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Alice in Wonderland (1903)

 
Directed by Cecil Hepworth
Percy Stow
Written by Lewis Carroll (book)
Cecil M. Hepworth
Starring May Clark (Alice)
Cecil M. Hepworth
Mrs. Cecil Hepworth (The Red Queen)
Norman Whitten
Stanley Faithfull
Cinematography Cecil M. Hepworth, Geoffrey Faithfull
Production Company Hepworth Manufacturing Co.
Distributed by American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
Edison Manufacturing Company
Kleine Optical Company
Release date(s) October 17, 1903
Running time 8 min
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Language Silent film, b/w, 8 mins.

 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. Lewis Carroll's character is arguably a bit questionable concerning his relationship with Alice Liddell for whom many believe he wrote the the "Alice" and the "Through the Looking Glass" stories.

A lot of work went into the making of this film. Costumes were based on the original drawings of Sir John Tenniel Ė Carrollís original illustrator for the book. And Hepworth and Stow devised some innovative "trick shots" especially for the film.

Read about the story here. Read an excellent synopsis of the film here by Simon Brown.

Read about the painstaking restoration of the last surviving print by the BFI here. According to Bryony Dixon of the BFI, it seems to have been one of the oldest colour (or at least, tinted) films in British Film history.

The newly restored film will be publicly available to view on the BFI website www.bfi.org.uk and in BFI Mediatheques around the UK from early March 2010, completely free of charge

The BFI notes for the film state:

Made just 37 years after the novelís publication and eight years after the birth of cinema, the first film adaptation was directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, and was based on Sir John Tennielís original illustrations. Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. His production secretary May Clark played Alice, and even the family cat and dog got in on the act. The cat played the Cheshire Cat, and the dog Blair would go on to become the first authentic British film star (canine or otherwise) to have his name in the credit of a film when he headlined the pioneering chase film Rescued By Rover in 1905.

Although originally running just 12 minutes, Alice in Wonderland was the longest film produced in England at that time and represented a major investment for the pioneering Hepworth Studios. However, despite its historical importance, it was almost lost for good, and just one incomplete print is known to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first movie version of Lewis Caroll's novel "Alice in Wonderland", directed by Cecil Hepworth. The copy is bad, but - in some degree - watchable. There is only one known copy of this film remaining (except, of course, the BBC re-issues from 1966) so the British Film Institute are unable to restore the missing parts. Parts of the movie are lost but what remains is available as a bonus feature on the 1966 BBC DVD.

In its initial release to the public, the film was popular, and at a staggering eight minutes in length, it was the longest movie to date.

There are good special effects for the early 1900s of Alice shrinking and growing in the doll house. This was a ground breaking film for its time, cameraman Geoffrey Faithfull being credited for the work, which demanded some new ideas to make the special effect work.

The production featured local schoolchildren.

Location

Alice in Wonderland (1903) was filmed in the grounds of Mount Felix house in Walton on Thames. Mount Felix, which has long since been mostly demolished, was just across the road from the Hepworth Studios in Hurst Grove, in a beautiful location beside the river and Walton Bridge.

You can see photos of Mount Felix here and a good history of the area is here.


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