Der Verlorene Shuch (UFA, 1923)
This German production was originally titled Der Verlorene Shuch (“The Lost Shoe”), but my print is from a British release that calls it simply Cinderella.
There are several more ghosts in this telling than in the version I’m more familiar with, and the fairy godmother here is a lot less… airy. I think she might keep a residence in the catacombs under the Paris Opera House. She even plays the organ and stands on the roof with a flowing cape. I also don’t recall there being any explosions in Cinderella.
Cinderella (Helga Thomas) learns from her fairy godmother’s (Frida Richard) magic mirror that her widower father is going to marry a wealthy but cruel woman (Lucie Höflich) with two vain daughters (Mady Christians, Olga Tschechowa), which he does. The day they move in, Cinderalla meets three homeless beggars outside Stepmother’s mansion. She invites them in and gives them her dinner. Stepmother discovers this, snatches away the soup bowl, and smashes it on the floor – “There will be no beggars in my house!” They leave and evidently starve to death.
King Kindheart (Leonhard Haskel) gets out of his Olympic-sized bathtub and decides that it’s high-time that his son, Prince Charming (Paul Hartmann), got married. A ball is announced to which everyone is invited, but of course, Stepmother disallows Cinderella from attending. After her stepmother and stepsisters leave, the ghosts of the three beggars appear to Cinderella, give her a key to the cemetery, and tell her to go pray over her mother’s grave.
There, a flurry of rose petals shower down on Cinderella and her rags are transformed into an elegant ball gown. Fairy Godmother climbs down from her wizard’s tower and ushers Cinderella into a magical carriage – warning her that both it and her gown will vanish at the stroke of midnight.
Meanwhile, Prince Charming is trying to pick out the most beautiful girl at the ball, but none take his fancy. Cinderella arrives, along with Fairy Godmother (she’s evidently been engaged to provide the music). Prince Charming falls in love with Cinderella at first sight. They dance until a late supper is announced, when Cinderella realizes midnight is only minutes away. Running toward the door, her gown turns back into rags and her coach turns, not into a pumpkin, but into a chiming clock. She keeps running. Prince Charming gives chase, but thanks to Fairy Godmother’s interference, fails to catch Cinderella. He does find one of her shoes, however, which she lost in her flight.
Prince Charming falls deathly ill – lovesick for the unknown woman he danced with the night of the ball. One of his attendants thinks the shoe he continues to clutch is the source of his sickness and tries to take it away. Fairy Godmother counters by literally reducing the attendant to a bubbling pile of goo.
It’s announced that Prince Charming will marry whoever’s foot fits the lost shoe. Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella a basket of fruit and tells her to deliver it to the palace. She somehow manages to get in, but is taken for a “gipsy” and soon chased out, losing a shoe in the process. Prince Charming realizes it matches the other shoe and runs after Cinderella.
Cinderella stumbles through the fields and woods on the way to her fairy godmother’s wizard’s tower, which explodes in a great fireball and reassembles into a tiny palace. Prince Charming catches up with Cinderella and finds that the shoe has transformed into a crown. He places it on Cinderella’s head as the ghosts watch from the palace windows.
It’s still a kids’ film, but it’s a lot darker than most kids’ films, and has some downright scary scenes – particularly those dealing with the witch-like fairy godmother and the ghost beggars. All the same, it’s a charming picture with great set design and cinematography. The story, aside from being based on the Cinderella fairy tale, is as far as I can tell original. It successfully plays with and expands on the source material without losing its heart in the process, which is quite hard to do. Der Verlorene Shuch (1923) is a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
My rating: I like it.