In a continuation of Hollywood’s fairy-tale trend, which in 2011 yielded a Red Riding Hood, last year two Snow Whites, and this year a Jack the Giant Slayer, Emma Watson has begun negotiations to play Cinderella.
Walt Disney, which produced 1950’s animated “Cinderella,” has hired Kenneth Branagh to direct the film – which may or may not have anything to do with Charles Perrault’s 1697 telling or the 1812 version by the Brothers Grimm. Cate Blanchett has been cast as the wicked stepmother.
Watson’s “Harry Potter” co-star Daniel Radcliffe is meanwhile in final talks to play Baron Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant Igor in “Frankenstein,” 20th Century-Fox’s revisionist adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel.
The Scottish director Paul McGuigan has been lined up for the British-based project, which was written by Max Landis (“Chronicle”) and reportedly has sci-fi and circus components. Igor, for once the main protagonist, has been described as “pathologically dirty, with long hair and wearing old clown clothes.”
Guillermo del Toro’s plans to direct Watson in “The Beauty and the Beast” and to make his own version of “Frankenstein” appear to be on hold.
Georges Méliès brought his illusionist’s touch to the first Cinderella film in 1899 (see below). Lotte Reininger’s 1922 silhouetted animation “Aschenputtel” had its own exquisite magic. Over the years, Cinders has been played by the likes of Mary Pickford (1914), Deanna Durbin (1939), Leslie Caron (1955), Julie Andrews (on TV, 1957), Gemma Craven (1976), Drew Barrymore (1998), and Anne Hathaway (2004).
Igor’s history is slightly more confusing, since he is often mistaken with the gnarled weirdos played by Dwight Frye in Universal’s horror cycle. The prototype was Frye’s hunchback Fritz, who delights in tormenting Boris Karloff’s Monster in James Whale’s 1931 “Frankenstein.”
Frye had played the fly-eating lunatic Renfield in Tod Browning’s “Dracula” earlier that year and would go onto play Frankenstein’s assistant Karl in Whale’s masterpiece “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935). Assigned to get the boss a fresh heart from the accident hospital, he cuts corners by jumping out on a woman passer-by and taking hers. Frye added immeasurably to these films, but he never played an Igor.
The name became iconic when Bela Lugosi was cast as Ygor in Rowland V. Lee’s “Son of Frankenstein” (1939), which was the last of the cycle to star Karloff. The character is a crazy, hirsute blacksmith whose broken neck owes something to Jeremiah Flintwinch’s twisted neck in Charles Dickens’s “Little Dorrit.”
Lugosi reprised him in Erle C. Kenton’s “The Ghost of Frankenstein” (1942); it starred Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Monster, eventually the recipient of Ygor’s brain. Despite the fame he had acquired playing Count Dracula, Lugosi made a less impressive foil than Frye.
The first actor to own the name was horror ham Lionel Atwill, who played the mad museum creator Ivan Igor in Michael Curtiz’s Warner Bros. horror “Mystery of the Wax Museum”(1933). In André de Toth’s 1953 3D remake “House of Wax,” starring Vincent Price, Igor was the deaf-mute sculptor played by Charles Bronson.
Marty Feldman was memorably bug-eyed as the hunchback Igor in Mel Brooks’s spoof “Young Frankenstein” (1974). These days, of course, not even the Baron’s sidekick can afford to be ugly, hence the casting of Radcliffe.
A suggestion: Rupert Grint as the Baron, Robert Pattinson as the Monster, and Kristen Stewart as the Bride.
Below: Georges Méliès "Cinderella" (1899)