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12 Movies to Watch After You’ve Seen Cinderella

By  · Published on March 13th, 2015

Warner Bros. Ent.

The rave reviews for Disney’s live-action Cinderella would seem a defense for remakes, but it’s hardly a necessary flesh-and-bones version of the studio’s 1950 animated classic. There’s a lot to like, from the costumes to the cinematography to the charm, and it ought to be appreciated for how subdued it is compared to especially Disney’s raucously styled live-action Alice in Wonderland redo. But the beats are too familiar to be really excited about this trillionth take on the fairy tale.

The visuals could have been a little more imagination. There’s a lot of inspiration from old favorites, but that never guarantees the result is a new favorite. Okay, so costume designer Sandy Powell can mimic 1940s Hollywood glamour and adapt it to a 19th century setting and Cate Blanchett can, again, channel Golden Era actresses. But why that instead of a memorable performance that’s fresh and all her own? The most negative thing I would say about the new movie is that it’s just good, not great, and way too derivative to take a place of its own in history.

Below is a list of 12 essential movies that are a part of history and as such may have either informed, inspired or been indirectly evoked by the unnecessary new version. Unlike most Movies to See lists of ours, this one comes with no spoiler warning, because everyone knows all there is to know about the “Cinderella: story, and there’s no surprises this time around.

Cinderella (1922)

Obviously if you’ve never seen the 1950 release, you should do so. But did you know there’s an even earlier Disney adaptation of Cinderella? Walt Disney himself directed this seven-minute animated short during his Laugh-O-Gram days. It’s set in the then-present Jazz Age with Cinderella in flapper dress.

Seven Chances (1925)

Maybe it’s because I was already thinking about this Buster Keaton film as its 90th anniversary was this week, but I was reminded of its premise while watching the new Cinderella. Not just in the Disney version, the original fairy tale involves the Prince inviting all the women of his land to a ball with promise that he’ll give commoners the same chance of being his bride as fellow royalty. In Seven Chances, Keaton plays a man who will inherit $7m if he’s married by 7:00, and all the women in town find out about the deal and chase the man through the land. Surely there are some gold-digging Drizellas and Anastasias in the crowd, maybe even sent by their wicked mothers.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Barbara Stanwyck is one of the glamorous Hollywood icons continually cited as an influence on the look of Blanchett’s Lady Tremaine in Cinderella. And Billy Wilder’s paragon of film noir specifically has been named by director Kenneth Branagh as one he thought of during a particular moment where Blanchett is wearing a leopard-print housecoat. If only Lady Tremaine could have been a little seductively conniving in her encounters with Stellan Skarsgard’s Grand Duke.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Joan Crawford is another of the actresses being noted as inspiration for Blanchett’s costumes and performance. This is probably her most famous movie, if not also her best (she won her only Oscar here). It’s at least the most proper introduction for those unfamiliar with her who are curious after all the comparisons. And we can force relevance in the fact that it’s about a strained mother/daughter relationship. Not that Mildred is anything like Tremaine nor Veda anything like Cinderella (but she’s spoiled like Tremaine’s actual daughters). The clip below is spoilery for Mildred Pierce, but the shot of Crawford emerging from the shadow is too relevant to a shot in Cinderella not to use it.

All About Eve (1950)

Now for the Bette Davis selection. All About Eve was released the same year as Disney’s animated feature of Cinderella and even beat it out for an Oscar for Best Sound Recording. It also won Best Picture that year. I’ve seen people compare Davis, its star, to the appearance of the 1950 Lady Tremaine, which would mean Blanchett’s version came back around to the original inspiration. But there’s no indication that animators looked to Davis for the character, who is officially stated as being directly modeled after Eleanor Audley. Anyway, there’s a level of agist envy to Blanchett’s hatred of Cinderella that’s very evocative of Davis’s Margo Channing here.

Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Another Oscar winner from the same year, this second recommendation of a Billy Wilder effort is all about Gloria Swanson, who also is being named in connection to the new incarnation of Lady Tremaine. Blanchett is never so exaggerated in her performance, but there is a moment at the end of Cinderella where the title character is being rescued by the Prince and Lady Tremaine is descending a staircase that made me think of the ending of Sunset Blvd. And literally, in the film the character is big, it’s the kingdom that got small.

The Leopard (1963)

This Italian film by Luchino Visconti, which is adapted from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, was also name-checked by Branagh in discussion of the ball sequence. “My inspirations were Visconti’s The Leopard, The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind,” he told The Telegraph. “I wanted it to be a sensory experience of heightened colour and swirling dresses.” Having come away from viewing The Leopard only remembering the dancing and the dresses, I get it. You will too when you look at the scene below. It’s for the best, in this case, that there are no English subtitles on the clip.

A King’s Story (1965)

Orson Welles narrates this documentary, which was nominated for the Oscar in 1968, about the life of King Edward VIII up until he abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. The story of “Cinderella” always reminds me of the scandal, because in the fairy tale version the Prince gets to marry a commoner and keep his crown. And even with the abdication, Simpson is sort of a real-life Cinderella for marrying a prince and through so becoming the Duchess of Windsor.

Mommie Dearest (1981)

I already recommended a Joan Crawford movie, now here’s one about her. Faye Dunaway plays the actress in the camp classic, which is based on the memoir of her adopted daughter, Christina. Mommie Dearest is, of course, most famous for its depiction of Crawford as a cruel mother, and at times during Cinderella I wanted Blanchett to just explode with rage and yell, “no bluebirds serving as coat hangers, ever!” Or something. Blanchett is never very hammy or campy, though. At least not compared to Dunaway here.

Hamlet (1996)

Branagh’s name alone makes us think about the Shakespearean qualities of the “Cinderella” fairy tale, and this movie’s many dying parents and scheming villains in the heroes’ houses draw parallels to plays like “Hamlet.” Branagh’s adaptation also stars Derek Jacobi, who plays the good and loving King in Cinderella. Here, in his third big screen collaboration with the director, he has the part of the evil Claudius to Branagh’s own portrayal of the titular Danish prince. Basically he’s the equivalent of Skarsgard’s character, to put it so simply.

The Aviator (2004)

With her role in Cinderella, Blanchett seems to be playing every iconic Golden Era actress except Katharine Hepburn. That’s okay, because she won her first Oscar portraying the movie star in this Howard Hughes biopic by Martin Scorsese. She got to wear costumes by Sandy Powell here, too, while mimicking Hepburn in the years when she was dating the billionaire aviator of the title (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The King’s Speech (2010)

Is everyone over the backlash of this drama’s Best Picture win yet? Regardless, it’s a good movie and I recommend it as another place to see Jacobi and also fellow Cinderella star Helena Bonham Carter. Plus there’s the Edward and Wallis connection. Colin Firth is George VI as a Cinderella Man, already a royal and heir to the throne when his brother abdicates yet still in need of a kind of fairy godfather (Geoffrey Rush), who spruces him up for his public debut.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.