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While perusing the internet, I came across a 1915 Silent Film of “Alice in Wonderland”, directed and written by W.W. Young and starring Viola Savoy (1899 -1987) as Alice.
This film version is notable for depicting the ‘Father William’ poem*1 in its entirety and it includes an image of Tenniel’s illustration of Father William doing his back-somersault at the front door.
“Finding a recorded copy may be hard to do, but not impossible. There are at least two versions that have survived from the original, both lasting approximately forty minutes. The original was a six-reeler, or about an hour long, which may also have included scenes from the “Through the Looking Glass” story. Minimally, what has survived is missing the defining scene early in the story where Alice grows very big and than small, then later the Mad Hatter scene. We know that these scenes were originally included because Grosset & Dunlap published a book version in 1916, illustrated with pictures from this film. *This shows that in addition there was also an Oyster, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, chess room, and a Queen Alice Banquet scene, but whether as part of this film or another is not clear.” (Cipher-)
“It’s just one tenuously connected pastiche*. Throughout, the sights around her never faze Alice. She just flitters and twitters and bounds like Alice Cullen on a sugar high! (To that end, the girl playing Alice, 16 year old Viola Savoy, was very good in the role, that of giddy little girl). I will concede, though, that you can’t have much depth and development in a 52-minute silent feature. There were things I appreciated that made this a worthwhile, unique experience. One, this was filmed outside in sunny northern California. Real trees, real lawns and a real beach for the quadrille, all give this a faint sort of otherworldly yet realistic atmosphere. The costumes are also great. Full body, of course, but resembling the sorts of drawings one might see in one of the story’s editions. Inside are little people for an appropriate scale, which is also unique and inventive. Some characters are crude puppets (Cheshire Cat, the Mock Turtle), but otherwise it’s effective. But because it’s silent, that unique language and rhythm that so defines this world is gone. You’re left looking at images of a girl and actors in animal costumes dancing stiffly. And I think a small chunk was missing! At one point Alice says (by proxy), “I’m going to visit the March Hare.” But then it goes right to the croquet scene. Later, at the trial, we see both Mad Hatter and March Hare, and in a way that it feels like they were in the movie earlier. I imagine this film must have looked quite fanciful in its day.”
(Brandon L. Summers, “Film Obscurities”, 2010)
1. *FATHER WILLIAM
“You are old, father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”
“In my youth,” father William replied to his son,
“I feared it would injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door —
Pray, what is the reason of that?”
“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment — one shilling the box —
Allow me to sell you a couple.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak —
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”
“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”
“You are old,” said the youth; one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose —
What made you so awfully clever?”
“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”
“That is not said right,” said the Caterpillar.
“Not quite right, I’m afraid,” said Alice timidly;
“some of the words have got altered.”
“It is wrong from beginning to end,”
said the Caterpillar decidedly, and
there was silence for some minutes.
2.*This shows that in addition there was also an Oyster, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, chess room, and a Queen Alice Banquet scene, but whether as part of this film or another is not clear.” (Cipher-)
I’m not sure whether the above character would of featured in this movie, as they are characters from the second book, “Through the looking glass”.
3.*pastiche: a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources.