Common Sense Review of Alice in Wonderland


By Monica Wyatt

Though there are many video versions, and a lot of simplified retellings, all kids deserve to know the story as Lewis Carroll wrote it. But it takes a particular kind of child to enjoy this -- complex language, nonsense, and the lack of a sensible plot are not to every child's taste, especially these days.

Wonderland has no rules, not even the decrees of the Queen. Alice simply accepts her situation and plays along, and that's all readers need do. The difficulty and complexity of Carroll's writing and ideas mean that the book needs to be thoughtfully read aloud by an adult; few children will read this through on their own. When read aloud, the rhythmic poems can delight kids just for their sounds and silly images.

The book works on two levels: as a delightful children's fantasy and as an impi

 

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sh poke in the eye to adults. Alice's strange new world remains just enough like the polite society of Victorian England that we can recognize it. But the crazed subterranean civilization isn't terribly polite, allowing adults to understand much of the book as satire.

Of course, kids usually don't see satire in the book. They just enjoy the nonsense. If you've forgotten how to do that, Alice In Wonderland can help you remember.

"Film of Alice In Wonderland Is Like Reading Carroll's Book"

"Critic Praises Intelligence of Production"

This morning we have with us a very famous little girl! Her name is Alice, and over on the McVickers screen she steps through a looking glass and visits Wonderland . . .

"Alice in Wonderland," the movie, you see, combines the openings of both Lewis Carroll's books - for Alice not only steps "through a looking glass," she also follows the white rabbit down the hole. All of this being because, as Charlotte [Alice] Henry recently explained, the fans who wrote in were undecided as to which of the books they wanted filmed.

The amusing fantasy of Alice and her quaint, fabled friends has been brought to the screen with care and intelligence. You never saw such verity. It's for all the world like turning the pages of the book and seeing Sir John Tenniel's drawings in action. A marvelous achievement of makeup and settings! Those there be who think the film would have been far more amusing with Alice as the only human in the cast and the other characters portrayed by Disney cartoons which was, originally, Mary Pickford's far-sighted notion. Be this as may, there are few who will have heart or nerve to criticize severely anything as workmanlike as the characterizations evolved by the brilliant cast with the aid of their perfectly stupendous makeup.

Though remarkable disguised, the personalities of many of the players shine through their camouflage - and it's fun trying to figure out those you can't recognize. You couldn't be fooled on Cary Grant as he sings the Mock Turtle song - and who else but Gary Cooper [or the prince of Wales] could be the White Knight, who has such difficulty staying astride his noble steed?

Then there's Sterling Holloway as the Frog Footman, and none other than Alison Skipworth is the Ugly Duchess who dandles on her knee the awful baby that turns into a pig . . . As for Charlotte Henry - the girl who was chosen from hosts of applicants for the part - she's a marvel! Just your dream of Alice come true, with her long curls, her alert eyes, her sudden illuminating smile - and the complete seriousness with which she accepts her unprecedented adventures.

Little Miss Henry has a lovely speaking voice and sings "Father William" most delightfully.

The picture opens on a snowy afternoon in a quiet English parlor. Here, a bored little girl petitions her busily tatting governess to let her go out.

No.

Do you think the snow will stop soon, Miss Simpson?"

Miss Simpson doesn't know. Why doesn't Alice do some work on her sampler? Alice doesn't want to. She wanders about disconsolately, at last flinging herself into an easy chair with a book and her kitten on her lap. She is very drowsy . . .

The fire crackles. The snow drifts. Miss Simpson tiptoes out. And Alice steps through the looking glass . . .

Here is the cleanly, imaginative, classical, amusing sort of film parents have been importuning for. If they don't take themselves and their children to see "Alice in Wonderland" they'll be ungrateful, to say the least.



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