Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Guilty Pleasure Frock Flick No 4: The Slipper and The Rose

Many people raved about Kenneth Branaghs recent Cinderella story, but for me there really only is one true Cinderella film, and it's The Slipper and The Rose. Made in 1976, 4 years before I was born, it's like Star Wars or The Sound of Music, I simply cannot recall a time when I hadn't seen this film.

This film also marks a moment for me as a film professional. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to work on a short film with Tony Imi the cinematographer of this film of this film. Professional pride prevented me from geeking out and confessing to him that I was a massive fan of this film and begging him to tell me stories about working on it (it's very poor taste of fangirl on a colleague  with so we all wander around film sets pretending we're totally cool with working with movie stars, which we're usually not, at least for the first couple of hours before we realise they're just as, if not more, annoying as all the other actors we've worked with). Anyway Tony Imi died a few months after filming and it's a lifelong regret that I never asked him about the film.

No 4:

The Slipper and The Rose (1974)

Costume Design: Julie Harris

But what makes this film so good?

Apart from the fact it's set in my favourite period of the 18th Century, it's also very well written and bloody hilarious. Particularly Annette Crosby as the Fairy Godmother and Julian Orchard as the King's Cousin whose background in Carry On films puts him in good stead. 

And it seems I can't resist a powdered wig and a good pair of paniers.

This film, in true 1970s fashion has just as many failures as successes, but it's also so unashamedly lavish and unafraid to use synthetics that you can't resist it. 

And I promise to go with a different period for the number 3.

The Plot

Margaret Lockwood as the evil stepmother, with Sherrie Hewson and Rosalyn Ayres as the stepsisters
It's Cinderella, plain and simple. Our Prince Edward (Richard Chamberlain) is bored of being a prince and wonders 'Why can't I be two people?' but his wonderfully older parents wonder "What has love got to do with being married?" Our heroine is mistreated by a brilliantly pantomime villain Stepmother and ugly stepsisters and remembers that "Once I was loved" as she sees her mothers grave. The Prince is disgusted by the idea of "A Bride Finding Ball" but his wonderfully repulsive (in a totally endearing way) cousin is delighted at the prospect of getting his leftovers.

For those who haven't worked it out yet, have I mentioned that it's a musical. My personal proclivities aside, don't let that put you off. The songs are (for the most part) the comedy highlights of the film. The Sherman Brothers who composed the film won Oscars for best song and best score, the Golden Globe for best score and the BAFTA for film music. Naturally there's the token boring songs, but the fast forward button was invented for a reason.

Cinderella is visited by the worlds most wonderfully cynical fairy godmother in the guise of Annette Crosbie, gets to go to the ball, meets the prince, falls in love, but before they can get together fate steps in, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. It's fricken Cinderella. If you're watching this film to find out if the girl gets the Prince you're probably not the target audience

This film made me want a fairy godmother, but more for the wonderful sarcastic humour than the pumpkin coach

The Cast:

This is not an A-list cast. Richard Chamberlain is the most recognisable face of the bunch. He's the man I always think played James Bond but didn't, and epitomises Prince Charming, safe in the knowledge that nothing is more charming than a man who doesn't want a woman who desires him simply for his wealth and position. 
International ballet star Christopher Gable brings the dance element for the men as John, our princes trusty sidekick, who suffers from his own case of forbidden love and so can sympathise with our Prince's problems.
A relatively unknown Gemma Craven is our Cinderella, but in case I haven't mentioned it before, it's the humourous supporting cast that really make this film worth watching. It's a quintessentially B Grade (and that might be generous) English stars shine with people like Kenneth Moore as the Lord Chamberlain, Michael Hordon and Lally Bowers as the aging King and Queen and as I mentioned above, the show is totally stolen by Julian Orchard as the Kings cousin, the man who you don't want to love. And of course Margaret Lockwood and Annette Crosby. If you've not heard of any of these people, I can guarantee you're going to want to see more of them after watching this.

The Costumes:

The costume designer is Julie Harris who unfortunately died earlier this year. You've probably never heard of her but this won't be her only appearance on my list. Her most famous works include The Beatles film A Hard Days Night, The Great Muppet Caper and Bond film Live and Let Die, so she's definitely earned her stripes.

As I promised, there are some doosies here. The 70s flourescent candyfloss tones of the great ball cannot be ignored.

Neither can our heros weird 70s hairdo and upholstery velvet suit, or the  net cape and the pink wig that our heroine is transformed into by our fairy godmother. But as an example of the juxtaposition of the period a costume is set and the date it was made, this film absolutely nails it.

But where the costumes really shine is when Cinderella decides that she must escape for the good of the Prince and country. As an massive art lover the homage Fragonard's archetypal Rococo masterpiece The Swing just gets me every time I see this film. (my husband has zero time for Rococo art, which I appreciate, it's about as girly and fluffy as art gets.)

Her wedding dress is pretty damn lustworthy too.

Favourite Frock

I can't explain it, but something about this velvet travelling hood just makes me go weak at the knees.

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