Cinderella (Walt Disney; RKO Radio) is beguiling proof that Walt Disney still knows his way around fairyland. Harking back to the style of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), a small army of Disney craftsmen has given the centuries-old Cinderella story* a dewy radiance and comic verve that should make children feel like elves and adults feel like children.
In rich but delicately tinted Technicolor, Cinderella is unalloyed make-believe, without the disenchanting sight of a single photographed human face. It embellishes the outline of the classic tale with half a dozen simple, hummable tunes and the abounding whimsies of eight Disney writers. The fairy godmother becomes a dithery homebody who has some trouble remembering the magic words; the king is a wildly irascible sentimentalist, and a whole Disney menagerie cavorts on all sides.
The mice are no longer bit-players merely to be hitched to the pumpkin but full-blown Disney creations, scampering and squealing through the whole story in a chivalrous conspiracy to help Cinderella. Their fellow conspirators include birds, an amiable barnyard nag and a hound named Bruno, who is clearly a close relative of Pluto. Other new characters: a monocled, silly-ass grand duke and the villainous Lucifer, a spoiled, airily arrogant fat cat.
The blonde heroine herself is properly all sweetness & light, the prince is just what romantic maidens pray for and the cruel stepmother is wicked enough to make Judith Anderson look like Pollyanna. These three characters are drawn in an attempt at literal likeness that the best technique of animation never brings off without a certain stiffness. Nonetheless, the spell is never broken. The rest of the human characters, including the sourpuss stepsisters, move flexibly in delightful caricature, and the animals are pure Disney.
Though the jousting between cat & mice is an old stand-by of the animated cartoon, Cinderella redeems it with such lovably drawn mice as the eager but inept
Gus-Gus, and the droll characterization of Lucifer, a sort of feline Charles Laughton. By remembering that his tale takes place "once upon a time in a faraway land," Disney avoids the temptation of gagging it up with anachronisms or excessive cartoon acrobatics. With just the right wizard's brew of fancy and fun, sugar and spice, he makes an old, old story seem as innocently fresh as it must to the youngest moppet hearing it for the first time.
Dear Wife (Paramount). The movie sequel is an old Hollywood custom designed to repeat a success by imitating it. More often, as with this pale wraith of 1947's Dear Ruth, it succeeds only in running a good thing into the ground. With the same principals playing for farce in the same suburban setting, Dear Wife sadly lacks a script to measure up to the original.
Ruth (Joan Caulfield) is married now to her wartime beau (William Holden), but her meddlesome bobby-soxer sister (Mona Freeman) is still meddling. This time Mona puts Holden up for state senator without his knowledge. The rival candidate: her father (Edward Arnold), With Holden taking an interest in the campaign and family feelings already strained, the script drags a redhead across his trail to alienate his wife. Then it goes on alienating the moviegoer.