Thursday, June 28, 2012

They Made the Magic: Adriana Caselotti

Adriana Caselotti was born May 16, 1916 to an opera family in Connecticut.  The family moved to Italy so her mother could tour with a company, so her early education was completed in Italy.  Upon returning to the states, Caselotti didn't speak English, so she began learning the language and began singing lessons.  She had a few small roles before being chosen over Denna Durbin as the voice of Snow White.  149 girls auditioned for the part and she was surprised that, being older (18), she was given the  role.  Her high pitched voice was very popular in keeping with the operatic qualitiy valued at the time.
The story goes that the studios called Adriana's father, a voice teacher in Los Angeles, to ask if he had any girls that might be right for the part.  Caselotti had answered the phone and interrupted the conversation suggesting herself and singing a few bars, and the studios man said to come on in.  Upon arriving at the audition Caselotti found out Snow White was about 14 years old, so she 'adjusted' her age and claimed to be just 16.  Frank Churchill was convinced after hearing Caselotti sing Someday My Prince Will Come by sight reading the music.  Walt Disney agreed but was worried that things didn't just happen that easily and wanted to hear other girls (he didn't see the girls in order to avoid influencing his decision).  After this audition, it took a whole year before Caselotti was casted.
In order to gain some experience, she voiced a small part in the Tortoise and the Hare.  She was paid $960 dollars for the role.
Caselotti recaled years later that Harry Stockwell (voice of the Prince) had called her and suggested they go to the premire.  They didn't have tickets but they figured it wouldn't be an issue.  After arguing with the girl at the door, they ended up sneaking in!
This role however, became a professional burden as Walt Disney had her under contract.  She wasn't to preform other roles, in order to not spoil the effect of Snow White.  For example, Jack Benny requested her as a guest on his show, and Caselotti happily agreed, but the studio denied the show permission to have her appear.  In 1938 she appeared on Lux Radio Theatre as Snow White and did have a line in the Wizard of Oz soundtrack and a brief appearance in It's a Wonderful Life.  By the 1950's she was voicing the character in theme parks, television, and promotional events.  In 1983 she was recorded for the wishing well in Disneyland, recreating that same magic from 40 years earlier.
By 1987 she began to receive recognition for her work (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 50th anniversary).  However when Snow White received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she wasn't invited.  She like she had before she showed up anyway.  This time she began singing those famous songs earning the cheers of the crowd until she was ushered into the ceremony.
She passed away in 1997.

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