Snow White (1916)

Snow White (1916) movie poster

director J. Searle Dawley
viewed: 02/16/2013 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival started their winter program with a 1916 version of Snow White.  Presented in part with the Disney Family Museum, the showing tied together with a show at the museum about Disney’s version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).  This is because this Snow White inspired Walt Disney’s notion to make his first feature film.  And accordingly, the notes and introduction suggested a handful of key elements that one could see connections to in the Disney version.

Interestingly, to me at least, was how this silent Snow White, starring Marguerite Clark as the little heroine, resembled the far more recent adaptation Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), featuring more of the more elaborated version of the backstory, of Snow White’s mother, pricking her finger and dripping blood on the snow, and of the eventual usurping of power by the evil queen, who imprisoned (or in this case forced labor upon) the little would-be princess.

But there are many elements one can see in the Disney version, from the cute humor of the dwarfs, to the inspired connection that Snow White has with animals, and even on through the crystal coffin in which she is lain when the evil witch/queen has poisoned her.

The film’s staging features a fair amount of theatricality, with the witch and her make-up and her human-sized cat.  But it also features some interesting location shooting (according to the introduction, it was filmed in Georgia) and the resultant woods are coated in Spanish moss, perhaps quite unlike Germany.

It’s a lovely fantasy, a magical, evocative vision at times a bit reminiscent of Georges Méliès.  The kids enjoyed it, and I thought it quite nice that we had managed to see both the Disney film and the museum show in January, making this little addition a nice circuit in regards to Disney’s first feature film.  That said, they were not too wow’ed by it, the first of three shows that we sat through for the Silent Film Festival on a rather sunny Saturday.

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