When Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Went To War

Few people have the remotest idea how tortured was the path that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” took to arrive at the silver screen.  It was to be Walt Disney’s first feature length film.  At the time, Disney, still an upstart in the movie business and angling for the respect of his fellow studio bosses, planned his debut feature as a live action film.  Yes, live action.  So began a nationwide casting search for little people who could create an emotional bond with American movie audiences. No circus, carnival sideshow, zoo, or junior high school escaped the scrutiny of Disney’s casting directors.  Finding his ensemble  was only the beginning of this film project’s troubles.

A friend who teaches a History of Intellectual Property course at a prominent Canadian law school revealed the details of this correspondence only if I promised not to identify him.

Walt Disney in a 1937 color movie trailer for ...

From the Desk of Alan Haimisch, Diminutive Artists Agency (DAA)

To:  Walt Disney

Re:  7 Dwarves.

Cc:  Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy

September 30, 1935

Dear Mr Disney,

I was just as disappointed as you to hear that the Seven Dwarves felt compelled to walk off the set of  “Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.”  I warned you that the archaic spelling of “Dwarfs” in the title would chap Grumpy’s tiny ass.  For godsakes, his M.A. diploma in English Composition hangs on the wall of his trailer.  The little grammarian is willing to go to arbitration to see “Dwarves” find its proper place in the title.

No less happy is Happy.  He insists the alternate title proposed by your VP of Casting, “Snow White and the 7 Sawed-Off Magical Creatures” would upset his girlfriend.

And do I need to mention the boys’ discomfort at having to work on Tuesday, the Dwarf Sabbath?

Sincerely

Alan Haimisch                                                                                                                                                  Diminutive Artists Agency (DAA)

The famous "Heigh-Ho" sequence from ...

October 2, 1935

Cc:  Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy

Dear Alan:

It’s a shame things have come to this.  A movie certain to carve out a special place in Disney lore, our first live action feature film–has been jeopardized by the poor behavior of your clients.  We let ourselves dream that its eventual success would spawn a sequel, “Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 2.”  We even commissioned a script.

Now, it’s all hanging by a thread, my friend.  Unless you ensure your seven clients’ appearance on the set, in costume, by 9 am Monday, they’ll be lucky to find work as ride attendants at Asbestos World.

Respectfully

Walt Disney

Calendar girl 1

October 30, 1935

Dear Mr Disney:

I assure you their brief walkout was a reasonable reaction to dismal working conditions.  In a cost-cutting move, you asked Doc to work as the physician on the set, a flagrant violation of his contract.

Indeed, there have been genuine health issues.  Sneezy, it turns out, is not just allergic but goes into anaphylactic shock in the presence of apples, poisoned or otherwise.

While we’re on the subject of food, you should know that Sleepy has been forced to perform grueling stunts without a snack break.   This practice has become a health risk in light of his recent hypoglycemia diagnosis.

By the way, dangling the prospect of a sequel in front of the Dwarves was a low tactic calculated to sow jealousy among them.  Poor Dopey worries that the numeral ‘2’ in the sequel title would require fourteen little fellows and diminish the profit participation of the original seven.

Sincerely

Alan Haimisch
Diminutive Artists Agency (DAA)

Calendar girl 7

November 6, 1935

Dear Alan:

We’re happy to make the little fellows more comfortable.  In exchange, perhaps, you could restrain Grumpy’s attempts to undermine the film’s reputation.  At every opportunity he bleats to the press that the film has been re-titled, “Snow White, On Her Back Again.”

I Remain,

Walt Disney

PS  Why do you keep harping on the size of the Dwarves?  You’re barely five feet tall yourself.

 

Hayworth in the strip scene from Gilda.

November 12, 1935

Dear Mr Disney:

When Grumpy referred to your movie as “Snow White, on Her Back Again,” his rigid sense of morality had gotten the best of him.  He was objecting to the on-set, sexual double-team foisted on Dopey by the Queen (Bette Davis) and Snow White (Rita Hayworth).

Dopey had already complained that his love scene in the forest with the gorgeous but clearly incapacitated cleaning lady was neither believable nor  legal.  But Miss Hayworth lured the little guy into her glass enclosure with a slice of bratwurst and, after that, he was no match for her superior bulk.

Regards

Alan Haimisch
Diminutive Artists Agency (DAA)

Calendar girl 8

November 20, 1935

Dear Alan,

The Studio might be willing to meet you half way.  We will consider substituting the more grammatical “Dwarves” to the title. We’ll substitute a hypoallergenic peach for the poisoned apple.  We’ll bring in a stuntman so Sleepy’s blood sugar won’t be an issue. And if it makes Dopey more comfortable, his love scene will be with an animatronic Snow White.

If I agree to those conditions, will you drop any legal action and assure the studio that the 7 Dwarves will appear on time, as per contract, at 9 am Monday?

All The Best

Walt Disney

Calendar girl 9

November 23, 1935

Dear Mr Disney,

Thank you for your gracious show of flexibility.

Most of the boys have agreed to show up as promised.

Unfortunately, Monday is the day that Happy will be honored by the American Psychiatric Association for his pioneering work in archetypal research, specifically the “Who’s Your Favorite Dwarf Personality Profile.”

Can you adjust the shooting schedule to accommodate these arrangements?  And send the studio aircraft?

Best

Alan Haimisch                                                                                                                                           Diminutive Artists Agency (DAA)

Calendar girl 10November 26,  1935

Dear Alan,

We won’t be needing your wee clients after all.  In a labor saving move, we’ve decided to hand-draw the characters and, if necessary, distribute flip-books of the fairy tale.

Regards

Walt Disney

Calendar girl 4

November  28, 1935

Dear Walt,

The Dwarves don’t think America is prepared to believe cartoon heroes.

Until you come to your senses, the boys are off to the USSR to entertain the hero of the little guy, Uncle Joe Stalin.

All The Best

Alan Haimisch                                                                                                                                                 Diminutive Artists Agency (DAA)

Editor’s Note:  The Dwarves were never heard from again.  It’s assumed they lost their lives in Stalin’s purges, however KGB files released during Glasnost suggest two of the Dwarves actually served as willing assassins for Stalin.  The files say their lack of height was an ongoing challenge. Though ineffective as hit men, according to insiders they acquired a reputation as skilled knee-cappers.

 

In Hollywood there is no foreplay

Showerhead

My first screenwriting-for-hire assignment was going to be more dues-paying gig than career maker. The production company that brought me in was known for making movies which unfolded like this:  A group of very attractive young women breaks into a big, creepy house.  The sexiest one says, “I think I’ll take a shower.”  She locates a bathroom where a psychopath not played by Anthony Perkins expresses his frustration at strangers hijacking the only adjustable-flow showerhead in the house.   Verbal communication is a struggle for him so he expresses these feelings with a knife.

Within minutes, the audience is ready for a good scrubbing.

In the company’s defense, they were in the process of scaling up their subject matter, and the script they hired me to write had nothing to do with hacking sudsy co-eds to death.  This was to be a political thriller so the victim of the violent shower was more likely to be a diplomat.

In addition to actual writing, I had to show up occasionally at the production company’s office to confer with the Vice President of Development.  On my way to one of these meetings I bypassed the receptionist and pimp-rolled toward the VP’s young, voluptuous Assistant.  She was in the middle of a phone conversation and confided to her phone mate not very quietly, “I need to get laid.”

To a romantic like me, those were the five most caring words a woman could utter.

Did she actually mean the comment for my ears?   I needed clarification.  “I think you’re mistaking me for a director.  I’m just the writer.”  She scrawled a phone number on a post-it note and stuck it on my sleeve the way my kindergarten teacher clipped my mittens.

The only memory I retain from my meeting with the Director of Development is the image of the Assistant caddying refreshments into the office and tilting her cleavage in my direction whenever her boss made a story point.

After the meeting ended, rather than wait for my phone call, the Assistant asked me to drive her home.   How could I not come to the aid of someone who made me feel pretty damn special, especially this creature in an impossibly tight t-shirt?  So we crawled amiably through West Hollywood traffic, the most mundane circumstance possible for anyone to volunteer intimate stuff.  I didn’t have to dig to hear about her sexual fantasy.  She confessed it.  Her dream was to make love backed up against a brick wall in an alley.  I told her my fantasy was hearing her say that.   But I really wished she hadn’t left out that inconvenient detail before we left the office.

Brassiere

When we stopped at a red light, I wondered, “Do you ever get turned-on by old-fashioned stuff?  Kissing?  Touching?  Money?  Touching money?”

She wriggled coyly behind the seat belt. “I mean, what’s the big deal about sex in the alley?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the idea we could get caught?”

“Who’s gonna catch us?  A busboy?  Her left breast inquired, “Aren’t you into it?”

Do you have any fantasies that don’t require me to be on my feet?”

A homeless man carried a long blanket past my windshield and behind a Thai restaurant.  I’m thinking, at least he’s gonna get horizontal tonight.

In case the Assistant considered jumping out of the car, I had to take control.  “Look, if your heart’s set on the alley ambience, I guarantee you my bedroom is almost as dirty as the alley with a much lower risk of tetanus.  I can prop a few bricks under your ass to make you feel like you’re in a tenement.”

“I’ve got a better idea,” she offered. “How ‘bout let’s have a drink?”

I steered toward the first joint that offered a parking spot, a little tavern off Santa Monica Blvd.  I followed the Assistant past a trio of drag queens toward a rear booth upholstered in cracked, red vinyl.  I suppose I could’ve invested a bit more effort into finding out what she was really about, but once a woman lays out her sexual quirks for you, quizzing her about her favorite authors feels like a conversation best saved for another night. After we hammered back a couple of tequila shots, the Assistant sidled against me so I could feel every inch of her, hands-free, from hips to head.  She told me I was really talented and, banished any doubts about her sincerity by draping a leg over my knee.

“C’mon, it’ll be so fun.”  It, according to that year’s Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary meant: (noun), vertical intercourse in an alleyway.

“I’m sure it’s fun but it sounds so damned labor intensive.”

She put soft cool lips against my neck and showed me her little girl pout.  “Please?”

I let the Assistant pull me through the bar’s steel back door.  She kicked aside an empty Heinekin bottle, and leaned against a cinder block wall.  It really was more fun than my imagination let me conjure—hands, clasps, flesh, lips, and legs in miraculous synch–somehow managing to stay upright.

Two Drag Queens I never actually heard the drag queens come through the back door.  But the impact of the steel door against my heels launched me into the Assistant.  To this day, I don’t know if the groan she made was some kind of sublime ache or just the sound Oxygen makes when it’s forced through a woman’s voicebox.  Both of us crashed onto the blacktop.

The Assistant’s right foot was pinioned under the bottom of the steel door.  Her bra formed a boa around her neck like an accessory for a five-cent Isadora Duncan.  And with her jeans and panties locked around her ankles, she couldn’t pull free of the door.   The transvestites cooed their admiration for the Assistant’s anatomy.   I know it was admiration because no one seemed too worried about the blood streaming from the teethmarks in my scalp.

I’m absolutely certain the paramedics who extricated the Assistant’s broken foot from the bottom of the door never took their eyes off her breasts, because they managed to roll the gurney under the ambulance.

When the paramedic van finally drove off, a police cruiser flashed its brights at me.  The officer behind the wheel, two stripes on a short sleeve, waved me over.

I made sure to sound innocent and respectful.  “Is anything wrong, Officer?”

“No.  You okay?”

“I might need a stich or two for my head.”

His partner in the passenger seat motioned toward his dashboard monitor.  “Wanna see something?”
“Huh?  See what?”

That’s when I saw the last five minutes of my life played back in high definition, from the initial grope to me getting knocked sideways.
“Am I in trouble?”  I ran the bleak future possibilities through my head from Indecent Exposure to Sexual Deviance.  Could I bolt between buildings and possibly get away?

“Trouble?  Nah.  We like you.  You’re our hero.”

“If anything, she was the aggressor.”   The partner belly laughed.

The guy with the stripes could barely stop giggling to ask, “Do you want to file charges against her?”   His laughter almost made him retch.    He had to take a drag off an inhaler.

By the time I got to the emergency room, the Assistant was swiveling her casted foot into the front seat of her husband’s car.  Yes, husband.

I never saw her assisting the Development VP again.   She graduated to a memorable cameo role as the girl who showers in the creepy house.  I’m pretty sure she has a limp.