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Sunday, August 7, 2016

CINDERFELLA -- Movie Review by Porfle

1960's CINDERFELLA, as you might guess, is a gender-reversed take on the famous fairytale "Cinderella" with Jerry Lewis as the gentle soul ("Fella") harrassed by a wicked stepmother out to steal his inheritence (Dame Judith Anderson, giving the film much added class) and two hateful stepbrothers played wonderfully by exploitation film mainstay Henry Silva and Robert Hutton of THE MAN WITHOUT A BODY and THE SLIME PEOPLE.

As those familiar with the original fairytale will already know, Fella's life is one of thankless drudgery and constant belittlement as he scrambles to perform every menial task given him by his pampered, arrogant stepmother and stepbrothers (and which Jerry, as usual, manages to milk for laughs).

But when Dame Judith hosts a ball for a visiting European princess (cute Anna Maria Alberghetti), Fella's fairy godfather Ed Wynn appears and makes it possible for him to attend and steal the young girl's heart. 

The lavish ball sequence is best known for Jerry's amazing first-take strut down the massive staircase and also includes some genuinely charming choreography as he and the princess enjoy a spirited dance together. 

(There seems to be a scene missing before this, however, since we never see his goldfish being turned into a chauffeur or his bicycle into a limosine, or find out why he must flee the ball at the stroke of midnight, leaving behind one of his Italian loafers.)

Much of the rest of CINDERFELLA is of the "charming" variety, yet there's plenty of the old Lewis hilarity to enjoy as well.  The film is directed by Frank Tashlin (of the superb Martin and Lewis hit ARTISTS AND MODELS as well as other of Jerry's solo ventures) and thus we get to see where some of Jerry's own directorial influences came from. 

There's a musical pantomime bit that foreshadows the one in the following year's THE ERRAND BOY, and one great sequence which has Fella trying to eat his own supper at the end of a mile-long fancy dinner table while also scrambling to serve as waiter for his stepmother and stepbrothers. 

The sets and costumes are opulent, and, like the later THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, CINDERFELLA is in dazzling Technicolor.

Not every comedy bit or attempt at pathos comes off as well as it's meant to, and some scenes tend to drag a bit. But overall, CINDERFELLA is one of those colorful, frenetic Jerry Lewis classics that will delight his fans. It came out while Jerry's post-Martin and Lewis solo career was still young, and helped establish him once and for all as one of our great comic film stars.  


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