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Credited cast:
Ruth Gilbert ...
Ralph Hertz ...
Lillian Ardell ...
Mabel Wright ...
Tom Corless ...
Leslie King ...
Meyer Berensen ...
Raymond Schultz ...
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N.R. Cregan ...
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30 September 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alicja w krainie czarów  »

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In the opening titles The Cheshire Cat is billed as 'The Chesire Cat'. See more »

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Version of Alice (1988) See more »

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Alice In Wonderland
Written by Irving Berlin
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Curiouser Curiosity
20 March 2011 | by (Arlington, Virginia, USA) – See all my reviews

The first "talking" movie version of "Alice in Wonderland," produced in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1931, two years before Paramount's all-star production. Ruth Gilbert stars as Lewis Carroll's heroine in this black and white featurette (running under an hour) directed by Bud Pollard.

I'd been casually searching for a copy for years, and finally managed to get ahold of a DVD copy of a pretty battered 16mm print.

Well. It's about what you'd expect for a 1931 talkie -- a creaky curiosity of a film with overly broad acting, awkward pauses, rudimentary costumes and sets and a primitive-sounding soundtrack.

I have a hard time imagining that anyone enjoyed watching this, even in 1931; it comes across as little more than a filmed community theater production of "Alice" without any real sense of Carroll's wit or whimsy. (Then again, that's how I also feel about the 1933 movie starring Charlotte Henry, despite its higher production values.) The climactic trial of the Knave of Hearts does boast a decidedly shocking twist not found in the book that probably had Lewis Carroll turning in his grave.

A heavily made-up Ruth Gilbert was about 18 when she played Alice; a little of her "little girl" routine goes a long way. Now and then she tries to affect what may have been a trans-Atlantic accent, but most of the time she carries on like a Broadway chorine. (When confronted by the other characters toward the end, this all-too-American Alice yells at them, "Come on, all of you! Who's afraid of a paltry pack of cards!")

Still, despite its shortcomings, this film remains interesting from a historical perspective, not only as the first sound "Alice," but also as a reminder of Fort Lee's prominent place in early film history.


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