Musical Monday: Cinderella (1965)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

cinderella 1965 11This week’s musical:
Cinderella (1965) – Musical #144


Charles S. Dubin

Lesley Ann Warren, Stuart Damon, Walter Pidgeon, Ginger Rogers, Pat Carroll, Barbara Ruick, Celeste Holm, Jo Van Fleet, Trudi Ames, Betty Noyes, Bill Lee,

Set to music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the story focuses on Cinderella (Warren), a lonely young woman whose father has died and she lives only with her stepmother (Fleet) and stepsisters (Ruick, Carroll). Her stepmother and stepsisters have made Cinderella their servant, while Cinderella dreams of a better life. The Prince (Damon) is in search of a wife, and the King and Queen (Pidgeon, Rogers) hold a ball so he can find a wife. Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Holm) helps her get to the ball, but she must leave by midnight.

• Rodgers and Hammerstein originally wrote this musical for television, and it is their only musical that was solely written for a television special. The original TV production aired in 1957, starring Julie Andrews as Cinderella.
• The film was Lesley Ann Warren’s first film or TV leading role.
• Aired on television on CBS, Feb. 22, 1965
• One of three Rogers and Hammerstein televised Cinderellas. The others included:
-1957 starring Julie Andrews
-1997 starring Brandy and Whitney Houston
• The song “Loneliness of Evening” was originally written for “South Pacific.”

cinderella 1965 8

Celeste Holm and Lesley Ann Warren

• Ginger Rogers and Walter Pidgeon as the prince’s parents
• Pat Carroll and Barbara Ruick as the stepsisters.

cinderella 1965 10

Ginger Rogers and Walter Pidgeon

Notable Songs:
• “In My Own Little Corner” performed by Lesley Ann Warren
• “Impossible” performed by Celeste Holm and Lesley Ann Warren
• “Ten Minutes Ago” performed by Stuart Damon and Lesley Ann Warren
• “Stepsisters’ Lament” performed by Pat Carroll and Barbara Ruick
• “A Lovely Night” performed by Lesley Ann Warren

cinderella 1965 9

My review:
What an absolute delight this is. How can you even watch this without a smile on your face throughout?

While each of the Rodgers and Hammerstein “Cinderella” TV specials has their merits, this 1965 version is my favorite. It’s such a joy.

In this version, Lesley Ann Warren makes her leading role debut as the servant girl who gets to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother. With the added music, the television production fairly follows the traditional fairytale of “Cinderella.”

Filmed in color for television, the set looks like a soundstage, but adds to the storybook feel, like you are reading a book with pop-up art.

The entire cast is simply tops. Lesley Ann Warren is lovely and sweet. Films like this make me wish she was born earlier so that she could have gone further in musicals. By 1965, movie musicals were on their decline, so while Warren starred in a few Disney musicals, her movie musical star didn’t rise as it may have had she entered films as a young person in the 1950s.

Warren was on Broadway when she auditioned for the role. At age 17, she said she was so terrified that she did a terrible job, but director Charles S. Dubin had seen her on Broadway in “110 in the Shade,” and fought for her to be in the television production, according to a 2020 Playbill interview with Warren.

Youthful and sweet, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in this 1965 production.

Stuart Damon makes a dashing Prince and has a rich, beautiful singing voice.

While our leads are outstanding, it may be the supporting cast that steal the show. For starters, it’s wonderful to see Hollywood veterans Walter Pidgeon and Ginger Rogers appear as the King and Queen; reunited after co-starring in Weekend at the Waldorf. My only complaint is that we don’t see enough of Pidgeon and Rogers!

Outfitted in pink, Celeste Holm is also wonderful as the Fairy Godmother.

cinderella 1965 2

Barbara Ruick, Jo Van Fleet, Pat Carroll

But the real standouts are the stepsisters, played by Barbara Ruick and Pat Carroll. They are hilarious! Carroll’s character has a gag with creaky knees and Ruick with batting her eyes too much. They both play their characters masterfully, creating laugh-out-loud moments.

And of course, I would be remise to mention the music. “Cinderella” is filled with memorable, well-known, show stopping tunes that you will be humming long after the credits roles. It’s hard to pick a favorite.

My only thoughts about “Cinderella” in general: What time does she get to the ball? 11:30 p.m.? And my, don’t glass slippers sound uncomfortable?

Regardless, this is such a joy to watch. Revisiting “Cinderella” (1965) with my mom, she said that it took her back to being 9 years old and watching it for the first time.

If this television special doesn’t make you smile and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, I’m not sure what does.

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