|Beauty and the Beast|
|Directed by||Jean Cocteau|
|Produced by||André Paulvé|
|Written by||Jean Cocteau
Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
|Music by||Georges Auric|
|Editing by||Claude Iberia|
|Distributed by||Lopert Pictures|
29 October 1946
23 September 1947
|Running time||93 min.|
Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a 1946 French romantic fantasy film adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont's fairy tale. Directed by French poet/filmmaker Jean Cocteau, the film stars Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as both Avenant and The Beast. Widely considered one of the finest fantasy films of all time, it inspired Disney's popular 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast (which incorporates the Avenant subplot into the film's villain, Gaston).
The plot of Cocteau's film revolves around Belle's father who is sentenced to death for picking a rose from Beast's garden. Belle offers to go back to the Beast in her father's place. Beast falls in love with her and proposes marriage on a nightly basis which she refuses. Belle eventually becomes more drawn to Beast, who tests her by letting her return home to her family telling her that if she doesn't return to him within a week, he will die of grief.
While scrubbing the floor at home, Belle (Josette Day) is interrupted by her brother's friend Avenant (Jean Marais) who tells her she deserves better and suggests they get married. Belle rejects Avenant, as she wishes to stay home and take care of her father. Belle's father (Marcel André) arrives home announcing he has come into great fortune that he will pick up the next day, along with gifts for his daughters. Belle's brother Ludovic (Michel Auclair) signs a contract from a moneylender (Raoul Marco) allowing him to the ability to sue Ludovic's father if he can't pay up. Later, Belle's father finds on his arrival that his fortune has been seized to clear his debts and is forced to return home through the forest at night.
Belle's father gets lost in the forest and finds himself at a large castle whose gates and doors magically open themselves. On entering the castle, he is guided by enchanted candelabra that lead him to a laden dinner table where he falls asleep. Awakened by a loud roar, Belle's father wanders the castle's grounds. He plucks a rose from a tree which makes Beast (Jean Marais) appear. Beast threatens to kill him for theft but then suggests that a daughter of his can take Belle's father's place. Beast offers his horse Magnificent to guide him through the woods home. Belle's father explains the situation to his family and Avenant, as Belle agrees to go and take her father's place. Belle rides Magnificent to the castle, finding Beast. Belle faints at the sight of Beast and is carried to her room in the castle. Belle wakes up and finds a magic mirror which allows her to see anything. Beast invites Belle to dinner, where he tells Belle that she's in equal command to him and that she will be asked everyday to marry him. Day pass as Belle grows more accustomed and fond of Beast, but continues to refuse marriage. Using the magic mirror, Belle finds her father deathly ill, as Beast grants her to leave for a week. Beast gives Belle two magical items: A glove that can transport her wherever she wishes and a golden key that unlocks Diana's Pavilion, the source of Beast's true riches.
Belle uses the glove arriving in her bedridden father's room where Belle's visit restores him to health. Belle finds her family living in poverty, having never recovered from Ludovic's deal with the moneylender. Jealous of Belle's rich life at the castle, her sisters Adelaide and Felicie steal her golden key and devise a plan to turn Ludovic and Avenant against Beast. Avenant and Ludovic devise a plan of their own to kill the Beast, and agree to aid Belle's sisters. To stall Belle, her sisters trick her into staying past her seven day limit by pretending to cry. Belle reluctantly agrees to stay. Beast sends Magnificent with the magic mirror to retrieve Belle but Ludovic and Avenant find Magnificent first, and ride him to the castle. Belle later finds the mirror which reveals Beast's sorrowful face in its reflection. Belle realizes she is missing the golden key as the mirror breaks. Distraught, Belle returns to the castle using the magic glove and finds the Beast in the courtyard near death of a broken heart. Meanwhile, Avenant and Ludovic stumble upon Diana's Pavilion. Thinking that their stolen key may trigger a trap, they scale the wall of the Pavilion. As Beast dies in Belle's arms, Avenant breaks into the Pavilion through its glass roof and is shot with an arrow by an animated statue of the Greek goddess Diana and turned into a Beast. As this happens, arising from where Beast lay dead is Prince Ardent (Jean Marais) who is cured from being the Beast. Prince Ardent and Belle embrace, then fly away to his kingdom where she will be his Queen, and where her father will stay with them and Belle's sisters will carry the train of her gown.
This film version of La Belle et la Bete adds a subplot involving Belle's suitor Avenant, who schemes along with Belle's brother and sisters to journey to Beast's castle to kill him and capture his riches while the sisters work to delay Belle's return to the castle. When Avenant enters the magic pavilion which is the source of Beast's power, he is struck by an arrow fired by a guardian statue of the Roman goddess Diana, which transforms Avenant into Beast as Belle declares her love for the Beast and reverses the original Beast's curse. When the Beast comes back to life and becomes human at the end, he transforms into a Prince Charming with Avenant's handsome features, but without his oafish personality.
The score was by Georges Auric, and the cinematography by Henri Alekan. Christian Bérard and Lucien Carré covered production design. The exteriors were shot in Rochecorbon (Indre-et-Loire). The farmhouse used remains unchanged, except for the factory next door.
The film is notable for its surreal quality and its ability to use existing movie technology to effectively evoke a feeling of magic and enchantment. The set designs and cinematography were intended to evoke the illustrations and engravings of Gustave Doré and, in the farmhouse scenes, the paintings of Jan Vermeer.