'Alice' Through the Years: 16 Actresses Who Played the Iconic Character

11:51 AM 5/27/2016

by Pamela McClintock

Mia Wasikowska is the latest star to go down the rabbit hole in 'Alice Through the Looking Glass,' opening over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Mia Wasikowska in 'Alice Through the Looking Glass'
Peter Mountain/Disney

Dozens of actresses have gladly gone down the rabbit hole in order to play Alice, the young girl immortalized in British author Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, published in 1871. There have been countless stage plays, films and television movies adapting Carroll's classic adventure tale about a world populated with strange and quirky creatures, such as the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat.

Mia Wasikowska is the latest thespian to star as Alice, first in the 2010 blockbuster Alice in Wonderland and now in the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is opening in theaters over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Here's a glance at Wasikowska and 15 other actresses who have played the eponymous character through the decades — including Meryl Streep, who appeared in the Public Theater's 1980 stage production, Alice in Concert.

  • May Clark (1903)

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    May Clark (1889-1984) was working as a film cutter and production secretary at Hepworth Film Studios in London when she was cast in the first film adaptation of Carroll's famous tale. Released in 1903, Alice in Wonderland is recognized for its use of special effects (including showing an oversized Alice stuck inside the White Rabbit's den). Hepworth Studios, located not far from London, opened for business in 1899 and was the brainchild of Cecil Hepworth, one of the founders of the British film industry. Clark only made a handful of other movies after Alice.

  • Gladys Hulette (1910)

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    Edison Manufacturing Company, inventor Thomas A. Edison's company, made the second film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, casting silent film actress Gladys Hulette (1986-1991). From Arcade, N.Y., Hulette began acting on the stage when she was 3 years old; she appeared in her first film when she was 7. She starred in numerous films during the silent era, but her career tapered off with the advent of sound. According to lore, she worked as a ticket seller at Radio City Music Hall in the late 1940s.

  • Viola Savoy (1915)

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    The Brooklyn-born Viola Savoy (1899-1987) was a well-known child actress who appeared in more than 125 plays, including a number of Broadway productions, before starring in Alice in Wonderland, a 1915 silent film that ran nearly an hour long. The movie drew praise for including the "You Are Old, Father William" poem in full.

  • Ruth Gilbert (1931)

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    In the run up to the 100th anniversary of Carroll’s birth in 1932, “Alice fever” swept England and America. Metropolitan Studios, an independent production company based in Fort Lee, N.J., made the first talkie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. While the movie fell flat at the box office, it propelled Ruth Gilbert to fame. One of the admirers of her performance in the 1931 film was playwright Eugene O’Neill, who later cast her in one of his plays. Gilbert (1912-1993) would go on to become a busy stage, radio and TV actress, but remained best-known for Alice — until years later when she played an absent-minded secretary named Max on 10 episodes of The Milton Berle Show.

  • Charlotte Henry (1933)

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    Paramount also partook in Alice fever, commissioning a star-studded cast for its 1933 film that included W.C. Fields, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. Finding the right leading lady, or girl, proved far trickier. More than 6,000 girls auditioned before an ambitious talent scout spotted Charlotte Henry on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse. Henry (1914-1980) made several other notable films after Alice in Wonderland, including Babes in Toyland with Laurel and Hardy, but retreated from show business in the 1940s and moved to San Diego, where she opened an employment agency with her mother. Later, she spent years working as an executive secretary for the Catholic bishop.

  • Vivian Pickles (1946)

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    British star Vivian Pickles played as Alice in the fourth television adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (the 1946 BBC production was broadcast live from Alexandra Palace in London). Pickles, now 84, made an easy transition from child to to adult actress, appearing in numerous plays. In the early 1960s, she won widespread acclaim when starring in Ken Russell's film, Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World. And in 1971, she starred in Hal Ashby's classic film, Harold and Maude.

  • Carol Marsh (1949)

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    British actress Carol Marsh (1926-2010) was 20 years old when appearing in the 1949 French film Alice in Wonderland; most tackling the role had been much younger. Her fans in England, however, were unable to see the movie after it was banned from the British Isles out of concern that the White Queen insulted the late Queen Victory. Nor was Alice in Wonderland seen in most American theaters after Disney — which was busy prepping its own Alice in Wonderland — sued to prevent its entry. Marsh's later film credits included Rose in Brighton Rock, Helter Skelter and Scrooge.

  • Kathryn Beaumont (1951)

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    Walt Disney personally cast Kathryn Beaumont, a young British actress with golden curls, to voice Alice in Disney's seminal 1951 animated film, Alice in Wonderland. Beaumont, who had moved from England to America to make movies for MGM, was 10 years old at the time. Moreover, Walt Disney and his team were so impressed with Beaumont's appearance and mannerisms that she was used as the model for the animated Alice. She later voiced the character Wendy Darling in Disney's Peter Pan (1953), and was the model for Tinker Bell.

  • Anne-Marie Mallik (1966)

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    Starring in Jonathan Miller's 1966 television production for the BBC definitely didn't give Anne-Marie Mallik the acting bug. Alice in Wonderland, broadcast over the Christmas holidays, is believed to be her one and only acting credit. A number of prominent actors starred opposite Mallik in the production, including Michael Redgrave and Peter Sellers. Years later, the BBC even had trouble tracking Mallik down when she was owed residuals.

  • Fiona Elizabeth Fullerton (1972)

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    British actress Fiona Elizabeth Fullerton starred in her first film, Run Wild, Run Free, at age 12. When she was 15, she played Alice in the British musical film, Alice in Wonderland. Besides Alice, she's also known for her turn as Pola Ivanova in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill. More recently, Fullerton was seen on Strictly Come Dancing, a BBC television show.

  • Kristine DeBell (1976)

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    Many have played the girl with the golden locks, but Kristine DeBell may be the only one to have starred in an X-rated adaptation (Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy hit theaters in 1976). DeBell was a young fashion model with the famed agency Ford Models when agreeing to the role, her first acting gig. Ultimately, Fox picked up the movie and cut three minutes in order to secure an R-rating; it made more than $90 million globally after earning the attention of film critics including Roger Ebert. The movie was released in 1976, the same year she was photographed by Suze Randall for the cover of Playboy and by Helmut Netwon for his pictorial, "200 Motels, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation." DeBell never appeared in an X-rated film again. Rather, she showed up in more mainstream fare, including opposite Bill Murray in Meatballs, and in television shows including The Young and the Restless and Night Court. In 2007, the original X-rated version of Alice was fully restored and released on DVD.

  • Meryl Streep (1980)

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    Long before she flexed her vocal chords in the 2008 film adaptation of Mamma Mia!, Meryl Streep played Alice (as well as the White Queen and Humpty Dumpty) in the Public Theater's adaptation, Alice in Concert. The 1980 play was staged by Joseph Papp, and also starred Debbie Allen, Michael Jeter and Mark Linn-Baker.

  • Kate Burton (1983)

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    Like father, like daughter. In 1983, PBS Great Performances broadcast a stage production of Alice in Wonderland starring Kate Burton in the title role opposite her real-life dad, Richard Burton, who played the White Knight. Nathan Lane, Geoffrey Holder and Eve Arden also starred. Burton, 58, has remained busy since, and can currently be seen on Shonda Rhimes' Scandal. The Emmy and Tony nominee also starred in Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy.

  • Natalie Lynn Gregory (1985)

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    In the mid-1980s, Irwin Allen — the prolific producer famous for disaster fare including Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno — turned his attention to Alice in Wonderland, producing a two-part, made-for-TV film that was broadcast on CBS in December 1985. Child actress Natalie Gregory, who was 10 at the time, was one of the youngest actresses to ever play Alice. A number of notable actors and celebrities starred opposite Gregory in the television movie, including Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Telly Savalas, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ringo Starr, Carol Channing, Sally Struthers, Merv Griffin, Steve Lawrence, Jonathan Winters and Lloyd Bridges (many were Allen regulars).

  • Tina Marie Majorino (1999)

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    Tina Marie Majorino had a busy few years before she was cast as Alice in NBC's Alice in Wonderland (1999). The child actress, who started in television, made her big screen debut in When a Man Loves a Woman (1994), followed by Corrina, Corrina and Andre the same year. Next she was seen in Waterworld. After Alice in Wonderland - which used puppets created by Jim Henson's team for many of the creatures — Majorino took a break from acting, saying she was burned out. Her next film was Napoleon Dynamite, released in 2004.

  • Mia Wasikowska (2010)

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    Auditioning for the title role in Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland was a whirlwind for Australian actress Mia Wasikowska. She flew from Australia to London several times within the span of a month before winning over Burton. The Disney film, also starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway, propelled Wasikowska, now 26, to worldwide fame upon earning a stunning $1.026 billion at the global box office (she had already impressed American audiences with her turn on HBO's In Treatment and the indie film The Evening Sun). To this day, Alice in Wonderland remains the only live-action film with a female lead to have grossed north of $1 billion.

    Read more

    'Alice Through the Looking Glass': Film Review

    'Alice in Wonderland' Author Lewis Carroll a "Regular Saint," Compared to Today's Celebrities (Guest Column)

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