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FairyTale: A True Story (1997)

PG  |   |  Drama, Family, Fantasy  |  24 October 1997 (USA)
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In 1917, two children take a photograph, which is soon believed by some to be the first scientific evidence of the existence of fairies.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jason Salkey ...
James Collins
Lara Morgan ...
Adam Franks ...
Adrian Doyle
Denis Doyle
Houdini's Assistant
Portly Gentleman
Florence Hoath ...
Leonard Kavanagh ...
Stage Manager
Elizabeth Earl ...
Wounded Corporal


Based on factual accounts, this is the story of two young girls that, somehow, have the ability to take pictures of winged beings... which certainly causes quite a stir throughout England during the time of the first World War. Everyone, except the girls who think it's quite normal, are excited about this "photographic proof" that fairies exist... even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini pay the girls a visit. Written by BOB STEBBINS <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for brief mild language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

24 October 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Istinita vilinska prica  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$3,515,323 (USA) (24 October 1997)


£2,164,218 (UK) (10 April 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film is based on the true story of the Cottingley Fairies. In the summer of 1917, Frances Griffiths (then 10 years old) and her cousin Elsie Wright (then 16 years old) were living with Elsie's parents in the town of Cottingley in West Yorkshire. Using Arthur Wright's camera, the girls took a series of pictures of themselves with fairies in the nearby woodland brook of Cottingley Beck. (The woodland scenes in "FairyTale: A True Story" are filmed in Cottingley Beck, the actual location where Frances and Elsie supposedly encountered the fairies in 1917.) The photographs became public in 1919 (not during World War I, as depicted in the film), when Elsie's mother gave the photos to Edward Gardner, President of the Theosophical Society of Bradford. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the photos with an article on spiritualism in "The Strand" Magazine in December, 1920. Opinions over the authenticity of the photos were divided. Several photographic experts examined them and pronounced them "genuine," while other photo experts found "evidence of fakery." (A few experts who examined the photos noted that the "fairies" had "Parisienne-style haircuts," which were popular in the day.) In the end, no real harm came from the photos. The two girls never accepted any money for them, or tried to swindle anyone with their claims of fairy encounters. Years later, as adults, the girls admitted they had faked the photos using cardboard cutouts of fairies taken from a children's book. Elsie explained that they were too embarrassed to admit the truth about the photos after Conan Doyle, the legendary creator of Sherlock Holmes, accepted them as genuine. However, Frances insisted until her death that at least one of the "fairy photos" was real. Frances died in 1986, and Elsie died in 1988. The original photos, and the cameras the girls used to take them, are now in the National Media Museum in Bradford, England. See more »


Arthur Wright: There are two things that I know: no trickery was used in my dark room, and there are no fairies living at the bottom of my garden.
See more »


Version of Photographing Fairies (1997) See more »


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User Reviews

Hope in the unreal
22 January 1999 | by (Louisville, KY USA) – See all my reviews

Based on a famous "Cottingley fairies" hoax perpetrated by two English girls during World War I in 1917, "FairyTale: A True Story" presents alternate views of reality to suggest that, like the view of Aborigines, dreams are as real as conscious reality. If you take the special effects fairies too literally in this film, you will miss the point. The film plays a trick on you, just as the original incident played a trick on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1917. Houdini, as played by Harvey Keitel, gets the point. Although he's one to debunk mystics who defraud the gullible, he too trades on people's need to believe in magic. The girls' deception is also a sort of benign fraud. As any magician, they should never reveal their "secret." The film invites comparisons to the famous French classic, "Forbidden Games" in which children construct an elaborate fantasy world as a way of coping with the reality of war. Here too, the girls use fairies to fill the void in their lives left by their father, who has gone "missing" on the front in France. "I know what they mean by 'missing,'" says one of the sisters, conscious of reality but hoping to "believe" in the unlikely event of his return. This is not a kiddie film, but a langorous period piece on the nature of belief and faith in the face of empirical skepticism. The film reinforces its theme with beautiful details, as at the end when the father says he smells the perfume which isn't there, or in the ghostly intrusion of a dead brother that changes the mind of a skeptical reporter. Even the final sequence, involving fairies, is so charming it steers clear of cynical manipulation. Although there are moments when the plot seems to become arbitrary or plodding, it's all tied up neatly and beautifully in a magical finale. I'd hesitate to call this a classic, but it is a worthwhile "sleeper." Just bring an open mind and heart.

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Recent Posts
Does anyone believe in faeries? enchanteddreamer
Not exactly a "true story" laterosenoonvale
Here are the original pictures by the real girls..... tracy3185
Whether you are a believer or a non-believer... psychedelically
I Live there! willthematrixhacker
Harry Houdini? zwitter112
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