Disney's Snow White (1937)
A recent twitter question about the first film you saw in cinemas, brought to mind my first visit, on 22 February 1974 to the Muswell Hill Odeon to see Disney's Snow White. My main recollection was hiding under the seat when the witch appeared. A re-visit called and luckily this time didn't hide under the seat, but was amazed at the scene of Snow White lost in the forest, such heightened horror!
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" The first and greatest Disney film, Snow White is perfect in every way and therefore the fairest.
Every morning the vain Wicked Queen, asks her Magic Mirror who is the fairest one of all. One day, the mirror doesn’t say “you are” but names her stepdaughter Snow White instead. The Wicked Queen demands that one of her henchmen take Snow White into the woods and kill her. Not being able to bring himself to carry out the wicked deed, he tells her to run away, which she sensibly does and eventually finds herself in the house belonging to seven dwarfs. Their idyllic life together is rudely interrupted when the Wicked Queen tracks Snow White down and tricks her into eating a poisoned apple, where she falls into a deep sleep, from which she can only be woken by a kiss from a handsome prince.
Considering that this was the first full length animated feature, the technical aspects of the film are mind-boggling enough. But what makes this a perfect film is the characterisation of all the characters from the smallest bird or rabbit, to the Wicked Queen, and Snow White and of course the seven individual dwarfs. Each of the seven dwarfs mannerisms match their names, and as with any good film, they develop and change as they are affected by the narrative. For instance, Grumpy changes from the scowling dwarf to one who washes his forehead before waiting for a kiss from the beautiful Snow White.
Snow White's Wicked Step Mum, the first of a line of Disney villainesses, she has been the prototype for all others thereafter: tall, gaunt and incredibly glamorous with a slim waist, elegant hands and blood red lips. The Wicked Queen is entirely motivated by vanity, her wickedness hidden behind a mask of beauty. Therefore it is ironic that she disguises herself as an old hag and it is a fitting punishment of her narcissism that it is in this form that she dies when she is struck by a bolt of lighting.
The songs are memorable, and set the benchmark which all others had to reach: Whistle While You Work, which Snow White sings whilst cleaning the dwarfs’ house with the help of the forest animals in which the squirrels use the tails as brushes and birds fly around folding sheets is lovely. By the way, Heigh Ho, the song and dance routine as the dwarfs go off to work, took an unbelievable six months to animate.
SNOW WHITE – truly the fairest of them all.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Prd. Walt Disney, Dir. David Hand, Perce Pearce, Larry Morey, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen. Based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Composer Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Larry Morey
St. Adriana Caselotti (Snow White), Harry Stockwell (Prince Charming), Lucille LaVerne (The Queen), Billy Gilbert (Sneezy), Pinto Colvig (Sleepy & Grumpy), Otis Harlan (Happy), Scotty Mattraw (Bashful), Roy Atwell (Doc)
Rel. 1937. Run. 83m.