Director – Bryan Forbes, Screenplay – Bryan Forbes, Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman, Producer – Stuart Lyons, Photography – Tony Imi, Music/Songs – Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman, Production Design – Raymond Simm. Production Company – Paradine
Richard Chamberlain (Prince Edward), Gemma Craven (Cinderella), Michael Hordern (King), Kenneth More (Lord High Chamberlain), Annette Crosbie (Fairy Godmother), Margaret Lockwood (Wicked Stepmother), Christopher Gable (Johnny), Edith Evans (Dowager Queen), Dame May Whitty (Queen)
The carefree Prince Edward is pressured by his father, the king, to choose a bride for the sake of a political alliance but has no real interest in doing so. Young Cinderella, treated as a slave by her stepmother and two vain stepsisters after the death of her father, is given a chance by a fairy godmother to attend the ball being held to select the prince’s bride. There she and the prince fall in love. However, the opportunity for them to be together is dashed by the king who forces Edward to accept another bride for the sake of political expediency.
Cinderella is reportedly cinema’s most filmed-ever story and The Slipper and the Rose is one of those adaptations. The Slipper and the Rose comes from Bryan Forbes, an occasional genre dabbler best known for Whistle Down the Wind (1961) about children who believe a man hiding in a barn might be Jesus Christ, the excellent medium thriller Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and the android housewife film The Stepford Wives (1975), as well as non-genre films such as The L-Shaped Room (1962), King Rat (1965) and International Velvet (1978).
Unusually, this adaptation tells the Cinderella story from the point-of-view of Prince Charming rather than Cinderella. However, while Bryan Forbes has his heart in the right place, The Slipper and the Rose is a lengthy and top-heavy effort. It is burdened with prolonged song-and-dance numbers that draw the proceedings out to almost a 2½-hour running time. Most of the songs, from the Sherman Brothers who did inspired duties on Mary Poppins (1964), are banal and forgettable.
It is the cast that proves to be the film’s saving grace. While Richard Chamberlain is a bland prince, Gemma Craven makes a sweet and lovely silver-voiced Cinderella. The veteran supporting cast, especially Michael Hordern as the king, Kenneth More as the chamberlain and Edith Evans as the dowager queen, play up amusingly and frequently steal the show out from under Chamberlain and Gemma Craven. Annette Crosbie also has her moments, getting some especially droll asides as the fairy godmother. Pluses also include excellent location photography shot amid several real Austrian castles and some stunning costumery.