Cinema: In Wonderland

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(See front cover) It took Paramount 56 days to wrap up Lewis Carroll's masterpiece of nonsense and deliver it to U. S. cinema audiences for Christmas. As a prize package for the holidays the picture presented great problems to match great possibilities. To begin with, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass had to be telescoped into one script. A cast of Big Names had to be assembled for publicity purposes and yet a Nobody had to play Alice. Artist John Tenniel's familiar characters had to be imitated if not exactly copied. And finally the screen production had to stand comparison with Eva Le Gallienne's excellent stage adaptation for her Civic Repertory Theatre. When Alice in Wonderland was released this week simultaneously in 120 cities throughout the land. Paramount could well feel that it had done its level best to make Christmas bright and merry for millions of youngsters. Who was to play Alice was Paramount's Problem No. 1. Charles Laughton, not altogether facetiously, suggested that Jean Harlow would make an ideal Carroll heroine. Paramount settled the matter by means of a '"contest" in which some 7,000 would-be Alices were considered. After a minimum of hemming and hawing the prize role was given to a pretty round-faced 17-year-old girl from Brooklyn, N. Y. named Charlotte Henry. The direction of the picture was assigned to Norman McLeod (Horsefeathers, If I Had a Million) and real actors were engaged for all parts except those of the Walrus, the Carpenter and the Oysters. Two days after Miss Henry got her contract, the picture started in the Victorian drawing room where Alice is lolling in an embroidered armchair and chatting to her cat about the enchanted room which she is sure exists on the other side of the fireplace mirror. When her governess tiptoes out of the room, Alice climbs up on the mantelpiece, presses her snubnose hard against the looking glass and suddenly finds that she has walked through it. She floats softly to the floor of the other room. There she has a conversation with her Uncle Gilbert (Leon Errol) whose portrait naturally shows only his rear and the patch on the seat of his trousers. She argues politely with the Clock (Colin Kenny). She investigates goings-on among the members of her father's chess set, who are squealing on the hearthstone because the White Queen's (Louise Fazenda) pawn has climbed dangerously to a tabletop. Alice straightens out this difficulty and sets off to examine the other rooms of the looking-glass house. A curious wind whisks her down the stairs, through the front door, down the garden path. There she picks up the White Rabbit (Skeets Gallagher) on— his way to the" party. When she has followed the Rabbit down his hole, the first person Alice meets, swimming about in a puddle of the tears which she has wept before eating the cake which reduces her to appropriate Wonderland size, is a Mouse (Raymond Hattonj who dislikes her instantly. Next she encounters the Dodo; the supercilious Caterpillar (Ned Sparks); the Frog-Foot-man (Sterling Holloway); the hideous Duchess (Alison Skipworth) maltreating an infant; the Cheshire Cat (Richard Arlen).

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