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The opening credits, which begin after the sequence in which the will of "Fella's" father is read, appear over scenes of Fella preparing breakfast for his stepmother, "Emily Kingston." Jerry Lewis' first onscreen credit reads: "Jerry Lewis as CinderFella." During the kitchen sequence, there is a gag in which Fella calls out for the morning newspaper and it is tossed to him through the open window. The picture ends with the written statement "And they lived happily ever after." In the film, the character "Princess Charmein" is also referred to verbally and in writing as "Princess Charming."
According to a July 20, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Walt Disney filed a protest with the MPAA Title Bureau over the use of the title CinderFella, claiming that it was too close to his hit 1950 animated film Cinderella (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). On November 11, 1959, Hollywood Reporter announced that Disney had withdrawn his protest, after deciding that Paramount's use of the title "would not be too damaging" to his eventual re-release of Cinderella.
According to information in the Paramount Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, in 1953 Cy Howard wrote a script for Lewis and his then-partner, Dean Martin, entitled Martin and Lewis in Paris. The scenario depicted Lewis as the poor, beleaguered stepbrother of Martin and featured several of the gags that appeared in CinderFella, such as the very long, formal dining room table. The idea was apparently discarded after Martin and Lewis broke up, although after CinderFella was produced, Howard claimed that elements of the released picture had been taken from his original story. In June 1961, he filed suit against Lewis, writer-director Frank Tashlin, Paramount and Lewis' production company, stating that his story, the rights to which had reverted to him in 1960, had been "unlawfully used" in CinderFella. In January 1962, Daily Variety reported that the suit had been settled for an undisclosed sum. The Paramount files also reveal that Joe Besser and Harry Crane were engaged to work on the CinderFella script, but according to a November 10, 1959 internal memo, neither of them "wrote a line of dialogue" nor contributed to the finished film in any way.
As noted by 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items, Erin O'Brien was originally cast as "Princess Charmein," but when production on the film was delayed, she was forced to leave the role due to other commitments. According to one modern source, Lewis had also been interested in casting Grace Kelly, who had retired from the screen in 1956 after her marriage to Prince Ranier of Monaco, as Princess Charmein. A August 21, 1959 entry in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column announced that Lewis was seeking Michael Dante to play one of the wicked stepbrothers.
Information in the Paramount Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, reveals that Alan Reed was cast as "Roland Kingston," Fella's father, and Barry Gordon was to play Fella at the age of eleven. A sequence of Roland and the younger Fella at play being interrupted by the butler (played by Milton Frome) as he announces the arrival of Emily and her two sons, "Rupert" and "Maximilian," was shot but then cut before the film's release. Also filmed but edited out was a beginning sequence in which the adult Fella, Rupert and Maximilian wrestle in a home gym.
The metamorphosis sequence, in which the "Fairy Godfather" transforms Fella for his appearance at the ball, was shot as a large production number featuring the song "I'm Going to the Ball," according to studio records. Actresses Francesca Bellini, Joi Lansing, Barbara Luna, Frances McHale and Darlene Tompkins appeared in the number, but it also was cut before the picture's final release. Dody Heath May have been signed for the scene also, but was "released" before production began, according to a September 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, which noted that Whitney Blake was tested for the same "dream sequence." The Paramount files add that Sterling Holloway and Gil Lamb were considered for the role of the chauffeur. In the released picture, Fella's transformation is neither shown nor explained until he is rushing home, and his golden limousine changes back into his bicycle, and the chauffeur changes back into a goldfish. [Several reviews noted that the picture appeared to have been edited severely, with Hollywood Reporter calling it "spotty, as if some transitional scenes had been dropped in the final version," and the Filmfacts review reporting that Paramount listed the preview running time as 99 minutes. The Copyright Catalog also lists a running time of 99 minutes for the picture.]
According to the CBCS, Nick Castle, who staged the picture's musical numbers, was to appear in the cast as a choreographer, but his scenes were also cut from the released film. Studio records indicate that Sherry Britton was signed to play a "pixie pal" of the Fairy Godfather, but she does not appear in the completed picture. A modern source includes Kathie Browne in the cast. According to modern sources, the instrumental song "The Princess Waltz," written by Walter Scharf, had lyrics added by Harry Warren for exploitation purposes. Contemporary sources frequently credit the song to Harry Warren and Jack Brooks, however.
According to studio records, the mansion used for the film was the Arnold Kirkeby Estate in Bel Air, CA, which was later used as the exterior set for the television series The Beverly Hillbillies. The polo and golf sequences of CinderFella were shot on location at the Will Rogers State Historic Park near Santa Monica, CA. Some "lawn and gully" sequences were shot at Holmby Park, while the late night sequence in which Fella races home after the ball was shot on the streets of Beverly Hills. The ball sequences themselves were filmed on a Paramount soundstage, and according to a December 7, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Lewis collapsed on the set from "overexertion" after several rehearsals of the scene in which he had to run up the extremely long and steep flight of stairs.
As noted by several modern sources, including an interview with Lewis on the film's 2004 DVD release, Paramount decided to distribute CinderFella in the summer of 1960, even though Lewis had made it with the specific intention of it being a Christmas release. When Lewis protested, the studio agreed to keep the original release date if he provided another film for them to distribute during the summer. Lewis then made The Bellboy, his feature film directorial debut, while he was performing at the Hotel Fountainebleu in Miami Beach, FL. The Bellboy was finished in record time and CinderFella was released in December 1960, as Lewis wanted. CinderFella marked the first film by Lewis' recently organized, independent production company, the Jerry Lewis Pictures Corp. As with Lewis' earlier company, York Pictures Corp., he shared production costs with Paramount, which continued to distribute his films.
The film's gala premiere at Chicago's Woods Theatre on November 22, 1960 was a benefit for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, an organization for which Lewis continued to be a spokesperson for more than forty-five years. When the film opened to the public the following morning, Lewis worked as the theater cashier and sold tickets to the first 1,000 patrons. Although the picture received lukewarm reviews, it performed well at the box office. As noted by a November 22, 1960 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column, the poster artwork for the film was drawn by Norman Rockwell, who had not created artwork for a film since the 1945 Twentieth Century-Fox production Song of Bernadette (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). In a modern interview, Lewis claimed that he paid Rockwell $50,000 for the painting, which is still displayed in his home.
An November 18, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Lewis had signed Tashlin to collaborate with him on a series of "adult fairy tales" similar to CinderFella. They intended to produce comic versions of Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels and "Rumpelstilskin," according to the news item, but none of the films were produced. According to a October 28, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, Lewis signed noted singer Anna Maria Alberghetti to a two-picture contract. The pair did not make any other films together, however, and although Alberghetti made frequent television and stage appearances after her work in CinderFella, she did not appear in another feature film until the 2001 production Friends and Family.