The Short Story:
The classic tale of Cinderella is given a burlesque/nudie overhaul in which a golden bra replaces the glass slipper.
For some reason, fairy tales lend themselves to burlesque parody, and their aesthetic evidently suits well varying degrees of pornography. I’m sure there are psychological theories for why kiddie fare makes a good foundation for adult fare, maybe something as simple as the notion that men never really grow up, but I leave that for others to figure out. The fact remains that storybook adaptations lend themselves well to more adult (though more frequently sophomoric) interpretations.
From a cinematic standpoint, it makes sense in that both share similar limited production practices. Smallish soundstage sets, rudimentary plots, and generally female leads are some elements in common with both children’s films and adult movies. Producers of adult fare also, before the introduction of mainstream pornography, needed some sort of hook on which to hang a movie. Since fairy tale fare required minimal investment, such a film could fulfill the requirements of the nudie cutie while also offering a more visually interesting scenario than yet another nudist camp picture.
Fairy tale and Arabian Nites elements had been incorporated into various burlesque acts since the beginning of the art form. Dancers needing to distinguish themselves from their competition would adopt various themes and costumes, a practice which became more and more journeyed as time went on. These included such basic themes as cowgirls, jungle maidens, slave girls, high society dames, savage natives, pirates, American Indians, harem girls, outer space girls, atomic girls, and so on. Sometimes it was just a matter of adopting an aesthetic based on the costuming and mannerisms of another country like France, China, or Russia. For a time, there seemed to be hundreds of acts which employed men in gorilla suits to provide a Beauty And The Beast theme.
Needless to say, storybook characters were quickly included in this parade. Lili St. Cyr, one of the more legitimate performers and an occasional actress/model, was always on the hunt for a more unique act. Sometimes this meant acts which were done on film, and thus subject to editing tricks which enhanced a sequence. One such filmed production was a short film entitled Cinderella’s Love Lesson. In this short clip, Lili puts around a painted set of Cinderella’s hovel as a mysterious figure uses magic to change her clothing into a high-fashion outfit complete with mink.
Of course, Tex Avery turned traditional animated fairytales into berserk gag reels which delighted audiences and introduced us to animated dream girl “Red.” Red was introduced in the cartoon Red Hot Riding Hood, which opened with a parody of Disney shorts before transforming into a gag-filled burlesque vehicle in which Red was a nightclub entertainer. Red was an immediate hit and her cartoon became one of the most booked products in MGM’s library. Sequel cartoons were rapidly released, starting with The Shooting Of Dan McGoo and Uncle Tom’s Cabana. Swing Shift Cinderella may’ve represented the acme of the series. Sadly, Red’s popularity slipped after the War and her series ended after a handful of other titles.
(Although, Walt Disney’s animators created a very similar character for the bizarre Donald Duck one-reeler Duck Pimples, a cartoon which seems to show Disney under the influence of Tex Avery. She also inspired such pulchritudinous cartoon creations as Jessica Rabbit and Hello Nurse. Red would eventually resurface as a back-up character in a Saturday morning Droopy Dog/Tom and Jerry series produced sometime around 1990, where her shtick was considerably watered down.)
At any rate, with Red, cheesecake and fairytale characters were now eternally linked. Of course, with most such characters being female, the cheesecake factor was inevitably present. Walt Disney made films for family audiences, but even he took advantage of beauteous characters and gave them a sexiness which helped them stay in mind even as a lad grew up. CINDERELLA was probably Walt’s most featured example, with it’s elegant and realistically rendered heroine in several stages of modest undress. More aggressively sexy was PETER PAN‘s Tinkerbell, who became Disney’s mascot in the television age. Of course, the emphasis here was on cuteness, nothing salacious. This tend became more pronounced as a wave of princess characters followed in the wake of the wildly successful THE LITTLE MERMAID in 1989.
More base exploration of this theme can be found in various Nickelodeon shorts, which played to expectations of nudity. Somewhat more mainstream examples evolved with what we might call Glamor Shorts produced in the wake of the War. A typical example might be a short film like Goldilocks Goes Glamorous, in which the titular female comes across the house of the three bears and frolics in their swimming pool after trying on the family’s various bathing suits. Films like this were racy but tame, and were usually sold for home projectors.
The big screen more frankly explored this theme with the coming of the nudie cutie genre, where characters from storybooks became the basis for displays of nudity. GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BARES had little to do with the old story (it instead being a drama of sorts in which a night club singer discovers his girlfriend is secretly a nudist) but the title was evocative and typical.
The play on exposed fairy tale characters became more pronounced as pornography developed to it’s full state. Most every classic episode found itself the subject of X and even XXX adaptation in the 70’s, several characters (Cinderella among them) subject to multiple editions. The first such film is accepted to be a sexed-up version of The Beauty and The Beast produced in Europe. It continues to be a popular theme with pornos, in fact. Of course, there the focus is less on nudity and more on carnal activities. Even so, there remains a link between bedtime stories for children and their use as frames for adult aesthetics. Back to a less explicit period in film history though….
SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA is one of the oddest movies ever made. Even odder is the fact that it really isn’t that bad. While it’s no classic, it does manage to hold one’s interest during it’s full 73 minutes of runtime. It’s competently produced, and even has moments of being genuinely entertaining in a traditional way. Though made for the raincoat circuit, the film seems more mainstream in it’s approach. While technically a nudie cutie (see my intro to NUDE ON THE MOON for a history of the genre), the film doesn’t seem as targeted on exposed flesh as one might expect. It plays out in much the same manner as a typical kiddie flick, and even has some legitimate cinematic entertainment value. So much so, I must wonder if the producers set out to make a real children’s film and then made a last-minute change into a nudie cutie. I can’t confirm this, and, given the audience numbers would be reduced in such a move, I have a hard time accepting this to be the case. However, it’s entirely possible the production was seen as too lacking to carry the general audience intended and someone thought instead to target the film at the raincoat theaters where it, by comparison, would come across like a much more expensive epic and thus regain its production costs with minimal change.
At any rate, that’s pure conjecture on my part. What can be confirmed is that in 1964 was released our current subject: a nudie cutie fairy tale musical with modest but solid production values.
We open with a crowd looking at a crude puppet show which acts out some elements of the Cinderella story while a stand on the small stage houses our actual title cards. There’s a brief bit of narration that tells us the story is slightly different from the glass slipper episode we’ve heard about, and then we get the credits in earnest intercut with footage of the puppets. What strikes me is how legitimate these title plates are, with a full musical score that makes it look like a typical kiddie flick.
After the credits, we meet the kingdom’s royal Adviser. He’s overlooking the festivities and occasionally looks over his shoulder to mug at us -though his exact attitude during all this is hard to figure. After the puppet show, he takes in the harem dancers. This is our first flash of nudity, and the camera lingers for a bit on a close-up of the lead dancer’s exposed ample bosom. After a quick look at the dancers, we move on to the pickle tasting competition. Though this would seem to be a set-up for some rude humor, this actually turns out to be a harmless laugh bit in which the Adviser must fill in for the absent King and eat so many pickles that it makes him sick.
Returning to the palace, Adviser is still walking off the pickles parading through his stomach. He inquires of another servant the location and status of Prince David. David has been in a funk as of late, since he’s been having dreams of a beautiful girl and he’s actually fallen in love with the imaginary figure. On the advice of the staff, he’s been walking the kingdom in hopes of finding a flesh-and-blood girl to occupy his mind. No go, as his dreams become more vivid and Prince David begins to worry about his sanity.
Not helping is that he’s been forced to spend the afternoon in the company of a pretentious widow and her two ugly daughters. This transitions us to the abode of said family, where we find pretty stepdaughter Derella treated as little more than a slave. Derella has been having dreams too, only in her case she knows the target of her affections. Namely, Prince David. It’s here that the title is explained, as the rather sweet Derella hasn’t been misbehaving any more than a typical Disney heroine might. Mother scolds Derella by telling her that she’s sinful in her (false) sloth and wandering mind. Mother will be giving her even more chores to do so as to avoid such free time in future. (One is reminded of what Robert Tayor told Dana Wynter in D-DAY, THE SIXTH OF JUNE; “You’re the sweetest, most innocent sinner in the War” I paraphrase as best as I can remember, but I note it’s actually true of Derella.)
At any rate, Derella is smitten with Prince David, though she knows she will never cross his path. Prince David is smitten with Derella, even though he doesn’t know who she is or if she’s even a real woman. We even see one of their dream-world meetings, a dance number which plays like something out of a traditional (if economic) musical. There isn’t a hint of salacious content here, and David is more in love with the mystery girl than ever.
The King and Adviser discuss a therapy for Prince David which involves a handful of topless girls, which is about as randy as the script really gets -though even this is elliptical enough that they may not be speaking strictly carnal relations or anything. These girls are also the first nudes we’ve seen since the dancers in reel one, which is kinda odd for a film advertised as a nudie. This is what gave me the impression that the film might’ve been planned as a more legitimate vehicle before a last-minute change to court the raincoat crowd. This looks like a scene crammed into the story almost after-the-fact to make way for such a thing.
Before turning the maidens over to his son, the King first decides to use the four girls to help him in his knitting. Seriously. The King has been plagued by a general listlessness since the passing of his Queen a couple years back, and his doctor advised him to take up knitting! And it actually worked! The King even gets a musical number about how much he loves knitting before the Prince enters and continues to sulk. David doesn’t even notice the girls. This spurs the idea of throwing a royal ball to which will be invited every maiden in the kingdom. (A bit of a running gag is that the Adviser keeps coming up with the ideas, after which the King presents them as his own.)
Basically, things go as traditional to the story. Derella must stay home as her family heads to the royal palace, but her Fairy Godfather shows up to offer aid. That this character is male rather than female again seems counter to the whole nudie cutie thing. The bit seems like something from a Bob Hope movie, as Fairy Godfather is having union trouble and if he can’t help her he’s going to be tossed out and made to become human again! This all plays exactly as it might in a normal kiddie flick, even the detail of his wand being a bottle doesn’t seem far removed from normal expectations. Honestly, this mirrors fairly closely the Gilligan’s Island spoof of Cinderella at times.
At any rate, Derella has a chance to go to the ball once she has a dress and carriage. A goof on the dress allows for some mild cheesecake as Derella finds herself covered only by her folded arms until her Fairy Godfather gets the right spell. He also has to make two attempts to change a pumpkin into a coach (something else that happened to Gilligan when he was Cinderella’s Fairy Godfather). Here the budgetary limitations keep Derella from entering the coach on screen. All we see of the coach is a fairly neat miniature as the characters look down on it from Derella’s window.
Derella arrives at the ball and immediately catches the eye of Prince David. They dance and fall more evidently in love, but when the clock strikes midnight, Derella must flee before her garments return to their earlier grimy state. Though she never undresses and David never gropes her, he’s somehow left holding her golden bra as she escapes. More depressed than ever, David has only the bra to remind him that the girl was in fact real.
A royal proclamation goes forth that every maiden in the kingdom must try on the golden bra in order to find the perfect fit, and thus find the girl who vanished from the party (it was a masked affair, you see). Here we finally delve fully into nudie cutie territory, as David and a band of men take the bra from house to house for fitting -though the first girl to try on the bra does so with her back to the camera, oddly. One fairly funny digression here involves a stop at one house where a woman’s tomboy daughter steps into the scene dressed like a hunter. The royal band assumes a mistake has been made until the girl is ordered to try on the bra and she reveals herself to be fully female.
Derella is locked away when the band comes to her house and the ugly stepsisters are predictably unable to wear the fitted bra. Thankfully, these girls try on the bra behind a privacy screen and remain in their slips the whole time. Unlike most versions of the story, the Prince leaves without seeing our heroine. Derella sulks in her room before singing the film’s best tune, the sweet ballad “My Day Will Come.” After this she decides she must take action into her own hands and visit the palace herself.
At the palace, an embarrassed Derella can’t bring herself to tell the Prince who she is, this because he takes her to be a servant girl. Back home in her room, Derella is sure she’s failed and is on the verge of giving up her dream romance completely. Her Fairy Godfather reappears, saddened over her resignation. Though he’s primarily comic relief, his sadness here is actually quite touching. Derella begs for his help one more time and Fairy Godfather figures a plan to lure Prince David back to the house.
Fairy Godfather’s plan is to pose as a gypsy fortuneteller by name of “Madame Boobie.” Yes, that sounds like a typically silly anatomy joke in one context, but in another it sounds like something from a three stooges short, so it still feels like kiddie fare. At any rate, Madame Boobie is granted a royal audience on the promise that “she” has supernatural knowledge.
In his disguise, Fairy Godfather tells the Prince that his lady fair can be found at the house where a silver cross adorns it’s door. Said cross looks entirely Christian, by the way. David makes his way to the house, rather unsettled to find it’s the house of the loudmouthed widow and her two daughters. When Derella answers the door, however, the mood is lifted. Derella steps behind the privacy screen to try on the bra, providing our leading lady’s single nude scene.
The bra fits, and Derella is magically in her ball gown again. All celebrate the discovery of the kingdom’s new Princess, as David immediately proposes to Derella. Given she’s been sharing this dream, her acceptance of the proposal is just as immediate. All are happy except the widow and her daughters -who are shocked to discover this turn of events. Derella intercedes when the women are charged with going against a royal decree (to try the bra on every maiden in the kingdom) when they earlier denied the beauty’s existence. Rather, thanks to Derella’s abundantly forgiving nature, the women are invited to another royal ball. Fairy Godfather steps in to provide dresses for them, dresses they believe Derella sewed for them.
At the ball, we get another elliptical joke which could be considered dirty, as the King notes that his knitting has improved since he took the therapy his son declined -the four topless maidens from earlier, if you recall. Still, it seems designed to go over the heads of a younger audience -an audience who wouldn’t even see the picture!
Mother makes a play for the King, and even gets him to dance with her. Fairy Godfather, still dressed as Madame Boobie, waves his bottle-wand and the three dresses he provided leap to the ceiling (thankfully leaving in place the ladies’ slips). The stepsisters run out of the ballroom, but Mother has convinced the King that she should be his new Queen! These dames sure make out a lot better than the characters of the original story, but this may be a nod to the Disney version of the story. At any rate, they all lived happily ever after, but none so happily as David and Derella. The End.
Watching the film, one finds the events cheaply produced, but competently so. It looks like any relatively modest kiddie flick of the era, if not for the occasional flashes of nudity. Those are so few and far between, one might think the original audience would’ve felt cheated if not for the fact that the nudie cutie was still more or less a novelty (though on it’s way out by ’64, as more explicit -and violent- pictures began to emerge about this time). One wonders if there were two cuts of the film, as had sometimes been done. One could feature less skimpy costuming and be targeted for mainstream theaters, while another print could incorporate the nudity and be sold strictly to art house and raincoat theaters.
This theory seems to have some merit in the fact that there were two posters for the film, one nude and one non-nude (on the other hand, both posters note the film is for adults only). This wouldn’t be uncommon, as you’d hang the non-nude poster outside your theater, and place the more exposed version in lobby. Somewhat more concrete evidence can be found in the lobby still at the bottom of this review, which depicts the early scene of the harem dancers, who now are seen with their tops on. More likely the still was simply for publicity use without limiting it’s visibility. (On that note, stills and even screen grabs usable for this article were almost impossible to dig up.)
The film is well-cast, all things considered. Derella is played by beautiful Miss France winner Suzanne Sybele. Despite European bombshells being popular at the time, she seems to’ve done no other films. That’s really too bad, for although a bit stiff at times, she carries with her star charisma and a beauty that shines with freshness and implied innocence. Bill Gaskin plays Prince David, and he likewise didn’t do much else, despite having the looks and screen presence to make David more than a stock character.
Most of the cast did little else, or nothing else at all. One of the stepsisters was Joan Lemmo, who had a sporadic career playing small supporting roles. The most distinguished actor here is Sydney Lassick as Derella’s Fairy Godfather. Lassick went on to a rather impressive career spanning decades. Genre fans will remember him as an early victim of the titular ALLIGATOR, while he probably remains most famous as Cheswick in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. One doubts he brought up SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA very often, though one also doubts he had to worry much about anyone else doing so either.
The film, one has to figure, passed through theaters with little notice, never saw play on television, and was probably considered too tame to release on home video. On the other hand, EVERYTHING got released on video, so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of a VHS edition pressed in the 80’s. It can be found today on a typically loaded down Something Weird Video DVD (though these are out of print now). The film is paired with GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BARES (itself a musical), and included in the features are both shorts Cinderella’s Love Lesson (though this one is a bit splicy) and Goldilocks Goes Glamorous. The print for SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA shows considerable wear, but isn’t too splicy. The color is solid, and all in all is probably the best presentation one could dare dream of. For a film no doubt on the rarer side, it’s actually a pretty good showing and I recommend the disk if you’re at all interested in actually seeing the film.
If the IMDB is to be trusted, the original theatrical runtime was almost ten minutes longer that what we see here. Given that nothing feels missing, one must wonder if (provided this information is correct) a completely unrelated segment had been included in the original release. Some stuff here is glossed over, but that looks to be entirely due to budget reasons moreso than any missing footage. It’s likely to remain a mystery, too, as films of this kind were never subject to overmuch documentation or even review.
Being a nudie cutie rather than a porno, the film is ultimately more sweet than dirty. The romantic elements are handled in just as tasteful a manner as any family film might have them. The comedy bits also seem largely harmless, and the actual nudie bits seem more novel than anything else. If there were ever a clean dirty movie, this would be it. Of course, we sometimes grade movies on a curve. I couldn’t help but compare the film to the far more perverse -and ultimately unwatchable- CINDERELLA 2000. That bizarre 1970’s Al Adamson release was another nudity-laced musical based on the familiar fairy tale, but this time as a science fiction themed exploration of repressed sex in a distant future. Going back to our opening discussion, the European cut of CINDERELLA 2000 even included a bizarre sex scene featuring Snow White and the seven dwarfs! Compared to that mess, SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA was downright uplifting! (No pun intended.)
In the final assessment, SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA was likely considered pretty dirty stuff when first released, but with the passage of time has actually evolved into something rather more charming. This probably doesn’t speak well of the film as much as it speaks about the degradation of society since it’s production. In an essay, it was once put forth that the nudie cuties seemed like “dirty movies for little boys.” That seems applicable here, though the film just as often feels as if it were also aimed at little girls, what with the romantic dreams and all that. The film feels very much like someone took a traditional kiddie flick and stuck in a handful of nude scenes, and what’s more did so with at least minimal talent and an occasional display of wit. A strange one for sure.