November 27, 2021

Beyond the Castle: Beauty & The Beast On Film, By Amanda Bergloff


"Oh, Beast, how you frightened me!" she cried.
"I never knew how much I loved you until
just now, when I feared I was too late
to save your life."
"Can you really love such an ugly creature
as I am?" asked the Beast faintly.

Out of all the fairy tales I've read, "Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite because at its core, the theme that outward appearances can be deceiving...and that one's heart can grow and change when love and understanding come into play is a timeless one. Beauty and her beast can be set in any time period and can work beyond any castle walls.

Many anthropologists believe that the story of B&B has roots going back over 4,000 years, since elements of the tale appear in many cultures- among them, the Greek myth, Cupid and Psyche, where Psyche is transported to a magical palace and not allowed to see Cupid's true form, all the while attended to by invisible servants.

The original print version in western culture of B&B is credited to French author, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and was included in the story collection called, The Young American or Tales from the Sea, in 1740. (You can read Villeneuve's original story HERE.) However, in 1756, Villeneuve's rather lengthy tale was abridged, rewritten, and published by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in Magasin des Enfants, thus creating the version of B&B that is most commonly known and retold.

From a personal standpoint, every good Beauty and the Beast interpretation makes me cry in the end. Every. Single. Time.

So below, I've picked out eight adaptations of this classic tale in film, animation, and TV. If you're looking for more, you can find a list of B&B films HERE.

And share your favorite versions of this timeless tale in the comments section. We'd love to hear from you!
La Belle et la Bête 
Written by: Jean Cocteau
Directed by: Jean Cocteau
Starring: Jean Marais, Josette Day
This 1946 film from France is a real fan favorite whenever I take a poll of Beauty & the Beast movies on #FairyTaleTuesday. Stunning in black and white, this artistic re-telling of B&B blends Cocteau's interesting direction with surrealist imagery, magical special effects, and beautiful performances by the lead actors. This is the gold standard for fairy tale films of all kinds.
Click below to watch the full film:
La Belle et la Bête 
Written by: Sandra Vo-Anh, Christophe Gans
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassel
Another French adaptation, this 2014 film is visually stunning with its sumptuous costumes, settings, and scenery, that also blends the B&B tale with surrealistic touches. Lea Seydoux (Belle) and Vincent Cassel (Beast) give multi-layered performances that take the audience on the journey from fear and selfishness to courage, love, and redemption. A beautiful film well worth seeing for any B&B fan.
Click below to watch the "dark waltz" scene:
Written by: Sergey Aksakov
Directed by: Lev Atamanov
Starring: Nina Krachkovskaya, Mikhail Astangov
This Russian version of B&B, from 1957, is an example of the Socialist Realism period in Russian animation which focused on adapting traditional Russian folk tales. The film also used the animation technique known as rotoscoping, where live actors and animals were filmed first and then traced by the animators, resulting in exceptional animation. A wonderful movie everyone will love, which shows the traditional fairy tale from a Russian point of view.
Click below to watch the full film:
Written by: Linda Woolverton, Brenda Chapman, Chris Sanders
Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robbie Benson, Angela Lansbury
Probably the most famous animated take on Beauty and the Beast, this musical Disney version was the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1991. In this film, the message of "don't judge a book by its cover" is both figurative and literal, as Belle's love of reading and books is a strong plot point. I mean, who wouldn't want an entire castle library gifted to them by a good-hearted Beast? Enjoyable, fun, and ultimately moving, this B&B take is magical, indeed.
Click below to watch the "library surprise" scene:
And of course, we have to mention the live action re-make of this animated film, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens,
so click below to watch the official trailer:
(1987 - 1990)
Created by: Ron Koslow
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Ron Perlman, Roy Dotrice
Did you know there was a television series in the late eighties that set B&B in modern day New York? This American fantasy/drama series had the Beast ("Vincent" Ron Perlman) living in a secret subterranean community of social outcasts while Beauty ("Catherine" Linda Hamilton) was an Assistant District Attorney whose life was saved by Vincent. Sound strange? Well, maybe, but this series gained TV cult status for mixing a modern day romantic love story with a procedural crime drama twist, along with the fairy tale-like chemistry between Perlman and Hamilton.
"...for we have a bond, stronger than friendship or love, and although we cannot be together, we will never, ever be apart..." says it all.
Click below to watch the opening credits to the show:
Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre
Written by: Robert C. Jones
Directed by: Roger Vadim
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Klaus Kinski, Anjelica Huston
In 1982, Shelley Duvall created Faerie Tale Theatre which was an American live-action fairy tale anthology series that featured prominent actors and directors of the time. Originally airing on Showtime, this series introduced a generation of kids to fairy tales that they could watch again and again on tape when it was released on VHS. The "Beauty and the Beast" episode was a straightforward re-telling of the fairy tale that starred Susan Sarandon as Beauty, Klaus Kinski as the Beast and was directed by renowned French film director, Roger Vadim. This version was the only Faerie Tale Theatre episode to be shot on video for the interior shots and on 35mm film for the exterior and location scenes. Actor Klaus Kinski agreed to play the Beast in this version because he was a fan of the 1946 Cocteau B&B film. Kinski's costume and makeup in this episode were inspired by that film, also.
Click below to watch the full episode:
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio (based on the book by William Steig)
Directed by: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
Starring: Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy
Yes, Shrek....While this film features many fairy tale character mash-ups, at its heart, it's a Beauty and the Beast story. Like its "layers of onions" analogy, this movie makes you reconsider what beauty really is...the beast discovers his heart...the beauty changes to a beast...and they both save each other. Cue the laughter and tears.
Click below for the scene where Shrek & Fiona start to appreciate one another:
Written by: Deborah Moggach (based on the book by Jane Austin)
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland
Again, another story with a B&B sentiment at its core. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett do the delicate dance of misunderstanding and indignation, all on the path to transformation. Mr. Darcy is considered "beastly" by Elizabeth, but he realizes earlier than she does, that beyond all reason, she has inspired him to find his heart, and he needs her love. Best of all though, they both ultimately transform each other in this adaptation of Jane Austen's novel. I am such a fan of this film, and it passes my B&B test of making me cry at the end. Every. Single. Time.
Click below to watch their mutual transformation scene:
to inspire your own
Beauty & the Beast tale...
And Beauties everywhere 
and their Beasts 
lived happily ever after...
Enchanted Conversation's contributing editor, Amanda Bergloff, writes modern fairy tales, folktales, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales.
Follow her on Twitter @AmandaBergloff
Check out her Amazon Author page HERE
Join her every Tuesday on Twitter for #FairyTaleTuesday to share what you love about fairy tales, folktales, and myths.
Also, if you like sharing your #vss fairy tales on Twitter, follow @fairytaleflash and use #fairytaleflash so we can retweet!

Cover & Layout: Amanda Bergloff


Samantha Bryant said...

Oh dear, this might cost me a few hours, sitting and watching all these wonderful adaptations :-)

Moth Rah said...

Oh, why have I not seen the 2014 film yet? I must seek it out at once.

Alysa Salzberg said...

"Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite fairy tale, too. I've even taken a crack at writing a historical fantasy adaptation of it. I've seen just about all of these films and shows and I like just about all of them. But I've never thought of "Shrek" as a variant on the tale and reading that here, I had a "Whoa!" moment. How has this idea not occurred to me before??? Especially because "Shrek" is one of my favorite animated movies! Thanks for a delightful read that's reminded me of many shows and movies I love. And now, I just might re-watch one of them!

Angelika said...

@Alysa, I know, right? I had the exact same reaction re. "Shrek". I've written *papers* on B&B, and "Shrek" is one of my favourite movies, and with all that that never occurred to me!
Re. Pride and Prejudice as a version of B&B, I did think of that (and put it in my paper). There is even a mashup movie trailer for it, mixing the video of the 2005 P&P with the audio of the Disney B&B. It's astonishing (and hilarious) how well it works:

Sharmon Gazaway said...

Amanda, as always your articles are incredible--this one in particular. B&B may be my favorite fairytale (idk--Little Mermaid?) but the story resonates every. single. time. And yes, always tears at the end! I thought I was the only one who saw the 2014 lol, and it immediately became my favorite version--it was either dubbed or subtitled in English, but either way, the setting and costumes and acting need no interpretation. I'll have to look up a couple of the others I've missed. Thanks for this!