Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (1949 film) with the Bunin Puppets

Alice in Wonderland (French: Alice au pays des merveilles) is a 1949 French film based on Lewis Carroll's fantasy novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Directed by Dallas Bower, the film stars Carol Marsh as Alice, Stephen Murray as Lewis Carroll, and Raymond Bussières as The Tailor. Much of the supporting cast is portrayed by the Bunin Puppets.

All of the other live actors in the film are seen only in the live action scenes. However, they lend their voices to the Wonderland characters, and the staging of the scenes in England vs. the scenes in Wonderland is reminiscent of the Kansas scenes vs. the Oz scenes in The Wizard of Oz, in that several of the live-action characters seem to have counterparts (of sorts) in Wonderland. Among the other live actors are Pamela Brown as Alice's sister and as the voice of the Queen of Hearts. Stephen Murray is seen as Lewis Carroll and provides the voice of the Knave of Hearts, and Felix Aylmer, who played Polonius in Olivier's Hamlet, plays Dr. Liddell, father of Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Alice; he also provides the voice of the Cheshire Cat.


The film was not widely seen in the U.S. upon its completion, due to a legal dispute between the Disney Studios, which was making its own full-length animated version of Alice at the same time that the Bower version was being worked on. Disney sued to prevent release of the British version in the U.S., and the case was extensively covered in Time Magazine. The company that released the British version accused Disney of trying to exploit their film by releasing its version at virtually the same time (both films opened in the U.S. in 1951).

Both films flopped in the U.S., but Disney saw to it that the fame of its version was kept alive by showing an edited version of it on network television as part of their Disneyland series and issuing two record albums based on the film. The Disney version eventually reached classic film status and was re-released in the 1980s. The British version, meanwhile, also was sold to television, but only to local stations, where it was eclipsed by showings of the all-star Paramount 1933 live-action film version of the story, which, incidentally, had also flopped in movie theaters.


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