Alice, Aldous, and Walt

I recently discovered that Walt Disney commissioned Aldous Huxley of all people to write a script for a Disney film of Alice in Wonderland. Although this may seem surprising, it turns out that Huxley wrote a number of screenplays for Hollywood films and just happened to be in Los Angeles during 1945 after Disney acquired the fim rights to the iconic Lewis Carroll story.

Huxley created a a working script for an animated/live action mash-up Alice. There is a record of the author meeting with Disney to discuss the project in early December of 1945. Sadly, the screenplay for the never produced version was destroyed in a fire, but a synopsis exists. (see below) Certainly a film that I would have like to have seen.

Here is a brief summary of Huxley’s synopsis for Alice and the Mysterious Mr. Carroll from November 1945.

The synopsis begins with a letter stating that the Queen wants to know and meet the author of Alice in Wonderland. She has been told he is an Oxford don and that she wishes the vice chancellor of the University, Langham, to discover his identity.

Langham tosses aside the request since he has other concerns, including the Rev. Charles Dodgson lobbying to become the new librarian. Dodgson loves books and wants to be relived of his duties lecturing since he stutters badly when nervous. (In real life, the Dodo in Wonderland was named after Dodgson who sometimes because of his stutter would introduce himself as Do-Do-Dodgson.) Langham is not inclined to endorse Dodgson for the new job because he feels it is inappropriate for the good reverend to be interested in the theater and in photography. Langham’s assistant, Grove, who knows Dodgson quite well and just considers him a little eccentric tries to plead Dodgson’s case to no avail.

Grove is the weak-willed guardian of a little girl named Alice, whose parents are temporarily off in India. Grove has hired Miss Beale to take care of Alice. Miss Beale is a no-nonsense person who is very strict and dislikes Dodgson because he fills Alice’s mind with nonsense. Huxley points out that it is important to establish that Alice is “temporarily an orphan at the mercy of a governess and an old man who do not truly understand her or love her.”

Dodgson has invited Alice to join him for a theatrical performance of Romeo and Juliet featuring one of his former students now grown up into an attractive and talented young woman, Ellen Terry. Miss Beale is outraged and orders Alice to write a letter to Dodgson informing him she can not attend because of her “religious principles”.

Dodgson visits Terry in the theater and she immediately guesses that he is the author Carroll because he used to tell her stories of the Cheshire Cat when she was younger. Dodgson begs her to keep his secret since he is up for the job of librarian and that if it were revealed he was the one who wrote the children’s book it would go badly for him. He also talks about bringing Alice to the play the following day.

Mrs. Beale discovers that Alice has not posted the letter to Dodgson but hidden it so she could sneak out and attend the theater with him. Enraged, Beale locks Alice in the garden house. When “Grove expresses concern about the severity of Alice’s punishment, Miss Beale assures him that this is how it was always done in the best and most pious families. Grove ends by agreeing, as he always does when confronted by a personality stronger than his own.”

Miss Beale raises the question of her pension that must be submitted to the Bishop within days (or wait another two years for the next opportunity) and Grove advises her that the Bishop was good friends with Dodgson’s father and perhaps the reverend could write a recommendation. Miss Beale’s appears visibly concerned.

Alice is terrified at being locked in the garden house, but Miss Beale informs her that if she does not stop her screaming and pounding she will remain locked in there both day and night. To escape her terrors, Alice starts to imagine that a hanging rope is the caterpillar from the book and that a stuffed tiger’s head is the Cheshire Cat. Eventually, by remembering that in Wonderland there “is a garden at the bottom of every rabbit hole,” she finds a small shuttered window and is able to escape.

She rushes down the street towards the theater but has some horrendous adventures including being robbed by street urchins and trying to escape from a policeman remembering “Miss Beale’s blood curdling accounts of what happens to children who fall into the clutches of the Law.”

Alice eventually finds her way to the theater and rushes tearfully to Ellen Terry and the surrounding performers who are taking a break on stage. She incoherently blurts out her tale. Terry sends for Dodgson and is indignant about the way Alice has been treated. Alice confesses her “system of overcoming fear is pretending to be in Wonderland.”

Ellen Terry says that is the purpose of theater to “take people out of Dull Land and Worry Land and carry them into Wonderland.”

She, eventually joined by the other actors, recounts the story of the Red Queen’s croquet game and the film transitions into animation. Dodgson arrives to take Alice home but Terry insists that Alice stay until she’s had an opportunity to talk “with that old dragon” who has been persecuting Alice. Dodgson agrees and joins in on the storytelling that transforms into another animated segment.

At the point in the animated story where the Red Queen yells “Off With Her Head!” it returns to live-action and the appearance of Miss Beale followed by Grove and two policemen. Grove is persuaded to dismiss the policemen and Terry eloquently convinces Beale of the need to be kinder to Alice. During the discussion, Alice blurts out that Dodgson is really Lewis Carroll. A disgusted and frustrated Grove proclaims that this is the final straw why Dodgson is unfit for the job of librarian and leaves to confront Langham with the news.

Langham has no time for Grove, because he has been informed that the Queen is arriving that very afternoon to meet the author of Alice in Wonderland and he fears what her reaction will be for his inaction in finding the author. Grove announces he can produce the author and returns to the theater. There, without telling them the reason other than Langham needs to see them immediately, he gathers Beale, Alice and Dodgson and takes them in a cab back to the University.

Langham and the other dignitaries are paying their respects to the Queen and, just as Langham is about to admit he does not know who Carroll is, Grove arrives and shoves Dodgson forward. Alice is terrified the Queen will cut off his head, but the Queen is quite pleased. When she leaves, Dodgson finds himself lionized by those who had previously looked at him askance.

Even Miss Beale apologizes and shyly asks for Dodgson’s recommendation to the bishop about her pension. Once assured that this means Miss Beale will not teach anymore children in the future, Dodgson warmly agrees.

As all the new found flatterers cluster around Dodgson they all appear in Alice’s eyes to transform into residents of Wonderland with only Dodgson himself remaining human.

A brief epilogue shows a gothic doorway with the word “Librarian” painted on the door and Dodgson seated comfortably at a table, writing, and surrounded by walls of books. A scout comes in and announces the carriage is ready and Dodgson leaves and goes to a nearby park where children are having a party including a Punch and Judy show. Alice runs up to Dodgson to introduce her new governess who is a “young and charming girl” who seems to be enjoying the party as much as Alice herself.

A stout middle aged woman approaches Dodgson to tell him how much she loves his wonderful book. Dodgson bows, smiles and hands her a printed card from his pocket and walks away. The card states: “The Rev. Charles L. Dodgson takes no responsibility for any publication not issued under his own name”. The woman looks back up to see Dodgson walking away with Alice and other characters.

 

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Publication Day

 

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Always Return Your Library Books On Time

Conan the Librarian has zero tolerance for tardy returns.

 

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Murakami and Me

Perspicacious visitors to Travel Between The Pages have likely noted that I am a fan of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. As it turns out, we both share a passion for collecting T-shirts during our travels. In fact, we even have some of the same shirts. For example, we both own a Reykjavik University Tee. Awhile back I posted a story about Murakami’s partnership with a well known clothing store designing shirts. Now, the writer is releasing a new book about his T-shirt collecting habit, which is due for release in November in the U.S..

While we await the publication of Murakami T: The T-Shirts That I Love, Murakami has shared a teaser exerpt in the upcoming issue of The New Yorker magazine. Murakami discusses one of his favorite shirts, red with a Heinz ketchup label that says “I PUT KETCHUP ON MY KETCHUP.”  You can read the entire article at the New Yorker: and here’s a sample:

This T-shirt has a straightforward message: “I PUT KETCHUP ON MY KETCHUP.” Now, that’s the statement of somebody who is seriously in love with ketchup. It kind of teases those Americans who put ketchup on everything, but I find it interesting that one of the companies that distribute these shirts is none other than Heinz. A little self-deprecatory humor going on here, but you can’t help feeling the American spirit in it, the optimistic, cheerful lack of introspection that says, “Who cares about being sophisticated! I’m gonna do what I want!”

When I walk around town in this shirt, Americans sometimes call out, “Love the shirt!” The ones who do this usually have that “I love ketchup” look about them. Sometimes I feel like coming back with a “Hey, don’t lump me in with you guys,” but usually I just give a cheerful “Yeah, pretty nice, huh? Ha-ha.” This kind of T-shirt communication does a lot to liven things up. You’d never find that happening in Europe. For one thing, Europeans by and large hardly ever eat ketchup.

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Drink from the well of your self and begin again

“I have been alone but seldom lonely. I have satisfied my thirst at the well of my self and that wine was good, the best I ever had, and tonight sitting staring into the dark I now finally understand the dark and the light and everything in between. Peace of mind and heart arrives when we accept what is: having been born into this strange life we must accept the wasted gamble of our days and take some satisfaction in the pleasure of leaving it all behind. Cry not for me. Grieve not for me. Read what I’ve written then forget it all. Drink from the well of your self and begin again.” Charles Bukowski

 

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Venice, Violin, and Vivaldi

On Saturday tourists were treated to the spectacle of an enormous violin floating down the canals of Venice carrying a live string quartet. The cruising instrument, “Noah’s Violin,” was created by artist Livio De Marchi, as a way of “bringing a message of hope.” De Marchi is known in Venice for his surreal boats, including his whimsical wooden water Ferrari. You can catch the Vivaldi concert in the video below.

NB: If the video does not play, please click the short url at the bottom of your email version of TBTP.

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Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day

Happy Monday!

The floriated initial M in the above text comes from the 16th century alchemical book Della tramutatione metallica sogni tre by Gio. Battista Nazari Bresciano.

Floriated, or decorative, initials are common in antiquarian books. Typically new sections of text were marked with a decorative initial letter. In the early years of printing, these letter were typically added by hand, so the printed text would leave a space big enough for the letter. Sometimes, you might open a book where the decorative initial was never included, there’s just a blank space.

 

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pushing right back

 

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Reading In Bed Is So Relaxing

 

I’m not sure why videos and photos of French performance artist Thierry Mandon reading in bed have popped up this week since the event was in 2015. Still, it’s too good not to share. In his project “Inside-Outside”, the fully pajamaed performance artist comfortably reads in bed underneath a picture frame and in front of a nightstand, each of which is mounted onto an exterior stucco wall. This whole scene requires sustaining the illusion of relaxation while simultaneously maintaining perfect balance. This installation took place in Chambéry, France. Check out the marvelous short video below of the performance.

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Tower of Babel

The infographic below was created by Alberto Lucas Lopez  and it manages to condense the 7,102 known living languages today into a visualization, with individual colors representing each world region.

Only 23 languages are spoken by at least 50 million native speakers. What’s more, over half the planet speaks at least one of these 23 languages.

After Chinese, the languages of Spanish and English sit in second and third place in terms of global popularity. The rapid proliferation of these languages can be traced back to the history of Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, and British colonies around the world.

 

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