The Early Days of Cinema Produced the First Alice in Wonderland Movie in 1903
Most of you are acquainted with Disney’s 1951 classic animated film Alice in Wonderland. Some of you may be conversant with the 1933 live action Alice movie, featuring big stars like WC Fields, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. But I bet very few of you are familiar with the very first Alice in Wonderland movie from 1903!
I got a chance to view the 1903 film recently at The Morgan Library in New York City, The Morgan was hosting a wonderful exhibit in honor of Alice150, the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was utterly charmed by the short, silent film and was delighted to discover that it is available online! I have saved you a plane ticket to New York City! You’re welcome.
As you will see, this first Alice in Wonderland movie includes some snazzy attempts at special effects. Alice’s shrinking is surprisingly convincing. Her growing is a little more herky-jerky for some reason. Her giant arm sticking out of the White Rabbit’s tiny house is adorable. Then there is my favorite, the superimposed Cheshire Cat.
The film may have been as long as twelve minutes, but only eight and a half minutes survive, lovingly restored by the British Film Institute (that’s their bubbly logo at the top right of the video). Twelve minutes was super lengthy for the early days of cinema! It took two pioneering directors to produce the 1903 Alice, Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow. Understandably, not everything in the book is included. Though I can’t help thinking a lot more could have been included, had the interminable parade of playing cards not been so endless. It’s over a minute of the eight and a half minutes!
Enough of my jabbering, ready to watch the very first Alice in Wonderland movie ever??? Keep an eye out for the elusive Alice in Wonderland puppy! Most of his footage must have been damaged, for he is in it for the fleetest of moments.
What did you think? In a 1903 cinematic throwdown, what would win- the British Alice in Wonderland, or the all-American The Great Train Robbery? More importantly, did you catch a glimpse of the puppy?