Disney’s sumptuous live-action Beauty and the Beast reboot starring Emma Watson is just around the corner. The original story derives from an 18th century fairy tale penned by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and first published in 1740.
Not only has it exerted a powerful influence on Disney, but the whole of cinema itself: it truly is a tale as old as time. We’ve recapped some notable milestones.
La Belle et La Bete (1946)
Outside the world of Disney, this French classic is considered the definitive take on the timeless source material. In fact, it’s inspired by a later, abridged take on the original tale, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. Directed by the renowned poet Jean Cocteau it’s a feast for the senses, featuring beautifully detailed sets and costumes and topped with superb performances from Jean Marais and Josette Day.
Beauty and the Beast (1987)
Times had changed a great deal by 1987 and it was the turn of American-Israeli trash film masters Cannon to put their own spin on the Beast story. Filmed entirely in Israel it features The Deer Hunter’s John Savage as the Beast and one-time screen sensation Rebecca De Mornay as Belle. In fact the two stars perform a pair of duets: ‘If You See With Your Heart’ and ‘Wish for the Moon’.
Beauty and the Beast (1987 TV series)
What was it with late-80s takes on Beauty and the Beast? In the same year as the aforementioned Cannon movie, cult favourite Ron Perlman starred as the Beast opposite The Terminator's Linda Hamilton as Catherine, the latter a high-flying District Attorney as opposed to the delicate heroine of the original tale. Lacing its storyline with a judicious twist on the source material, it was in fact written and produced by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin.
The Beautician and the Beast (1997)
Former 007 Timothy Dalton takes the lead in this light comedy, one that’s only very loosely inspired by the tale (the movie was originally poised to be a remake of The King and I but the rights couldn’t be secured). Dalton plays an Eastern European dictator who falls in love with the beautician (Fran Drescher) mistakenly sent to tutor his kids.
Aiming to capitalise on the tween audience, this angst-ridden take on the classic morality story is set in New York and features young Brit Alex Pettyfer as an arrogant young man transformed by a witch’s curse who, against his best impulses, falls in love with his classmate (Vanessa Hudgens). It’s based on Alex Flinn’s 2007 novel.
Beauty and the Beast (2014)
Something of a flop on the international circuit, Silent Hill director Christophe Gans’ lavish take on the fairy tale hews closely to the template laid down by the superior La Belle et La Bete. There’s no denying the star power on offer: French superstars Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) and Vincent Cassell (La Haine) help lend it more dramatic heft.
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