Monday, April 26, 2010

Reading Gallico's "Enchanted Doll" story, Part 1

I'm finally going to do it! I'm ready to read "Enchanted Doll" and consider whatever Gallico has for me in this story.

The selection is preceded by the author's comments, which are very interesting to ED fans. First let's look at what Gallico says what was the inspiration for this story, the little kernal of experience that he could not forget and so needed to write about:

Somewhere in New York, in some shop I saw a painted doll and fell in love with her. I can't remember where or when, or why I was in the shop and in the doll department, but this was a little creature created by a specialist who had hand-painted the face. The expression, as I recall now, was extraordinarily sweet and lifelike, and the little figure touched my heart. If one wanted to really hark back to what the head-shrinkers [psychoanalysts] were saying and doing in those days, one could suggest that this funny little momentary love affair grew out of the fact that I had always wished to have a daughter and instead produced sons.
In other words, Gallico began just as we all do--by falling in love with a doll-person! Then Gallico goes on to discuss the vicissitudes of publishing short stories, even by well-known authors, and then mentions this fascinating little item of primordial ED trivia:

Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was making a series of two-reel half-hour television shorts in England for an American sponsor, and asked my London agent to see my wares. With a wide collection of stories to choose from, he selected and bought "The Enchanted Doll" and filmed it.

Ah ha! Oh ho! Another yummy morsel to track down! And in connection with a famous movie star, woo woo! The Internet Movie Database shows it under the "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents" heading here. (It was also known as the "Rheingold Theatre." YouTube has the opening to a few episodes, but not this one.)

It would be exceptionally nice if the American Film Institute listed "The Enchanted Doll" in its catalog; however, it doesn't seem to, that I can poke up. Nor does it appear in the Internet Archive.  But because of IMDB we can find out a few things: the original episode aired July 20,1955, and the role of the invalid dollmaker was Josephine Griffin. (Her character's name was changed from Essie Nolan to Mary Nolan for the film.)

Now we have to wonder, did Gallico like and approve of this film? He does not leave us in the dark. He says, that while all the other films made from his stories were "catastrophes," he liked Fairbanks' adaptation of "Enchanted Doll" very much.

It was the first time that I had ever had the spirit of the story, its emotional content as well as the physical appearances of my characters, faithfully translated to the screen. I can't remember now the name of the actress he employed for the part of the unhappy girl, but I do know that she was tender, wistful, and endearing and brought my character most beautifully to life. The part of the young doctor was most excellently played by Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., himself.

So that's all I have to note from the preamble to the story, except to note, as Robert Frost did, "how way leads to way," that the British children's author Enid Blyton wrote a book called "The Enchanted Doll." It's not so easy to find her works in the United States, but maybe they're still getatable in Britain. No real connection to EDs, of course, but still might be interesting as part of the history of the name itself.

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