Alice in Wonderland (1903), the first-ever film version of Lewis Carroll’s tale, has recently been restored by the BFI National Archive and premiered at a celebration of the history of the classic story at the British Library.
Made just 37 years after the novel’s publication and eight years after the birth of cinema, the first film adaptation was directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, and was based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations. Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. His production secretary May Clark played Alice, and even the family cat and dog got in on the act. The cat played the Cheshire Cat, and the dog would go on to become the first authentic British film star (canine or otherwise) to have his name in the credit of a film when he headlined the pioneering chase film Rescued By Rover in 1905.
Although originally running just 12 minutes, Alice in Wonderland was the longest film produced in England at that time and represented a major investment for the pioneering Hepworth Studios. However, despite its historical importance, it was almost lost for good, and just one incomplete print is known to survive. —BFI National Archive
Cecil Milton Hepworth (19 March 1874 – 9 February 1953) was an English film director, producer and screenwriter. He was among the founders of the British film industry and continued making films into the 1920s at his Walton Studios. In 1923 his company went into receivership.
Hepworth was born in Lambeth, South London. His father, Thomas Cradock Hepworth, was a famous magic lantern showman and author. Cecil Hepworth became involved in the early stages of British filmmaking, working for both Birt Acres and Charles Urban, and wrote the first British book on the subject in 1897. With his cousin Monty Wicks he set up the production company Hepworth and Co. (also known as “Hepwix” after the word mark in its trade logo), which was later renamed the Hepworth Manufacturing Company (officially: Hepworth Film Manufacturing Company), and then Hepworth Picture Plays. In 1899 they built a small film studio in Walton-on-Thames, Hepworth Studios. The company produced about three films a week… read more
(Re)seeing with its special effects so naive to our eyes, Alice is a physical presence in a world which she doesn’t belong to: the effect puts her above the image, but not in, not yet integrated. It embodies… read review
By and large, the biggest problem with most adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s fable is people’s tendency to read too much into it. I guess it could be said that he so effectively created absurdity that… read review
British film pioneer Cecil M. Hepworth (“Rescued by Rover” & “The
Egg-Laying Man”) teamed-up with fellow film pioneer Percy Stow for the
first big screen adaptation of the classic children’s… read review