This particular tale may not be as old as time, but it goes pretty far back. French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (try saying that ten times real fast) first published the fairy tale Beauty And The Beast in 1740. Since then, there have been numerous adaptations on stage, screen and television, culminating in next month's Disney release. What follows is Empire's guide to ten of those versions, some better than others.
La Belle et la Bete (1946)
Directed by French filmmaker Jean Cocteau, this 1946 classic features the story audiences are familiar with — when Belle’s father is imprisoned by the Beast (in this case for picking a rose from his garden — damn, he’s strict!) she offers to take his place. The Beast comes to ask her to marry him, which she refuses — though gradually she discovers the creature’s true heart and begins to fall in love with him. Comments DVD Journal of this version, “Jean Cocteau’s 1946 Beauty And The Beast offers no singing teacups. Instead, this charming romantic fantasy gives us so much entrancing visual poetry that there’s no wondering why Disney’s creative team, forty-five years later, drew more from Cocteau’s film than from the original fairy tale.” Josette Day plays Belle and Jean Marais he of the fur.
Beauty And the Beast (1962)
The first American adaptation of the fairy tale features Joyce Taylor as Lady Althea (this take’s version of Belle) and Mark Damon as Duke Eduardo, the Beast. The difference here is that Althea has come to Eduardo’s castle to marry him, and it is only then that she learns the terrible truth: a sorcerer has cursed him so that each evening he turns into a werewolf. Directed by Edward L. Cahn, it featured make-up by Jack Pierce, responsible for such Universal horror creatures as Boris Karloff's Frankenstein’s Monster and Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Wolfman.
Hallmark Hall Of Fame (1976)
This version of Beauty And The Beast is one of the toughest to track down as it aired as an episode of the Hallmark Hall Of Fame, was rerun once and hasn’t been heard from since (though it can be viewed on YouTube). The story is the traditional take, with Trish Van Devere as Belle and her husband, George C. Scott, as Beast, a role which garnered him an Emmy nomination. The Beast makeup had a boar-like design, and was created by Planet Of The Apes’ John Chambers and Dan Striepke, among others. Directed by Fielder Cook. The blog laurasmiscmusings notes, “This is a truly enchanting production which doesn’t rely on special effects to tell its story; rather, it’s basically a simple two-character play shot on location in England...The film is carried almost entirely on the strength of the two lead performances and the actors’ chemistry with one another.”
Beauty And The Beast (1987)
For the record, 1987 was not only the year that Cannon Films brought Superman down to Earth with Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, but the year they decided to work their...uh...magic on Beauty And The Beast as well. Shot completely in Israel, this musical version stars Rebecca De Mornay as Beauty (no, seriously, that’s her name in the film) and John Savage as the Beast and his princely human alter ego. The plot involves Beauty being part of a rich, spoiled family (she being the exception, of course) who sees their fortune stripped away from them. While her siblings are on and on about the things they no longer have, all Beauty wants is a rose. Her father tries to appease her, but chooses to pick the flower from the wrong garden. You know the rest.
Beauty And The Beast (TV Series, 1987-90)
One of the more imaginative takes on the fairy tale, this Ron Koslow-created television series was set in modern day Manhattan, with Linda Hamilton portraying assistant district attorney Catherine Chandler and Ron Perlman as Vincent, the Beast. He saves her life when she’s attacked and left for dead in Central Park, nursing her back to health within a tunnel community existing beneath the streets of New York. Although the show began with an emphasis on a crime of the week from which Vincent — best described as a lion-man — rescued her, as the series went on it began to more fully explore the underground community, embracing more fanciful elements. Worth checking out for its unique take, and to witness the early writing of such television luminaries as Howard Gordon (24), Alex Gansa (Homeland) and George R.R. Martin (Game Of Thrones).
Disney’s Beauty And The Beast (1991)
It’s considered an animated classic for a reason! Disney had already started its return to animation greatness with 1989’s The Little Mermaid, but cemented that belief with this wondrous take on Beauty And The Beast. Not only is the animation itself gorgeous, but the score by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken was positively Broadway-like. Add to that the voice talents of Paige O’Hara as Belle, Robby Benson as Beast (a casting revelation that was considered shocking back in the day), Richard White as Gaston, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts. This one would span the ages, and various mediums as things turned out.
Beauty And The Beast On Broadway (1994-2007)
The notion that the 1991 animated film was Broadway-esque was proven three years later when Disney brought Beauty And The Beast to the New York stage, accompanied by the film’s eight songs (including one that had been cut from the theatrical release) with Menken co-writing six new ones with Tim Rice (Ashman having passed away in the interim). All of the magic was carried over to the stage, and while the critics were mixed in their response, the audience loved it, resulting in a run of 5,461 performances and a tour that has spanned thirteen countries and over a hundred cities. Susan Egan played Belle, with Terrence Mann as Beast. Linda Wolverton, who wrote the 1991 film, took on the musical’s book, deepening the characterizations.
Based on the Young Adult novel of the same name by Alex Finn, this one is a very modern retelling of the story with Alex Pettyfer as Kyle Kingson, an arrogant college putz who finally bullies the wrong person — this one a witch played by Mary-Kate Olsen. In response, she strips him of his good looks, turning him hairless and tattoo covered. He has one year to find someone to see beyond his looks, or this is the way he’ll remain. Enter Vanessa Hudgens’ Lindy Taylor. You can kind of figure out where things go from there, although the plot also deals with the fact that Kyle rescues Lindy’s father from drug dealers, one of whom has vowed to kill Lindy. What Beast is going to stand for that? Written and directed by Daniel Banz, the film co-stars Peter Krause, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Neil Patrick Harris.
Beauty And The Beast (TV Series, 2012-16)
They claimed it was a remake of the Hamilton/Perlman ‘80s TV series, but there isn’t much to support that beyond the fact that the lead characters are named Catherine Chandler and Vincent. In this case, the former is a detective, who, nine years earlier, saw her mother murdered in front of her and was nearly killed herself until she was rescued by a mysterious stranger. That would be the latter, Vincent Keller, a reportedly dead soldier who, it turns out, was experimented on and transformed into a beast-like warrior (but, you know, without actually looking too beastly). Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang from Smallville) and Jay Ryan (Terra Nova) were cast as Catherine and Vincent. The critics were not fans (twenty-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but the people who followed the show genuinely believed in it.
Disney's Beauty And The Beast (2017)
Disney makes its final move with Beauty And The Beast, the 1991 animated film having traveled to Broadway three years later and, now, making the transition to live action. Hopefully this one will live up to the advance excitement (the trailers give every indication that it will — provided you don’t mind seeing what looks like a literal translation from animation to live action). The cast includes Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Josh Gad (Le Fou), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellan (Cogsworth) and Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts). Directed by Bill Condon.