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    Description

    Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978)
    Cinderfella promotional art, 1960
    Oil and pencil on canvas
    17 x 23 inches (43.2 x 58.4 cm)
    Signed lower right: Norman / Rockwell

    PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MR. JERRY LEWIS

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Jerry Lewis, commissioned from the above.

    LITERATURE:
    L. N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. 481, fig. A603, illustrated.

    This illustration was designed for all of the promotional material for Cinderfella, a film produced by Jerry Lewis in 1960. It appeared in various sizes (for example, half sheet, one sheet, and three sheet) and media (for example, posters, lobby cards, and newspaper and magazine ads, including one in the December 10, 1960 edition of Look).

    The present work embodies the artistic collaboration of two American legends, illustrator Norman Rockwell and comedian Jerry Lewis. It has remained in Mr. Lewis' collection since Rockwell presented it to him in 1960.

    In 1959, Hollywood star Jerry Lewis was eager to launch a family holiday movie, and the resulting Cinderfella put a modern, gender-bending spin on the classic Cinderella story, with Lewis playing the lead role of "Fella." As producer, Lewis oversaw every artistic and marketing detail of Cinderfella. He insisted that Paramount debut the film in December 1960, catering to a Christmas audience. He hired the jazz personality "Count" Basie and his orchestra to perform the music for the ball scene, and he released a Cinderfella album, featuring such hits as "Let Me Be a People (Plain Old Me)" and "Somebody." Most significant, Lewis had the brilliant idea to commission Norman Rockwell, the "people's artist," to design the publicity material for the film. Lewis explained in a recent interview:



    "As a director of the project, I had to go to New York, meet with all the advertising people and the selling people at the Paramount building, and I sat with them, and I said, 'Let's understand something. This is not a movie that comes #10, #11, #12. This is not that kind of movie. All of our selling in the past has been fine. But now we've got Norman Rockwell to sell this movie for us. . . . This is going to be a tribute to Rockwell, my respect for the man, and I'm to take his work and make it the entire ad campaign.' . . . It was very successful. We figured the picture would gross about $7 million domestic. The minute we put Rockwell's name to it, the figure became $16 million. When it went out, it did about $5 ½ million more than that. And the domestic box office at the time was kind of tepid. And we really, really banged the ball out of the park. . . . My whole idea was to get an icon in the world of art and have that icon sell the movie for me. . . . And Rockwell brought that. That's what he brought" (Jerry Lewis, interview with Heritage Auctions, January 2016).

    For the then princely sum of $50,000, Rockwell created the present work as the punchy illustration for Cinderfella, which appeared on all promotional materials, including posters, magazine tearsheets, newspaper ads, lobby cards, and the sheet music cover for "Let Me Be a People." The left side of the composition, rendered en grisaille, depicts Fella before his transformation: sanguine Fairy Godfather (actor Ed Wynn), with his signature hat and ruddy nose, waves his magic wand over the head of poor Fella, downtrodden and holding a mop. The right side of the composition, in vibrant "Technicolor," unveils Fella after his transformation: with his snazzy red evening jacket and amped-up expression - further intensified by the sun rays around his head - he effectively woos the bejeweled princess (actress Anna Maria Alberghetti), who longingly hangs onto his shoulder. Here, Rockwell's trademark realistic portraiture and narrative focus instantly communicated to audiences the personalities of the key players, as well as the dramatic plot moments.

    Cinderfella is especially rare and prized because in his prolific career, Rockwell executed only a handful of illustrations for films. Prior to Cinderfella, he designed posters for The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938) and Along Came Jones (1945), both starring Gary Cooper; The Magnificent Ambersons (1941); The Song of Bernadette (1943), whose artwork Heritage sold in 2013 for over $600,000; The Razor's Edge (1946), starring Tyrone Power; and Samson and Delilah (1950). A lifelong movie buff, Rockwell remarked in a 1928 interview for Westchester County Fair, "If I were not an artist I'd like to be a surgeon or a movie director, the latter, particularly. There is a chance to produce beautiful and artistic scenes that the public enjoy and that are as lasting as a beautiful picture" (online article, The Norman Rockwell Museum).

    However, Lewis selected Rockwell to lead Cinderfella's visual campaign not because of his prior affiliation with film, but rather because of his career-long dedication to the theme of the common man -- the perfect symbol for the character Fella, as well as for Lewis himself. Through his thousands of magazine illustrations covering every aspect of American middle-class life, Rockwell had become "the people's artist," championing ideals of democracy, tolerance, hard work, and courtesy. He wrote in 1936, "The commonplaces of America are to me the richest subjects in art. Boys batting flies on vacant lots; little girls playing jacks on the front steps; old men plodding home at twilight, umbrellas in hand - all of these things arouse feeling in me. Commonplaces never become tiresome" (L. Moffatt, "The People's Painter," in M. Hennessey and A. Knutson, Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, Atlanta, 2000, p. 24). Similarly, in Cinderfella, Fella explains to his Fairy Godfather that he is a common "people" in contrast to the privileged "persons" around him; he sings, "Let me be a people. I don't ask for much. . . . I don't want to be anyone else but plain old me. Apple pie and the Fourth of July. Simple things like community sings. Rock and roll or an afternoon stroll. Orangeade and a circus parade. I keep statin' it, no debatin' it, I'm a happy breed. So, therefore, let me be a people."

    Like Rockwell and Fella, Lewis exemplified the common man in the many film characters - for example, the Delicate Delinquent, the Bellboy, and the Nutty Professor -- he portrayed through his unique slapstick. His bumbling and clumsy characters eventually win the day because they are "average Joes" with big hearts. Lewis commented, "I do not know that I have a carefully thought-out theory on exactly what makes people laugh, but the premise of all comedy is a man in trouble, the little guy against the big guy" (A. Dale, Comedy is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies, Minneapolis, 2000 p. 18). Indeed, Lewis and Rockwell may stand for the "little guy," but their contributions to the arts of film and illustration have been enormous.



    Condition Report*: This work is in beautiful condition. There are cracks around the four edges, particularly the upper right and lower left. These cracks correspond to the inside edge of the stretcher bar. This is to be expected and is not necessarily something that should be remedied. The painting is clean and the paint layer is stable. There are retouches along the bottom edge in the lower left corner and beneath the hands of the blue figure on the left side. The stretcher bar marks can be diminished, but not eliminated, without lining. Framed Dimensions 25.75 X 31.75 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2016
    7th Saturday
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