Ella (Leslie Caron) is a lonely young woman. She isn’t technically alone, living with her stepmother (Elsa Lanchester) and stepsisters (Amanda Blake and Lisa Daniels), but she may as well live in isolation. Treated as a servant by the family, she has no friends in town, either.
Ella has one little ray of hope, however. A few years before Ella was born, her mother was told that her as-yet-unborn daughter would live in the palace someday. Ella holds on to this prediction, constructing daydreams around it.
Meanwhile, Charles (Michael Wilding), the prince of the palace, is returning home after a few years away in Paris. The town will celebrate with a three-day festival ending in a lavish ball. With the help of an eccentric fellow outcast named Mrs. Toquet (Estelle Winwood), will Ella finally see her palace daydreams come to life?
The Glass Slipper was directed by Charles Walters.
If you hadn’t worked it out already, The Glass Slipper is a retelling of Cinderella. The narration (conducted by Walter Pidgeon!) lends it the storybook feel to be expected from such an adaptation. Along with the lovely scenery and setting, it brings charm to the film from the outset.
But the narration can also be quite funny and witty at times, taking a very sarcastic attitude towards the evil stepmother and stepsister characters. “How we wish you would drop dead and leave us your money!,” Pidgeon says in one scene, as the family frets over a visit from a very wealthy relative.
Nice music and fantastical daydream sequences also work in the film’s favor. The dance numbers are beautifully choreographed and gorgeous to watch, even for folks like me who appreciate musicals without having much technical knowledge about dance.
I must also say, while I’m not usually much of a fan of Leslie Caron, she’s a good fit here. Her portrayal of Ella is much grumpier than that eternally-optimistic cartoon we’re all so familiar with, the film giving Caron the opportunity to put emphasis on the depth of her character’s loneliness and unhappiness.
Of course, the film still has a very cute and sweet ending, even with its dash of realism compared to the Disney classic. The result is a nice-to-watch but not-lacking-substance film, which ultimately succeeds in capturing the necessary feeling of enchantment. Recommended!