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The Slipper and the Rose
COLUMBIA. DAILY SPECTATOR November 15, 1976
Cinderella' s Light Romance, Satire
By TOM SOTER
"It was the same with Snow White," says an exasperated Godmother, "you young girls never do as you're told " Doing as one is told is only one of the many lessons that scenarists Robert Sherman, Richard Sherman, and co-scenarist director Bryan Forbes have gotten out of that tired old children's tale call1ed "Cinderella."
In their new· musical version, The Slipper and the Rose: The'Story of Cinderella, Forbes, with the help of a delightful cast and some very witty interpretations, has managed to rein; vigorate the old story, giving it some new twists while retaining much of the old romance.
These new twists include the aforementioned Fariy Godmother (Anette Crosbie) who is a good indication of the overall semi-romantic, semi-siUirical tone of the film. They also include a number of interestingly presented and familiar themes, foremost among them being the conflict between live and duty. The love, in this case, is the Prince's (Richard Chamberlain) for Cinderella (Gemma Craven), while the duty is the one he owes his country, a small kingdom named Euphrania which needs a marriage. of convenience with a stronger ally's princess.
On this idea, the movie gently and engagingly builds its points, poking fun at the many foolishnesses of· government with its amusing cast of characters. Among them, there's a silly King (Michael Hordern) with some clever lines, a senile Dowager Queen (Edith Evans) who makes very appropriate inappropriate comments, a pompously befuddled Lord Chamberlain (Kenneth More), and of course, the Fairy Godmother, whose interpretation of a rather practical~rnlnaed woman doing her rather unusual duty is perhaps the most enjoyable thing of all ("I'm a-Fairy Godmother," she says by way of awkward introduction, "don't ask me how I got into it ... ")
But the movie is not simply a string of one-liners. Forbes and company have managed to balance their gentle parody with an even gentler-and. at times quite touching-romance. The first meeting of the two lovers at the balt; for example, is quite enchanting, even though it has all the makings of a cliche. What Forbes has done successfully here (and unsuccessfully elsewhere) is to balance the romantie with the satiric. By having Cinderella announced as "The Princess Incognita," he deflates the .importance of the scene just enough to put the viewer off his guard (just as the Prince and his guests are off their guards), while at the same time managing to heighten the girl's actual appearance by a very subjective treatment. We first see her, as the Prince does, in long shot. As he moves toward her, the camera dollies in and there's silence, save for a soft piece of music. They finally come together and the camera angle has become so tight that all we can see are the Prince and "Princess" about to dance. To them, figuratively, and to us, literally, they are in a "world of their own" -a world of romantic love where no one else exists.
lt is a tribute to Forbes' understanding of his medium that; he is able to get this feeling across-a feeling so very important if one is to fully appreciate the realistic conflict that is to come.later. Or, as the Chamberlain explains to Cinderella in a moving scene, "You see love and happiness staring you in. the fac,e. But I see only war and destruction unless a sacrifice is made." It is made arid the film almost becomes a tragedy-'until the Fairy Godmother once again takes a hand ("I suppose I shall have to rise to the occasion and do something spectacular," she sighs. The happy ending doesn't serve to completely erase the very real problems the film presents. How does one resolve the conflict between love and duty?
As many of the well-integrated songs point out, the people have always accepted duty and convention-but that acceptance has often given them corrupt, insane, or (as in this film) silly rulers. There are a few conceptual flaws here and there. For instance, although most of the major characters arp. very well done, the stepmother (Margaret Lockwood) and stepsisters (Rosalind Ayres and Sherrie Hewson) are a bit too stereotypical and thus rather uninteresting in comparison with the rest of the cast. There is also the problem of some occasional romantic and satirical excesses which tend to unbalance the film at times and cause it to verge towards the silly.
And finally, the story has some initial trouble setting the proper tone, and one's interest doesn't really pick up until after the Dowager Queen is introduced. However, these are minor complaints, and· once the movie gets going they are forgotten. In short, The Slipper and the Rose is a more often than not very witty bit of entertainment and a show I would recommend for grown-ups of all ages. A LOOK BACK By TOM SOTER This was my first published piece, in the Columbia Daily Spectator. Hardly an auspicious debut or an important movie (though apparently it has a following and web site of its own). I was in my Vincent Canby-mode; and for those who don't recognize Canby's name, he was the wishy washy film critic of the New York Times. I later developed a great dislike for him.