Christmas cult film: “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella” turns 50

For many television viewers, this film is as much a part of Christmas as a Christmas tree and gingerbread: the fairy tale adaptation "Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella" is a classic that immediately transports young and old to snow-covered landscapes.

Christmas cult film: “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella” turns 50

For many television viewers, this film is as much a part of Christmas as a Christmas tree and gingerbread: the fairy tale adaptation "Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella" is a classic that immediately transports young and old to snow-covered landscapes. Who doesn't know the story of the clever Cinderella (Libuse Safrankova), who uses courage and cunning to win the heart of the beautiful but somewhat naive prince (Pavel Travnicek)? The TV fairy tale turns 50 years old in November.

Not only in Germany, but also in the Czech Republic and Norway, “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella” is considered the Christmas film of all time. The first and third shows him 15 times last year between the first of Advent and the New Year. The film was almost shot in the summer.

The script is being rewritten for the winter

The original script called for Cinderella to run across "flowering meadows" and do her laundry in a "sunlit stream." It was a happy coincidence that the East German studio DEFA, the German co-production partner of the Prague Barrandov studios, had free capacity in the winter of 1972/1973. DEFA contributed acting greats such as Rolf Hoppe as the king. In a few days, the script was quickly rewritten for a different season.

Traditionally, November 1st, 1973 is usually given as the official date for the premiere of today's cult film. However, research by the National Film Archive in Prague has shown that the film was actually only released in Czechoslovak cinemas on November 16, 1973. A gala premiere for the socialist youth association SSM had already taken place on October 26th. However, it is undisputed that the GDR premiere took place later on March 8, 1974. Unfortunately, leading actress Libuse Safrankova can no longer be interviewed on the 50th anniversary - she died in June 2021 at the age of 68.

Cinderella knows what she wants

One of the most beautiful scenes in the film is the first meeting between Cinderella and the prince. When the heir to the throne tries to kill a deer with his crossbow, a snowball suddenly hits him. It was thrown by the cheeky Cinderella, who quickly ran away. "This is not a passive girl waiting to be rescued by the prince," says the head of the National Film Archive in Prague, Michal Bregant, in an interview with the German Press Agency. "Cinderella acts with more independence and energy - that's what makes the film so interesting to this day."

Behind the scenes, however, it wasn't a snowball attack from the young woman. In reality, director Vaclav Vorlicek accurately threw the snowball from his position next to the camera. “Vorlicek was a director who had the ambition to make successful and popular films,” says Bregant about the artist, who died in 2019. "He was not a great philosopher, but a pragmatist." Vorlicek's sense of humor is unmistakable. "I take life with a smile, even if I have to navigate various cliffs, because I am an optimist by nature," he once said in a radio interview.

Political oppression of artists

There were similar difficulties in 1973: the filming took place at a time of political repression and stricter censorship in Czechoslovakia. In August 1968, the Warsaw Pact states crushed the Prague Spring reform movement with tanks. Many artists fell from grace. "The excellent playwright and scenarist Frantisek Pavlicek wrote the script hidden behind a false name," reports film scholar Pavel Skopal - even though the fairy tale has no political subtext.

Pavlicek completely dispensed with a classic narrator and cleverly interwoven three fairy tale texts by the Czech national writer Bozena Nemcova (1820-1862). So it happens that Cinderella opens magic nuts instead of shouting like the Brothers Grimm: "Little tree, shake yourself and shake yourself!" The DEFA co-producers' concerns that German children would not recognize the fairy tale turned out to be unfounded.

Turning at minus 17 degrees

Prince actor Pavel Travnicek was recently asked on Czech Radio what was the first thing he remembered when he thought back to filming: "The winter, the winter, it was terribly cold," the 72-year-old said. They were young and endured temperatures of minus 17 degrees. When he looks at photos from back then, he is almost moved: “Damn, what a time that was.”

Fairy tale fans can look forward to the fact that, as temperatures drop, a winter exhibition on the cult film will soon be on display again at Moritzburg Castle in Saxony. The show starts on November 22nd. Original costumes, fan objects, props and more are on display. Other locations for the exterior shots were the Gothic water castle Svihov in the west of the Czech Republic and the snowy slopes of the Bohemian Forest.

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