Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Forgotten Classic: The Glass Slipper (1955)

It’s time for the second installment of my “Forgotten Classic” series. This time I’ll be talking about the absolutely enchanting The Glass Slipper (1955). Directed by Charles Walters, this film is an interesting take on the Cinderella fairytale, with Leslie Caron as Ella, Michael Wilding as Prince Charles, Keenan Wynn as Charles’s valet Kovin, Elsa Lanchester as Ella’s stepmother, and Estelle Winwood as the fairy godmother character, Mrs. Toquet.

We all know the basic Cinderella story, but I’ll provide a summary of the movie anyway. Ella is an orphan taken in by Widow Sonder and her two daughters, Serafina and Birdina. Ella is an angry and very lonely girl, or as the narrator puts it: “It was the old story of the rejected becoming all the more rejected because they behaved badly because they’d been rejected—one of those circles.” One day in her secret spot away from town, Ella meets Mrs. Toquet, an eccentric lady who is gossiped about because she lives by herself in the woods and likes to steal things (but she always returns them, so no one pays attention). The two instantly bond, gaining Ella her first friend. The next day, Ella returns to her spot to meet with Mrs. Toquet, but she instead finds Prince Charles and his friend, Kovin. Charles has only just returned from a very long stay in Paris, so Ella doesn’t realize that he is the prince, therefore she believes him when he tells her that he’s the son of the palace cook.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Le 14 julliet

Being the Francophile I am, every year on July 14th, I try to celebrate Bastille Day. I know I’m American, but I feel a special affinity with France, so it’s fun to make some crepes and pop in a few films that are somehow associated with the country. Usually, I’ll watch a musical. The most obvious choice? An American in Paris, bien sûr. What better way to celebrate the romantic France than to watch the joyous dancing and singing of Gene Kelly as he falls for Leslie Caron? Director Vincente Minnelli and Kelly were both Francophiles, and boy, does it show in this film.

Another great Minnelli-Caron musical to watch is Gigi. The main cast is almost entirely made up of French natives (Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan), and since it was actually filmed in their home country, you get to see some great locations. If you want a third Leslie Caron choice, you can do no wrong with the marvelously underrated Daddy Long Legs. Sure, a good chunk of it takes place in the U.S., but the story concerns the French orphan Julie and the anonymous benefactor who pays for her to come to school in America. It helps, naturellement, that said benefactor is played by Fred Astaire with his usual grace and charm. Daddy Long Legs is just one of the trio of movies Astaire did in the 1950’s that are considered his “Paris pictures”.