Classic Cinema: Cinderfella (1960) – By Jason S. Lockard

My Name is Jason S. Lockard and I guess I’m still just a kid at heart. I enjoy watching animated films as much as children and some of the greatest stories ever written are fairy tales. Well, this month I’m bringing you a retelling of a fairy tale from the comedic mind of the great Jerry Lewis.

Fairy tales are as synonymous with childhood as skinned knees and free tag. We will always remember the stories of The three little bears, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood. Than on February 15, 1950 Walt Disney changed how we viewed animated films when he released Cinderella to the big screen; we were all in awe! Than in 1960 the comedy genius Jerry Lewis wrote, directed and starred in a male version of the iconic story this one entitled Cinderfella!

Cinderfella is a comedy fairy tale classic that revolves around the title character Fella (Jerry Lewis). When Fella’s father dies, never telling where he hid his fortune Fella continues to live with his wicked stepmother, Emily and her two sons, Maximilian and Rupert in the family mansion, but the poor, imbecilic, ostracized Fella is reduced to serving his cruel, absurdly wealthy stepmother (Judith Anderson) and her two greedy sons in the palatial mansion. Fella lives in an unfinished room at the end of a really long hallway and sleep on a bed with no mattress. He has in essence become their butler, catering to their every whim.

Fella dreams of his father nightly, and believes he is trying to relay to Fella where he has hidden his fortune, but he always awakens before he learns the hiding place. His stepfamily knows of this secret fortune and they go to great lengths to try to discover its whereabouts. They pretend to befriend poor Fella in order to wrangle his fortune away once it is found.

Princess Charmine of the Grand Duchy of Morovia (Anna Maria Alberghetti) is in town and the stepmother decides to throw her a lavish ball in order to get her to marry one of her sons. Fella isn’t allowed to go to the ball, but his fairy godfather (Ed Wynn) tells him that he won’t remain a "people" much longer, but will blossom into a "person".

On the evening of the ball, Fella is turned into a handsome prince and sent to the ball in a limousine. The great big band leader Count Basie is playing at the ball when Fella makes his grand entrance. The young man quickly gains the attention of the Princess. The night is cut short when midnight strikes and Fella flees, losing his shoe along the way. The rest of the film plays out just like the classic fairytale!

Jerry is priceless when it comes to engineering clever, complex, high-energy sight gags. A testament to his versatility here is mimicking the musicians as he listens to a song on the radio in the kitchen. The dinner scene where he caters to his family at an absurdly long dining table is another ingenious moment. Sprinkled throughout too are numerous well-timed bits, like the reading of the inscription off his father’s ring.

During the production of Cinderfella while shooting Fella’s arrival to the ball one take was shot with Jerry Lewis going down the stairs and one take going up. He ran the stairs in 7 seconds and collapsed at the top, where he was taken to hospital suffering from a mild heart attack and ended up in an oxygen tent for 4 days. This delayed filming for 2 weeks.

Paramount Pictures wanted to release the film during the summer, but Lewis considered it a holiday film and wanted to hold it back for a Christmas release. Paramount was adamant to have a release for the summer, so Lewis offered to produce another film for the summer and Paramount agreed. So Lewis wrote, produced, directed and starred in The Bellboy in four weeks in February 1960 while he was performing at the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach. That movie was released on July 20, 1960. It is another Lewis Classic!

Cinderfella is good family fun for young and old alike. While it is a fairytale that plays to children, it’s not a childish film! So next time you want to watch a film with your family don’t spend out $50 to go to the theater, instead go to the local video store or netflix and rent Cinderfella you won’t be disappointed!

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Moral Rating: Nothing Offensive
Audience: Family
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Length: 93 min.
Released: 1960
Our Rating: B+