet, but I have always thought he did a good job. Of course, I may be biased since I like the movie and the feeling it gives.
The second ballet is more dramatic and happens after Ella hears that Charles is going to be married. They dance together contentedly until he is reminded of his responsibilities as the heir to the principality. He leaves her and stoically walks away with the Egytian princess Tehara, played by another French ballerina and member of the Ballet de Paris, Liliane Montevecchi. Caron sorrowfully ends the scene as if she has died. With a great deal more to do with this ballet, Michael Wilding at least plays a convincing part, with Caron still center stage.
A Ballerina From the Start
I find it humorous when Ella tells the Prince that she doesn't know how to dance during the forest scene before the ball. Caron was a big part of the Ballet de Paris when she was as young as sixteen. Roland Petit, the ballet's choreographer, was also the choreographer for the ballets in the film. Caron went on to play Lili in 1953, Daddy Long Legs in 1955, which Liliane Montevecchi also starred in, and a number of other musicals. But her acting abilities were not limited to music as she played dramas well too.
The Scenario and The Costumes
Some Cinderella retellings are made to be realistic while others do not attempt to move past fairy-tale status. I find that this one borders on fairy-tale while still convincing you it's supposed to be real.
Helen Rose and Walter Plunkett did an excellent job in reconstructing period costume. The most astonishing is Ella's ball dress. Incredibly large and obviously heavy, it still had delicacy and femininity. And then Charles' silver suits and gold-lined jackets lent him that perfect amount of nobility. Kovin's robe in this scene (see picture to the ? ) is a rich burgundy. My siblings often say they want me to make such and such outfit for them and this robe is one on their list.
My Take - The Cinderella Elements
There are a few elements in this version I do not like though. For instance, Ella's childishness. There are times when her actions are particularly childish, for example, she pushes a boy down when he calls her "Cinder-Ella" and then runs away, and when the Prince treats her tenderly she bursts out with "Look what I can do!" as if she were a child. This almost makes you wonder why the Prince would fall in love with her. The basic character of Cinderella is loving and good-natured, as well as more mature due to her difficulties, and this version eliminates those concepts. Another is the fact that she has such short hair. What "Cinderella" looks like can be anything really, but her hair is at first hard to get over. Having seen it enough, I eventually accept it as part of the movie, but in no way do I approve. My strongest reason is probably because it makes Caron's face look rounder and, of course, more childish.
As for what I like, there really isn't much that just pops out at me. I like it because, 1) I'm a Cinderella fan and always on the lookout for more versions, and 2), I've always like Michael Wilding and Leslie Caron's dancing. Also, the stepsisters have a little more character than other stories give them, and Elsa Lanchester, the Widow Sonder, did an excellent job at being nasty. Though not her most amenable role, she did good at anyway. The Duke turns out to be a good egg with more sense than would at first appear, and the fact that the Prince has a friend to add some advice and dialogue is a new one as well.
But that's as much as I should go on. I've been quite long-winded in this post because it's obviously one of my favorite movies but I'll leave the rest for you to see for yourself.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and will come back soon for more! If you have any comments be sure and make them. I'd love to hear from you!