ALICE IN WONDERLAND was a box office failure despite the all-star cast on it’s release and most attributed it to the excellent makeup that made most of that cast virtually unrecognizable. It also cast doubt that a fantasy peopled with weird characters would ever be a success. That notion lasted all of six years until THE WIZARD OF OZ was released in 1939. The script was taken from both Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass with a heavy dose from the recent stage presentation.
An all live action film but for a short animated sequence during one of Tweedledee’s stories, it was a rather odd film I thought. It ran last week on Turner Classic Movies. The original running time was ninety minutes which was cut to seventy-seven when television bought the rights in the late fifties. One wonders if that cut footage was lost as it wasn’t included on the DVD release and the Turner showing was that cut length. One noticeable bad cut involved Alice and the Griffin leaving the Mock Turtle sobbing, then Alice fleeing along with the Red Queen the next instant.
As for the all-star cast, most of them I wasn’t familiar with at all. Not a film buff and most stars probably faded in the intervening years. Notable exceptions were W. C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty(and the face of Humpty looked to me a duplicate of Jabba The Hut from Star Wars), Gary Cooper as The White Knight, Charlie Ruggles as The March Hare, Cary Grant as The Mock Turtle, Richard Arlen as The Cheshire Cat, Edward Everett Horton as The Mad Hatter, and Sterling Holloway as The Frog. None of them were recognizable in that fantastic makeup and only W. C. Fields’ voice was caught by me.
The film opens as a bored Alice is stuck in the house during a snow storm. Looking out one window, she sees a white rabbit hopping across the yard and begins to make up fanciful tales. She soon climbs up on a chair to the mantle over the fireplace where she stands in front of a mirror and wonders about the reverse room she sees, finally stepping through and beginning her grand adventure.
For more overlooked movies and related matters, Todd Mason does the gathering on Tuesdays over at SWEET FREEDOM.