Alice’s Adventures into Silent Cinema

The first edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was released on July 4th, 1865 and since then there has been, and continues to be, numerous film adaptations of this fantastical story. The first was in 1903, directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow. The film is memorable for its use of special effects, including Alice’s shrinking in the Hall of Many Doors, and in her large size, stuck inside of White Rabbit’s home, reaching for help through a window.

Alice 1903

Only one copy of the original film is known to exist and parts are now lost. The British Film Institute partially restored the movie and its original film tinting and released it on 2010.

Where as the first film version was made in Britain, the second adaptation occurred in the United States with Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandMade in 1910 by the Edison Manufacturing Company and directed by Edwin S. Porter, the 10 minute film starred Gladys Hulette as Alice. Being a silent film, naturally all of Lewis Carroll‘s nonsensical prose could not be used, and, being only a one-reel picture, most of Carroll’s memorable characters in his original 1865 novel similarly could not be included. What was used in the film was faithful in spirit to Carroll, and in design to the original John Tenniel illustrations. Variety complimented the picture by comparing it favorably to the “foreign” film fantasies then flooding American cinemas.


Gladys Hulette as Alice in the 1910 adaptation.

In 1915, a third film adaptation directed and written by W.W. Young, starring Viola Savoy as Alice, was released by the American Motion Picture Corporation. This film version is notable for depicting the ‘Father William’ poem in its entirety and it includes an image of Tenniel‘s illustration of Father William doing his back-somersault at the front door.

These three films mark Alice during the silent era; 16 years later she fell once more down the rabbit hole and landed in the first “talkie” adaptation in 1931 . . . but we shall save that adventure for another day.

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