Alice in Fort Lee, New Jersey (Fall 2009 Meeting)
October 17, 2009
David Schaefer, a founding member and past president of the LCSNA, began the meeting by giving a succinct overview of Alice in films, starting with the 1903 Cecil Hepworth production at Walton on the Thames in England, through the 1910 Edison company film and up to the Alice films of the 1930s, including the first “talkie” version, made in Fort Lee. Our first speaker, film historian Prof. Richard Koszarski of Rutgers University, did a remarkable job of sketching for us the interrelated social, cultural, economic, and artistic history which had made Fort Lee, New Jersey, the first American movie capital. Alan Tannenbaum, another past president of our society, gave an entertaining hands-on talk about Alice film strip toys. Dr. Greg Bowers, Assistant Professor of Theory and Composition in the Music Department of William and Mary College, and composer of the musical “Lewis Carroll and Alice,” spoke about “Timid and Tremulous Sounds: What Film Scores Should Like to Explain about Alice’s Adventures.” This brilliant talk greatly helped this writer to just begin to see what he had been hearing, consciously or not, and hear what he had been seeing. We then screened the extremely rare 1930 Producer “Bud” Pollard Alice, the first talkie, shot at the Metropolitan (formerly Peerless) Studio, in Fort Lee. Young Ruth Gilbert (later a TV regular on Milton Berle’s show) played Alice; members of her family were in the audience for this special screening. Her slight New Jersey accent would have perhaps horrified audiences accustomed to Oxbridge English but Ruth gave a perky performance as Alice. Some liberties were taken with the book. For example, the film added a peculiar love relationship between the Duchess and the White Rabbit! The story concludes with Alice saying, again in her American patois “Come on all of you, who’s afraid of a paltry deck of cards?” Delightful fun.
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