FairyTale: A True Story

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FairyTale: A True Story
Fairytale a true story.jpg
The film poster.
Directed by Charles Sturridge
Produced by Bruce Davey
Wendy Finerman
Screenplay by Ernie Contreras
Story by Albert Ash
Tom McLoughlin
Ernie Contreras
Starring Peter O'Toole
Harvey Keitel
Florence Hoath
Paul McGann
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography Michael Coulter
Edited by Peter Coulson
Production
company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 24 October 1997 (1997-10-24) (US)
Running time 99 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $14,059,077[1]

FairyTale: A True Story is a 1997 film from Paramount Pictures, loosely based on the story of the Cottingley Fairies.

Plot[edit]

Early 20th Century Europe was a time and place rife with conflicting forces, from the battlefields of World War I to the peaceful countryside of rural England. Scientific advances such as electric light and photography appeared magical to some; spiritualism was championed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while his friend Harry Houdini decried false mediums who prey upon grieving families. J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan charmed theatergoers of all ages. Young Frances Griffiths, whose father is missing in action, arrives by train to stay with her cousin Elsie Wright in rural Yorkshire.

Polly Wright, Elsie's mother, is deep in mourning for her son Joseph, a gifted artist who died at the age of ten, and she keeps Joseph's room and art works intact. Elsie is not allowed to wear colours or to play with his toys, but she has taken the unfinished fairy-house he built up to her garret bedroom where her doting father, Arthur, regales her with fairy tales. He is a bit of a local wunderkind, responsible for the electrification of the local mill, where children as young as Elsie go to work. He is also an amateur photographer and chess player. When Frances arrives she and Elsie discover a shared fascination with fairies, whom they encounter down at the "beck", a nearby brook. They abscond with Arthur's camera one afternoon to take pictures of the fairies, hoping to give Polly something to believe in. When she comes home after attending a meeting of the Theosophical Society, where she hears stories of angels and all sorts of ethereal beings, she finds Arthur reviewing the prints in disbelief, but she thinks they are real. She takes them to Theosophist lecturer E.L. Gardner, who has them analysed by a professional and then brings them to the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The photos are pronounced genuine, or at least devoid of trickery.

No one except Houdini believes that young children could be capable of photographic fraud, and Conan Doyle himself arrives at the girls' home with Houdini, Gardner and two new cameras. Arthur catches Houdini poking around and tells him point-blank that he doesn't believe that the fairies are real, but that no trickery took place in his darkroom either. Abetted by the buffoonish Gardner, Elsie and Frances soon come up with two more photos and Conan Doyle has the story published in The Strand Magazine, promising everyone's names will be changed. But a newsman soon identifies the beck near Cottingley, tracing the girls through the local school and besieging the family. Hundreds of people invade the village in automobiles and on foot, and the fairies flee the obstreperous mobs. By way of apology to the fairies, the girls finish Joseph's fairy-house and leave it in the forest as a gift.

The girls are invited to London by Conan Doyle, where they embrace their celebrity and see Houdini perform. In a quiet moment backstage Houdini asks Elsie if she wants to know how he does his tricks, and she wisely declines. And when a reporter asks, he declaims, "Masters of illusion never reveal their secrets!" Back in Yorkshire, while the girls and Polly are away, Arthur has a chess match with a local champion reputed to be mute, and the newsman breaks into their house. He discovers a cache of paper dolls in the form of fairies in a portfolio in Joseph's room, but he is frightened away by the apparition of a young boy, leaving the evidence behind. Arthur wins his match, wringing a shout from his opponent, and another myth is debunked. After the children return home, the fairies reappear, and finally, Frances' father comes home as well.

Cast[edit]

Background[edit]

In 1920 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who had developed a strong belief in spiritualism in the last third of his life, was commissioned by the Strand Magazine to write an article on fairies, and it was while preparing this article that he first heard of the Cottingley Fairies. In 1922 he published The Coming of the Fairies,[2] which included numerous photographs and extensive discussion. Magician Harry Houdini publicly exposed the many fraudulent mediums he discovered during his search for a genuine medium who could help him communicate with his late mother. The two maintained a friendship for several years, exchanging several letters about supernatural phenomena.

Production[edit]

Much of the film was shot on location in the Cottingley area. The cinematography is by Michael Coulter the art direction is by Sam Riley.

The film grossed a little over $14 million in the US

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=fairytaleatruestory.htm
  2. ^ *Conan Doyle, Arthur (2006) [1922], The Coming of the Fairies, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 978-0-8032-6655-1 

External links[edit]