Produced by Max Fleischer and directed by brother Dave, their Snow-White is a masterpiece of animation. The “dwarfs” are (thank goodness!) banished to the briefest edge of the action (and to the Mystery Cave, where they deposit Snow-White to protect her from her stepmother’s jealous wrath), and the Prince is eliminated entirely; from the Grimm brothers’ tale only a single narrative strand has been taken—the only one we ever really cared about: the rivalry between Snow-White and her vicious, ugly stepmother, the Queen. This is a far, far better film than the syrupy Disney version four years hence. The Fleischers’ film is fun!
It’s light! It zips by in seven minutes. It’s dynamic—a whirlwind of energy.
Here is an example of the difference between the two films: whereas the magic mirror, which tells the Queen how beautiful she is, hangs on her castle wall in the Disney version, the Fleischers make it a hand mirror. What difference does this make? In order to justify the mirror’s initial response, Ditzy Disney made the Queen beautiful (an offense) and made a trapped “slave” the “voice” emanating from the mirror (a literary conceit); not the Fleischer boys! They concisely convey their idea visually: that the mirror tells the Queen what she wants to hear because it is in her grip, terrified of her power and of her propensity for wielding it. When the mirror answers that the Queen is the “most beautiful” in the land, it is lying out of fear; when it tells Snow-White, superbly played by the one and only Betty Boop, that she is the most beautiful, the mirror is telling the truth, emboldened precisely by that beauty of hers.
To put this another way: whereas Disney’s film is pro-Hitler, the Fleischers’ film is anti-Hitler.
The film’s fun, of course, principally derives from all the magical transformations that the creative animation—Roland Crandall is the animator—makes possible, such as when, outraged by the mirror’s judgment against her, the Queen’s sour puss bolts out from under her hair, making her uglier still; or when the tree to which she is tied, to face execution, itself frees her; or when Nature protects Snow-White by encasing her in a block of ice—a mimicry of a laid-out corpse ready for burial. In the Mystery Cave, a skeleton and assorted ghosts fly. The Fleischers’ film proceeds at a breakneck pace.
Koko the Clown—Cab Calloway, this time, sings and swings “St. James Infirmary Blues”—and Bimbo the Dog, although ostensibly in the Queen’s service, are on hand to protect Snow-White; they defy the Queen’s order to behead her. They’re sweet on Snow-White. And so are we.
Mae Questel is the indubitable voice of Betty Boop, one of the models for Marilyn Monroe’s screen persona.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.