How Long Must This Go On?

A Beauty and the Beast primer

1740 The first version of Beauty and the Beast, by Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve, appears. Villeneuve's version doesn't end with the transformation of the Prince, who remains ugly — and grumpy about it, too.

1756 A newer, more cautionary (and much more sexist) version of the tale by Madame Le Prince de Beaumont is published. It's the best-known version, the one most often used as the basis for later interpretations of the story. Beaumont's message is mostly that conscientious, self-sacrificing young women will find happiness, as Beauty does at the end of the story.

1889 Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book includes a version of Beauty and the Beast that cobbles together elements of de Beaumont's and de Villeneuve's.

1946 Cinema poet Jean Cocteau's surrealist take on La Belle et la Bete is released in France (but doesn't make its U.S. theatrical debut until 2002). Considered by many to be the definitive film version, this one stars Josette Day and Jean Marais in the title roles.

1987 Perhaps the cheesiest adaptation ever debuts on prime-time network television. This Beauty and the Beast stars Linda Hamilton as a crusading district attorney's assistant and Ron Perlman as the lion-man she loves.

1991 Billed by Disney as "the most beautiful love story ever told," the feature-length animated version changes forever the lives of millions of pre-adolescents and would-be chorus boys. Not to mention the home-video industry, which sells gazillions of copies when the film is released to VHS a few years later.

1994 The Broadway musical adaptation of the Disney film debuts, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. This one is still playing, making it one of Broadway's longest-running productions.

1997 A direct-to-video "midquel" called Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas is released, followed the next year by another titled Belle's Magical World. Five-year-old girls (and several million gay men) faint with joy.

2002 Production rights are released, and theaters large and small scramble to mount their own Beauty and the Beast. Theater critics begin shaking fists at sky.

 
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