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Latest ‘Cinderella’ brings to mind fairy-tale tidbits

(L-r) Lily James, left, is Cinderella and Cate Blanchett is her evil stepmother in Disney's new Cinderella.Illustrates FILM-CINDERELLA-ADV13 (category e), by Ann Hornaday © 2015, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (MUST CREDIT: Jonathan Olley/Disney Enterprises.)
(L-r) Lily James, left, is Cinderella and Cate Blanchett is her evil stepmother in Disney's new Cinderella.Illustrates FILM-CINDERELLA-ADV13 (category e), by Ann Hornaday © 2015, The Washington Post. Moved Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (MUST CREDIT: Jonathan Olley/Disney Enterprises.) Disney Enterprises

With a live-action Cinderella now in theaters, here are some tidbits and talking points to consider about the tale, old and new:

1. No fairy godmother exists in the Brothers Grimm story. Two white pigeons come to Cinderella’s aid, and she goes to the tree she planted on her mother’s grave, shakes it and makes a wish. That’s according to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes.

2. In the Grimm fairy tale, the stepmother hands one of her daughters a knife and suggests she cut off a piece of her foot so she can squeeze it into the golden slipper. She slices off part of her heel, but her bloody shoe gives away the deception. The other sister cuts part of her toes, but she, too, is betrayed by blood, paving the way for the rightful owner to slide her foot into the shoe. None of that is in the new movie, which has a glass high heel rather than golden slipper.

3. When Disney decided to tackle Cinderella in the 1940s, staffers faced the challenge of providing enough secondary characters and diversionary sequences to surround the simple, familiar tale, Leonard Maltin writes in The Disney Films. That’s why they came up with mice Jaq and Gus, bluebirds, Bruno the dog and Lucifer the cat, along with the King and Grand Duke.

4. The animated Cinderella, released Feb. 15, 1950, was the gift that kept on giving. It returned to theaters every seven or eight years and in 1981 alone grossed $28 million in North America and picked up an additional $34 million in 1987. That doesn’t count VHS or DVD sales.

5. Lily James, who plays Ella, and Sophie McShera as Drisella, will be familiar to Downton Abbey fans, although one is from the upstairs world, one downstairs. James just finished a lovely arc as Lady Rose on the TV series, and McShera is the studious assistant cook Daisy Mason. Richard Madden, Robb Stark on Games of Thrones, is the prince.

6. Cinderella’s ball gown was made from more than 270 yards of fabric and 10,000 Swarovski crystals, with numerous petticoats, Disney reports. The production used nine copies of the dress.

7. The castle’s ballroom boasts imported marble floors, a massive staircase, curtains fashioned from 2,000 yards of fabric, 17 chandeliers custom made in Italy, more than 4,000 yards of turquoise velvet, 16,000-plus silk flowers and 5,000 oil candles, which had to be individually lit by hand.

8. In the new movie, sisters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (McShera) are always dressed identically although in different colors, as their characters were in the animated version.

9. The heroine has many earlier and later incarnations, including the Egyptian “Rhodopis” from the first century and a 1697 French interpretation, “Cendrillon or the History of the Little Glass Slipper.”

Among the many modern movie variations are Into the Woods with Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella, Ella Enchanted with Anne Hathaway, A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff and Ever After with Drew Barrymore.

10. Many cast and crew know what it’s like to go to Hollywood’s version of a royal ball, the Academy Awards. Cate Blanchett, who plays the stepmother, won Oscars for her supporting role in The Aviator and leading role in Blue Jasmine. She has been nominated an additional four times.

Helena Bonham Carter, a beggar woman and fairy godmother in Cinderella, has two acting nominations, and director Kenneth Branagh has been in contention five times.

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