Musical Monday: The Glass Skipper (1955)

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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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

the glass slipperThis week’s musical:
“The Glass Skipper” (1955)– Musical #90

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Walters

Starring:
Leslie Caron, Michael Wilding, Keenan Wynn, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Amanda Blake, Lurene Tuttle, Lisa Daniels, Barry Jones
Narrator: Walter Pidgeon

Plot:
Adaptation of the story of Cinderella. Ella (Caron), nicknamed Cinderella for her filthy appearance, is lonely and rebellious. She is the servant to her stepmother (Lanchester) and two stepsisters (Blake, Daniels), who are in a tizzy over the return of Prince Charles (Wilding) and are preparing for his ball. While sitting by her favorite secret spot by the river, Ella meets dizzy Mrs. Toquet, who everyone says is crazy. Ella also meets the prince by the river but doesn’t know he’s royalty. Mrs. Toquet helps Ella get ready for the ball without magic but through creative means.

Trivia:
-Choreography by Roland Petit.
-According to TCM host Robert Osborne, Michael Wilding was cast to keep his wife-MGM contract player Elizabeth Taylor-happy because Michael kept complaining that he wasn’t being given any roles.
-Leslie Caron wrote in her memoir “Thank Heaven,” Michael Wilding was so unhappy in his role as the prince that he begged Caron to throw a tantrum and say that she wanted a new co-star. She didn’t feel like she could make such demands. However, Caron said she and Wilding got along and she was always in awe of Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty, who was married to Wilding at the time.
-Michael Wilding was dubbed by Gilbert Russell.
-Dancers Tommy Rall, Jacques d’Amboise and James Mitchell were considered for the role of Prince Charming.

Leslie Caron and Michael Wilding in

Leslie Caron and Michael Wilding in “The Glass Slipper”

Leslie Caron and Lurene Tuttle in

Leslie Caron and Lurene Tuttle in “The Glass Slipper”

Highlights:
-Walter Pidgeon as the narrator
-Ballet numbers performed by Leslie Caron

Notable Songs:
This film was more about ballet numbers rather than songs.

My review:
“The Glass Slipper” is a glittering, charming and enchanting take on the classic story of Cinderella.
Set against a colorful, storybook land, the film has a remarkable supporting cast that includes Keenan Wynn, Elsa Lanchester and Amanda Blake.

“The Glass Slipper” isn’t your typical song and dance musical. There is only one song that is performed by a dubbed Michael Wilding, but the other numbers are beautiful ballet numbers daydreamed by Cinderella. There are three major ballet numbers in the film, exhibiting Caron’s lovely talent. I enjoyed watching her precise and perfect ballet steps, because I love dance and dancing. However, I can see how this could be dull for someone that isn’t interested in ballet.

Leslie Caron’s version of “Ella,” or Cinderella, is different than the sweet, sad character we are used to from the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals or the 1950 Walt Disney cartoon. Caron’s Ella is a bit of a tomboy and exhibits her loneliness and sadness through rebellion, talking back and scoffing at anyone who is rude to her.

Her fairy godmother is different from the traditional godmother who makes the evening happen with a magic wand. Played by Lurene Tuttle, rather than using magic, she steals…or borrows. She gathers the gown and glass slippers which she will return and makes a bargain with a driver of a carriage who has to take Cinderella home by 12 a.m. because his group is heading home at 1 a.m.

As for Ella’s stepfamily, rather than being evil, they are just lazy social climbers. Elsa Lanchester in her role as the evil stepmother is particularly hilarious.

But the person that makes the whole movie and that steals the show isn’t even shown on screen! I LOVE Walter Pidgeon as the narrator. He has the perfect delivery and warm tone to tell a fairy tale, but he is also hilarious! I laughed out loud many times at his dialogue.

The only downside of the film is Michael Wilding as the prince. He’s not bad but I feel sorry for him because he looks so uncomfortable. He’s in two of the dance numbers, and it’s obvious the choreographer worked to add Wilding into the dances without really doing anything. For example, Wilding stirs a pot in one number or stands while Caron dances around him. He looks so uncomfortable. Had a dancer such as James Mitchell or Tommy Rall been cast, it would have been appropriate, but studio politics cast Wilding instead. Acting wise, Wilding is fine.

“The Glass Slipper” is a lovely, magical film. When I originally saw this movie more than 10 years ago, I wasn’t enthralled. I’m glad I visited it again, because it found me enchanted.

Leslie Caron as Cinderella arriving at the ball in

Leslie Caron as Cinderella arriving at the ball in “The Glass Slipper.”

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Musical Monday: “Lili” (1953)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

liliThis week’s musical:
Lili“– Musical #473

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Charles Walters

Starring:
Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kurt Kasznar

Plot:
An orphan young girl named Lili (Caron) goes to work for a baker who has already died. She is taken in by a carnival group and develops a crush on the lecherous magician Marc (Aumont). After she loses a waitressing job in the carnival, she doesn’t know who to turn to. Just as she considers taking her life, a puppet calls to her from the puppet booth (with Mel Ferrer behind the curtain). Lili sings and jokes with the puppets, and a crowd grows behind her. The angry Paul (Ferrer) sees the crowd and stars an act with Lili. The whole time, Lili is still infatuated with Marc, which angers Paul.

Trivia:
-Leslie Caron is supposed to play a 16 year old girl in the film. She really was 22 years old.
-Gower Champion directed a stage version on Broadway of the movie in 1961 called “Carnival.” The Leslie Caron role was played by Anna Marie Alberghetti.
-The song “Hi-Lilli Lo-Lilli” reached #30 on the charts
-Based on the Saturday Evening Post short story “The Man Who Hated People” by Paul Gallico. The story was based on the puppet show “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”.
-Bronislau Kaper won an Academy Award for Best Music Scoring
-Other Academy Award Nominations: Leslie Caron was Best Actress, Best Art Direction for a Color film, Best Cinematography for a Color film, Charles Walters for Best Director, Helen Deutsch for Best Writing, Screenplay
-Cabaret puppeteers Walton and O’Rourke made the puppets for the film.
-Professional puppeteers worked the puppets of Carrot Top, Golo the Giant, Marguerite and Reynardo—not Mel Ferrer.

Leslie Caron as Lili talks with puppets

Leslie Caron as Lili talks with puppets

Highlights (and unintentional humorous scenes):
-Lecherous Aumont says about young Lili “The female soul is like a chestnut, it has to go through fire before it gets delicious”
-Mel Ferrer’s character used to be a great dancer, but his leg was injured in the war so he can no longer dance. And he’s bitter. At one point, he angrily shouts, “I shall now perform a double pirouette!” and then dramatically slams into a cabinet and says he no longer can dance. It’s hilariously awkward.
-During a dream sequence, Caron sort of dances with Aumont. She first wears a sexy waitress outfit and then is transformed into a slinky sequin dress that his assistant (Gabor) wears.
-Caron says that Carrot Top the puppet is her boyfriend.
-Ferrer walks in as Aumont is trying to seduce Caron. Ferrer basically calls her a whore, but a short time later is calling her sweet and as pure as a silver bell.
-After being hurt by both Ferrer and Aumont, Caron decides to leave. Ferrer convinces her to stay through the puppets. Caron hugs the puppets. Then Caron asks, “Why do you hide behind these puppets?” Ferrer yells, “I am the puppets!”
-Caron finally leaves town and has another dream sequence and has a dream sequence where she is walking with life sized versions of Ferrer’s puppets.

Lili dances with life size puppets during a dream sequence.

Lili dances with life size puppets during a dream sequence.

Notable Songs:
-Though this is said to be a musical, “Lili” only has one song that is sung multiple times: “Hi-Lilli, Lo-Lilli”

My Review:
Several reviews says that “Lili” is refreshing, charming and whimsical, but I can’t say that I was as enchanted. The premise of the story is fairly charming, but the puppets, the lecherous men and Mel Ferrer’s dramatic outbursts killed it for me.
The movie-dubbed a musical- was a huge waste of Leslie Caron’s immense talent as a ballet dancer. Caron’s film career started off with the extravaganza “An American in Paris” (1951) where she had elaborate dance scenes. Even in the dream sequences, Caron only made a few prances here and there, but nothing that showed off her professional dancing skills.
Following “Lili,” Caron once again got to show off her ballet skills in “The Glass Slipper” (1955) and “Daddy Long Legs” (1955).
All in all, I found “Lili” rather strange and couldn’t close my mouth from disbelief when the film ended.

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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