The Tales of Beatrix Potter
|The Tales of Beatrix Potter|
|Directed by||Reginald Mills|
|Produced by||Richard B. Goodwin|
|Written by||Beatrix Potter (stories)
Richard B. Goodwin
|Starring||Royal Ballet dancers|
|Music by||John Lanchbery|
|Edited by||John Rushton|
|Distributed by||MGM-EMI (UK)
|30 June 1971|
The Tales of Beatrix Potter (US title: Peter Rabbit and Tales of Beatrix Potter) is a 1971 ballet film based on the children's stories of English author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. The film was directed by Reginald Mills, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton (who danced the role of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle), and featured dancers from the Royal Ballet. The musical score was arranged by John Lanchbery from various sources, such as the operas of Michael Balfe and of Sir Arthur Sullivan, and performed by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. It was designed and co-written by Christine Edzard.
Tales of Beatrix Potter is the only feature film directed by Mills, who is best remembered as a film editor. Mills edited The Red Shoes (1948) and other films directed and produced by Powell and Pressburger that incorporated ballet.
The film was given the go ahead by Bryan Forbes during his period as head of production at EMI Films. He recalled that the EMI Board were not enthusiastic, and Nat Cohen had never heard of Beatrix Potter, but he had complete artistic control for any movie made with a budget under £1 million so could gain approval easily.
A 1971 review by Roger Ebert was favourable: "The stories are told simply and directly and with a certain almost clumsy charm. Instead of going for perfection in the dancing, the Royal Ballet dancers have gone for characterizations instead. The various animals have their quirks and eccentricities, and they are fairly authentic: The frog dances like a frog, for example, and not like Nureyev." Anthony Nield wrote in 2011, "Tales of Beatrix Potter is one of British cinema’s true one-offs, a film quite unlike any other. Ostensibly aimed at children, this adaptation of Potter’s various animal-centric stories was mounted by the Royal Ballet and choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton. The tales are rendered as a series of dances, loosely interconnected by the author as a young girl (played by Erin Geraghty) and her active imagination. There are no words, only music and movement as the performers of the Royal Ballet - in full animal costume - interpret her stories’ simple narratives."
- Yeatman, Linda (15 March 1971). "Tale of Beatrix Potter's Ballet". The Times. p. 9. Issue 58122.
- Bryan Forbes A Divided Life, Mandarin, 1993 p 30-31
- Alexander Walker National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, Harrap, 1985 p 114
- Ebert, Roger (19 November 1971). "Peter Rabbit and the Tales of Beatrix Potter". Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert rated the film with four stars (out of four).
- Nield, Anthony (6 April 2011). "Tales of Beatrix Potter". The Digital Fix: Film.
- Erickson, Glenn (12 February 2004). "The Tales of Beatrix Potter". DVD Savant.
Tales of Beatrix Potter is a ballet film civilians can sit through. There's almost no plot and it will be slow going for anyone incapable of appreciating delicate dance steps. This category definitely includes Savant, but I was captivated by the film's production values and the amazing characterizations.