“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” – Alice
This film, directed in 1903 by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, was the first film version of the Lewis Carroll classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The silent film was made just 37 years after Lewis Carroll wrote his novel and eight years after the birth of cinema. Alice is played by English born May Clark (1889-1984) , who worked for Hepworth Film Studios as a film cutter and production secretary when she was cast as Alice. Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. Even the Cheshire cat is played by a family pet.
The adaptation was based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations. With a running time of just 12 minutes (8 of which survive), Alice in Wonderland was the longest film produced in England at that time.
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 dreams that she sees the White Rabbit and follows him down the Rabbit-hole, into the Hall of Many Doors.”
- “Alice, now very small, has gained access to the Garden where she meets a Dog and tries to make him play with her.”
- “Alice enters the White Rabbit’s tiny House, but, having suddenly resumed her normal size, she is unable to get out until she remembers the magic fan.”
- “The Duchess’s Cheshire Cat appears to Alice and directs her to the Mad Hatter. — The Mad Tea-Party.”
- “THE ROYAL PROCESSION — The Queen invites Alice to join. — Alice unintentionally offends the Queen who calls the Executioner to behead her. But Alice, growing bolder, boxes his ears and in the confusion which results, she awakes.”