May 20, 2021 5:29:56 pm
In most instances, just the name ‘Cruella de Vil’ would be enough to invoke fear and anxiety in anyone who loves dogs, or specifically those who had Dalmatians as pets. Cruella de Vil, a villainous character that became a household name courtesy Disney’s many renditions of the 101 Dalmatians story, is now making a comeback in Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the titular protagonist and Emma Thompson, who plays Baroness von Hellman, whose dogs are stolen this time.
The Dawn of the de Vil
Cruella de Vil is a creation of writer Dodie Smith, who introduced the character in the children’s novel she wrote in 1956. The novel was initially serialised as ‘The Great Dog Robbery’ in Woman’s Day, a women’s magazine published in the US. The story dealt with Pongo and Missis, a pair of Dalmatians and their human owners, Mr and Mrs Dearly. Cruella de Vil makes her debut as a friend of Mrs Dearly, and is someone who is very fond of fur clothing. De Vil frequently makes requests to buy the Dalmatian puppies from the Dearlyies, but her requests are denied. She hires thieves to steal the puppies and skin them. The rest of the story involves a heist-esque plan by Pongo and Missis as they rescue their puppies and in the process find many other stolen puppies as well. The novel ‘The Starlight Barking’ which came out in 1967, is the sequel to 101 Dalmatians and carry forward the story, but this story only focuses on the canine world. Cruella de Vil, makes a brief appearance, but nothing to write home about.
The Disneyfication of the de Vil
Ever since her debut in Dodie Smith’s novel, there have been many films and shows that have showcased the character Cruella de Vil. She appeared in 101 Dalmatians, the 1961 animated film by Walt Disney, where her character was voiced by Betty Lou Gerson. American actor Glenn Close portrayed de Vil in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians(1996) and 102 Dalmatians(2000). Till date Close remains the most remembered actor to have played de Vil. Musical theatre actor Susanne Blakesless voiced de Vil in 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure. Emma Stone, plays Estella ‘Cruella’ de Vil in the upcoming feature. In the popular TV show Once Upon a Time, Cruella de Vil appears as a witch who can control animals. There have been many stage and audio productions where de Vil is the villain.
De Vil and her details
In pop culture the name Cruella de Vil is synonymous with greed, vanity and someone who is sheer evil. The name itself is a direct nod to the ‘devil and cruelty’, the fact that she has a country house named ‘Hell Hall’ helps with that imagery. One can also draw literary references from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where the name ‘Count De Ville’ pops up, a name that’s an alias for Count Dracula himself. The character of Cruella de Vil is often showcased replete with a chiseled jawline; a gaunt, sharp face; spiked heels and an accompanying cigarette. Her hair is coloured half-black-and-half-white, and the overall appearance is rather ominous and frightening. Nothing about the character is subtle, everything is over the top, and out in the open, including her desires. She is highly vain, very glamorous, and her costumes often border on being theatrical. She is obsessed with animal fur, and is often in pursuit of procuring fur clothing. In the 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians version, she is shown to head ‘House of Devil’ a haute couture fashion house that specialises in fur clothing. It’s in the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians that de Vil explains about why she needs only puppies : because dogs who don’t have furry coats, like Dalmatians, their fur is soft only when they are puppies. Whereas as they age, their coat becomes coarse and doesn’t befit a fur clothing line.
In Cruella, de Vil is a young, up and coming fashion designer. One sees traces of her childhood, where she is born as Estella, but grows up and earns the name of Cruella. The over-the-top theme for the character continues in this film as well, as a fellow character remarks to Cruella, “You have a bit of an extreme side”.
The film is set in the London of the 70s, and one sees ample vintage clothing and Venetian masks befitting that time. Cruella is said to be ‘origin story’ for Cruella de Vil in the Disney Universe. Continuing the ‘OTT’ theme, we see a lot of fashion in the film as well, for Cruella goes up against Baroness von Hellman – played by Emma Thompson — who helms a prestigious fashion house in London.
Cruella is her former employee and eventual nemesis. Cruella, the film is a stark departure from other offerings on de Vil. For starters, the film is told through her point of view, instead of the dogs, which has been the case. Additionally, the film will highlight the transformation of ‘Estella’ to ‘Cruella’ and how Baroness von Hellman played a vital part in the said villainous transformation.
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