I recently saw The Slipper and the Rose, an oldie-but-goodie, for the first time. While it’s not perfect, it’s a charming movie that tries to address some of the “Wait, what? Why on earth would they do that?” issues that plague some other takes on the Cinderella tale.
The movie starts off with gorgeous nature scenes that gradually, gracefully coalesce into two tales that gradually (and not quite as gracefully) coalesce into one.
We have Prince Edward (Richard Chamberlain), heir to the throne of tiny, beleaguered Euphrania. His pragmatic parents want him wedded to a larger, richer, and better-armed ally, but Edward is a romantic who longs for love and mocks and grieves over the irony of his situation.
We have young Cinderella (Gemma Craven), who discovers that her recently-deceased father left everything to her stepmother. Her stepmother (Margaret Lockwood) allows Cinderella two options: to stay in her erstwhile-home as a servant, or be sent destitute to the nearest orphanage. Given those options, it’s somewhat understandable why Cinderella remains where she is.
An overworked fairy godmother (delightfully played by Annette Crosbie) improves Cinderella’s lot in life and orchestrates her chance to meet and fall in love with Prince Edward. And meet and fall in love they do. It’s sappy, but when you have two characters who, in their own ways, are each very love-starved, the typical love-at-first-sight is easier to swallow. The writers built up to it well.
Then the writers do something brilliant. Happy ever after? Nope. This is the midpoint of the movie. I really liked how this film addressed what would actually happen if a headstrong, romantic prince of a struggling small country insisted on marrying someone who, to the ruling classes, was basically invisible. In the end, yes, of course, there’s a happy ending. And, yes, by the time we get to it, it feels hurried and slapped-on. But there’s some darn good plot and some questions that a “lightweight” musical comedy was quite brave to address, before we get there.
The story isn’t the only good part of the film. Most of the actors were a joy to watch. Richard Chamberlain made a most charming prince. Gemma Craven brought a refreshing youthful vulnerability to Cinderella. The king and queen were delightful, the dowager queen a hoot, the man-at-arms John just the right balance of friendly subservience and incompletely-veiled envy, and the Royal Chamberlain such that you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. The stepmother and stepsisters were jarringly over the top in an otherwise elegantly restrained movie, but I think that’s exactly what the director meant them to be.
The costumes were perfect. The costumers took fairly accurate period cuts and lines, then used colors and fabrics and trims and sequins (oh, the sequins!!) to make the costumes positively magical. Even if the movie were horrible (which it’s not), I’d still watch it repeatedly for the costumes.
Even the music was great fun. The tunes were catchy, the harmonies pleasant, and the lyrics surprisingly witty. I find myself wishing to see the stage version (yes, there is a stage version!) locally. I highly recommend The Slipper and the Rose. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film.
Release Date: March 24, 1976 (UK)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some social drinking)
Violence: 1 (tantrums, threats of war)