Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Snow White, the 1916 film

In 1916, the very first screen adaptation of the Brothers Grimm's iconic fairy tale Snow White flickered across the nickleodeon screens all over America. In one of these darkened theatres in Marceline, Missourri, the film left an indelible impression on the mind of a young patron by the name of Walt Disney. When young Walt would come of age, the memories of this magical film inspired him to return to the story of the fair-skinned princess and her companions as the subject for the first ever feature-length animated film.

To say that the 1916 version of Snow White inspired the 1937 Disney version is an understatement, for the inspiration runs deep. So deeply, in fact, that it would not be inappropriate to say that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an outright remake of the silent film. Similarities reach out further than the common source material, as there are some conventions in the silent film that echo two decades later.

However, this original version is considerably different in its own way. At the expense of dwarven sing-alongs, the story is more fully developed. A full half of the film passes before Snow White escapes the Queen's death plot in the shadows of the Dwarves' forest. In that time we are introduced to Snow White's true mother, the ugly stepmother Queen Brangomar turned beautiful by the witch Hex on the condition of receiving Snow White's still-beating heart, Prince Florimond the love interest, Snow White's gaggle of handmaidens, Berthold the huntsman and his family. As you may glean simply by the fact that these characters have names, we enter more richly into the world of Snow White than in other versions.

We also have here a version that is truer to the Brothers Grimm version than later renditions. That has pluses and minuses, however. The incomparable romance of the young woman's sexual awakening with love's first kiss was the invention of that boy from Marceline. The Grimms were far more practical.

But don't take my word on it. Watch the complete silent film version of Snow White for yourself...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear

Disney's maligned classic Song of the South features three animated sequences pulled from various writings of Joel Chandler Harris. The story of Brer Rabbit's Laughin' Place is derived from one of his last books - Told by Uncle Remus: New Stories from the Old Plantation - while the other two come from his first, Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings. We already looked at the story of the Tar Baby. This time, we're looking at the story of how Brer Rabbit tricked Brer Bear... minus the musical introduction.

From chapter XXIII...