Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (1931 film)

Alice in Wonderland is a 1931 black and white American-made film based on Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The first sound version of the story, and therefore the first film to use Carroll's original dialogue, the film starred Ruth Gilbert as Alice and Leslie King as the Mad Hatter. It opened at the Warner Theatre in New York.


In this low-budget film, in which many of the all-American cast struggled to reproduce British accents, Alice (Ruth Gilbert) meets the White Rabbit (Ralph Hertz), the bad-tempered Cook (Lillian Ardell) and the Duchess (Mabel Wright). She joins a mad tea-party with the Mad Hatter (Leslie King), the March Hare (Meyer Berensen) and the Dormouse (Raymond Schultz), while the Cheshire Cat (Tom Corless) leaves his grin behind. The Caterpillar (Jimmy Rosen) becomes annoyed with her, and the Queen of Hearts (Vie Quinn) threatens to cut off her head. With the Duchess, Alice meets the Mock Turtle (Gus Alexander) and the Gryphon (Charles Silvern), and at a bizarre trial, Alice finally becomes fed up with all the strange events and people.


The film was made in 1931 at the Metropolitan Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, possibly with a cast of amateur actors, and in anticipation of the centenary of the birth of Lewis Carroll the following year, which event was causing a wave of 'Alice' fever on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States a number of 'Alice in Wonderland' plays, films, songs and puppet shows in the early 1930s attempted to cash in on this Carroll and 'Alice' fever. For example, in the Betty Boop cartoon Betty in Blunderland Betty went to Wonderland, as did Eva Le Gallienne in a 1932 Broadway show 'Alice in Wonderland', which was one of the hits of the year. Irving Berlin had an 'Alice in Wonderland' song, while Paramount Studios was preparing a big-budget Alice in Wonderland which starred Charlotte Henry, W.C. Fields, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. In 1932 Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the 'Alice' of the original books, and by now an elderly lady, visited America to take part in these centenary celebrations. Because of this interest in all things 'Alice' the film opened at the prestigious Warner Theatre in New York.


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