Written for Cinderella Week hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine. ❤
As a homeschooler with parents who weren't wholeheartedly involved in the Disney boycott thing in the 90s, I was solidly exposed to fantasy and fairy tales as a child. So of course I watched Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre. Oh my, I look back on that series with so much fondness and love, but, out of all the episodes, only a few really stood out as my favorites, and one of them happens to be Cinderella.
If you've never watched it, then you've missed so much! Matthew Broderick, who I happen to ADORE, plays Prince Henry, making himself one of my favorites of the Cinderella princes. He was just so . . . ideal. Naive perhaps, and very young, not unlike Cinderella herself, and I liked that, knowing they would grow to maturity together.
Three things stand out for me when I think about Faerie Tale Theatre's Cinderella: the casting, the humor, and the costuming.
I, mean, how do you go wrong casting Matthew Broderick as the Prince and Jean Stapleton as the fairy godmother?! I sort of grew up with Jean Stapleton, watching her be a semi-regular character on the spy show Scarecrow and Mrs. King in the 80s, so watching her don sparkles and the most GORGEOUS of all ball gowns to play Cinderella's fairy godmother, well, it was a sure thing I'd love her. As for Broderick, you already know I love him, but I also know Eve Arden as the wicked stepmother, who was quite the renowned actress herself in the days of classic cinema. Jane Alden and Edie McClurg play the stepsisters, Bertha and Arlene, and the insanely eccentric James Noble, known mainly for The Love Boat, is cast as the king.
But I also mentioned humor, and this version of Cinderella is shock full of it. Whether it's Bertha saying to a male visiter, "Would you like something to drink, perhaps some ham?" or the King remarking to his son, "Have you ever talked to that chef, Jacque? He is a heck of a nice guy!" the dialogue just flows so well. I love how the fairy godmother , just as she's about to turn the pumpkin into a coach, pauses and proclaims, "Hold on, pumpkins aren't hollow are they? Don't they have all that stringy stuff inside of 'em?" To which Cinderella responds, "Yes, and seeds." And the fairy godmother says, "Seeds! You don't want gigantic seeds inside of your coach do you? No, I should say not, we'll have to dig 'em out!" Which they then proceed to do, divesting the pumpkin of its seeds and "stringy stuff." The fairy godmother is a great kidder, the king strikes me as a laid back lounge singer from the 1960s, and Prince Henry spends a great deal of his time dodging Cinderella's stepsisters at the balls.
Which, I might add, this version has multiple balls, not just one, and I like that. Henry holds more than one ball because he's determined to see Cinderella again, but leave it to him to still not get her name. As his father says in exasperation, "You still don't know her name? What have you been calling her, hey, you?!" Cinderella and Henry's first kiss takes place outdoors, by the fountain, and all because she tentatively asks him, "Do you know anything about kissing" to which he nods and says, "I'm almost certain it has something to do with the lips." Remember what I said about naivete? They've got loads of it.
Oh, and the costumes, so stunning! I couldn't find any truly decent pictures to use, but the one above gives you an inkling. The budget for this version must have been more substantial, both to pay the cast and to clothe them.I would give anything for one of Cinderella's gowns, just for an evening, they're so stupendous. Even her stepsisters and stepmother are clothed well, and of course, the fairy godmother is stunning, with sparkling flecks on her cheeks and that mischievous gleam in her eye. Part of my love for this version simply stems from the costumes and set dressing. The carriage, too is gorgeous!
But one thing I love most is one of Cinderella's conversations with her fairy godmother when they're cleaning out that pumpkin. She's complaining about her ill treatment, and they do treat her very poorly. And the fairy godmother says, "Maybe I'll turn them into logs." Cinderella says, "Oh no, please don't do that." Fairy godmother responds, "Well, maybe I'll turn them into little furry animals, that'll fix their wagons." Cinderella pauses in her work, sighs a little, and remarks sadly, "Maybe they can't help the way that they are."
Another conversation is between Cinderella and her stepmother where Cinderella wants to know why she's being treated with such contempt because all she's ever been is kind. To which her stepmother responds, "My dear, nature has been very kind to you. You have been blessed with beauty, kindness, and a charming disposition. These qualities are totally absent from myself and my daughters. So to balance the scales of nature, which have been unfairly tipped in your favor, it is only right that we should treat you like dirt. Think of it as a good deed. You kiss up to us, we despise you, and everyone is happy." Cinderella responds quietly, "But I'm not happy." And the stepmother says, "Splendid."
Such is the way of the world, but Cinderella never loses her compassion or her gentle spirit. Such is the case of the Christian walk. I'm sure there must have been moments when Cinderella wanted to lash out in anger, but she didn't, because she couldn't be cruel. So too must Christians remember that we are called to compassion and love whether it is ever returned. This particular fairy tale has always been allegorical in nature, and this particular version is an excellent representation of that allegory.
And in the end, of course, Cinderella and Henry live Happily Ever After! ❤
Make sure to check out all the other posts for Cinderella Week by clicking the picture below!