Alice in Wonderland (1933 film)

Alice in Wonderland is a 1933 American pre-Code film version of the famous Alice novels by Lewis Carroll. The film was produced by Paramount Pictures, featuring an all-star cast. It is all live-action, except for the Walrus and The Carpenter sequence, which was animated by the Harman-Ising Studio.[1]

Alice in Wonderland
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNorman Z. McLeod
Produced byLouis D. Lighton (uncredited)
Written by
Based onAlice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
Music byDimitri Tiomkin
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 22, 1933 (1933-12-22)
Running time
77 minutes (original 90 minutes)
CountryUnited States

Stars featured in the film included W. C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen, Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle (Grant's star was still on the ascent at the time), Gary Cooper as the White Knight, Edward Everett Horton as The Hatter, Charles Ruggles as The March Hare, and Baby LeRoy as The Joker. Charlotte Henry played her first leading role as Alice.

This version was directed by Norman Z. McLeod from a screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and William Cameron Menzies, based on Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). It also drew heavily from Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus's then-recent stage adaptation.

The film is occasionally broadcast on cable television channels such as Turner Classic Movies. When Paramount previewed the film in 1933, the original running time was 90 min. However, by the time it was shown to the press, the running time was cut to 77 minutes (many reviews, including the savage one it received in Variety, made a point of how long it seemed at an hour-and-a-quarter). Despite the film being released at this shorter time, it is often mistakenly reported that Universal Studios cut it to 77 minutes when they bought the television rights in the late 1950s.[2] Universal Studios released the film to DVD on March 2, 2010, marking the film's first home video release.

Plot summary

Left alone with a governess one snowy afternoon (Alice's sister does not appear in this version), Alice is supremely bored. She idly starts to wonder what life is like on the other side of the drawing room mirror, when she suddenly feels a surge of confidence and climbs upon the mantelpiece to look. She discovers that she can pass through the looking glass and finds herself in a strange room where many things seem to be the exact reverse of what is in the drawing room. Strangely, through all of this, the governess does not seem to notice what has happened.

Alice looks out the window and suddenly sees a White Rabbit. She follows it to a rabbit hole and falls in. Seeing nobody else there, she comes upon a table with a key to a locked door, and a bottle that bears the sign "Drink Me". In a situation exactly reversed from the book, she grows to enormous size after drinking the bottle's contents. Unable to pass into the room beyond the locked door, she begins to cry. A cake with a sign saying "Eat Me" appears. She eats the cake, shrinks to a tiny size, and is immediately swept along into a flood caused by her own tears. Many more of her adventures follow, combining sections of Through the Looking Glass with the original Alice. At the end, Alice is awakened from her dream, not by the "pack of playing cards", but by a riotous celebration that goes completely haywire after she is crowned Queen.


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A notable flop at the box office, the film cast doubt on whether a live-action fantasy peopled by strange-looking characters could be successfully presented on the screen, until MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939). Nevertheless, this film remains as of 2019 the only major live action Hollywood-produced film directly adapting the original '"Alice" stories. (The 2010 Alice in Wonderland would be the next such film to use the title, but it is a sequel to the original story.)

The movie was banned in China under a category of "superstitious films" due to its "strangeness" and unscientific elements.[3]


  1. "Harman-Ising's Alice". Michael Sporn Animation. September 30, 2010.
  2. "Alicia en el país de las maravillas (1933)". IMDb.
  3. Yingjin, Zhang (1999). Cinema and Urban Culture in Shanghai, 1922–1943. Stanford University Press. p. 190. ISBN 9780804735728. OCLC 40230511.
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