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Cinderella on Strings (c.1947)


This documentary made by the Australian National Film Board details the history of marionettes and puppeteers. It shows intricately hand-carved marionettes in the puppet workshops. The main part of the film features a filmed marionette theatre production of Cinderella.

Curator’s notes

The Australian National Film Board was formed in 1945 to produce documentary films about Australia for the Department of Information. The films were distributed both in cinemas and in schools with some of them screening internationally via their British and Canadian counterparts, the British Film Institute and the National Film Board of Canada. Cinderella on Strings was possibly distributed through State Education film-lending collections and seen in schools across Australia.

The opening minutes of Cinderella on Strings place the Australian marionette theatre within a broader European performance tradition of puppeteer and marionette craft. The sequences from the Cinderella fairlytale, staged on a marionette theatre set and choreographed especially for the camera, are beautifully accomplished and convey the skill involved in operating the marionettes.

The action is filmed in the same way as live action – with close-ups, different angles and dissolves. The puppeteers are also intermittently shown above the stage operating the puppets and the narrator reminds us that the actors on stage are, in fact, made of wood. One of the highlights of the voice-over narration is 'Prince Charming, the handsomest young man who ever walked at the end of a marionette string’ (see clip one).