17 August 2009
Yes, Virginia—we'll miss you, Alice
I'm back today from more than a month's travels—some of which involved exciting research and animation-related discoveries. I'll be busy for a few days now wrapping up one project or another, but that doesn't mean I don't have a lot to share, and soon.
Sad to say, I got home just in time to receive some bad news: the passing of Virginia Davis, first to perform the role of Alice in Disney's classic silent Alice Comedies. Decades after her fanciful adventures with Julius the Cat, I was lucky enough to meet Virginia at a late 1990s film festival, where we initiated a VHS swap of Alice shorts from our personal collections. Each of us had access to a couple of transfers that the other lacked. Trading Alice Comedies with Alice—talk about an honor I never thought I'd have!
Virginia was a gentlewoman to the end and a wonderful source of anecdotes and inspiration. To say she'll be missed is an understatement. To look even at a poorly reproduced 1924 publicity photo (above right) is to see an indomitable creative spark that still stood out, decades later, in Miss Davis' modern-day outlook on life. The Winkler Pictures ads at left and below—based on, but not identical to, the posters for Alice Hunting in Africa and Alice's Spooky Adventure (both 1924)—emphasize that indomitable spirit, too.
Following beneath is the 1926 Pathé copyright sheet for Virginia's 1923 debut, Alice's Wonderland (here retitled "Alice in Slumberland"), in which Alice's entry into Cartoonland does look a little like her reception into some benevolent hereafter. Chase, a poster at the Termite Terrace Trading Post, said it better than I could: "RIP, Virginia. Hope you have many adventures with that cat up there..."