Monday, November 24, 2014

The Slipper and the Rose: A Different Musical Take on Cinderella

Richard Chamberlain as the Prince.
Pleasant, but only modestly successful, The Slipper and the Rose (1976) follows in the footsteps of two better-known musical versions of Cinderella: Walt Disney's 1950 animated classic and the Rodgers and Hammerstein television musical that starred, at various times, Julie Andrews, Lesley Ann Warren, and Brandy Norwood. There are numerous other musical adaptations as well, to include 1955's The Glass Slipper with Leslie Caron. Thus, it seems odd that if one was going to produce a lavish musical fairy tale that one would pick Cinderella.

That said, The Slipper and the Rose takes an unique approach by focusing much of the plot on the Prince and emphasizing class distinctions in the monarchy of Euphrania. Richard Chamberlain plays Edward, a dashing prince being pressured into marriage to ensure the sovereignty of his tiny country. Edward rejects several potential brides on the basis that he wants to marry for love. The royal chamberlain (Kenneth More) convinces the king to throw a ball to find an acceptable spouse for his son.

Gemma Craven as Cinderella.
Meanwhile, following her father's death, Cinderella (Gemma Craven) has learned that her stepmother (a delightful Margaret Lockwood) inherited the estate. The disagreeable lady gives Cinderella two choices: become a servant (indeed, the only one) in her own home or go live in an orphanage. Cinderella's outlook is bleak until her fairy godmother (Annette Crosbie) arrives and magically arranges for her to attend the ball. When she makes her grand entrance, it's loveat first sight for Cinderella and Prince Edward. However, in this version of the fairy tale, it takes awhile before they can live happily ever after.

Brother Richard and Robert Sherman, who composed the songs, were Disney veterans known for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Their score for The Slipper and the Rose is agreeable without being especially memorable. The clever lyrics (as evidenced by the song title "Protocoligorically Correct") outshine the music. The exception is the lovely Oscar-nominated "The Slipper and the Rose Waltz (He Danced with Me/She Danced with Me)," which lost the gold statuette to "You Light Up My Life." (If your browser prevents you from viewing the embedded clip below, click here to view it on YouTube.)


Gemma Craven is a sweet Cinderella, but she doesn't get much screen time until the film's second half. She does have a strong scene near the climax in which she shows her character's inner strength singing the dramatic "Tell Him Anything (But Not That I Love Him)." Chamberlain does well as the prince and proves that he can carry a tune (he had a trio of Top 20 Billboard hits during in the 1960s while his Dr. Kildare TV series was popular). However, it's the veteran supporting cast that carries the film: Crosbie, More, Michael Hordern as the King, and Dame Edith Evans as the Dowager Queen. As mentioned above, Margaret Lockwood is a perfect wicked stepmother and deserved more screen time.

Margaret Lockwood's evil stepmother.
When I watch a film like The Slipper and the Rose, I sometimes wonder who was the intended audience. At a length of 143 minutes and with 13 songs, I can't imagine many kids sitting through it from start to finish. So, I can only assume it was intended as a fairy tale for adults. However, even they might get restless when it continues for a half-hour after Edward discovers the left-behind glass slipper fits Cinderella. It's an interesting idea to split up the lovebirds because of their class distinctions, but, in the end, the resolution is much too tidy with everyone getting what they want.

I suppose that's all right in this case, though, because The Slipper and the Rose is a fairy tale.

2 comments:

  1. This is one of those I've only heard of but never seen. Richard Chamberlain was more successful in his TV ventures, it seems, than on the big screen (excepting "Petulia" and "The Last Wave." Hard to believe he is 80 now!

    Thanks for filling me in on a film I've known little about.

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  2. I absolutely LOVE this film... Discovered it when I was a child and I credit it with developing my vocabulary very early on. I'm rewatching it this evening and thinking about the script in general, it has a wonderful rhythm at points. If I won the lottery I'd have it restored for picture and sound quality though!

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