If Walt Disney's heart was making a wish for a box office hit, his dream came true with Cinderella.
The 1950 classic, which opened in theaters nearly 71 years ago, was Walt Disney Productions' biggest hit in 13 years, since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set a new course for feature-length animated storytelling in 1937, and the returns helped finance the studio's animated and live action movies throughout the decade. Adjusted for inflation, Cinderella has a lifetime gross of $532.4 million.
But while the Disney cartoon version was generations of fans' first exposure to the story of the beautiful young maiden whose wicked stepmother and stepsisters have made her a servant in her own home, the crux of the story is many millennia old, dating back as far as between 7 BC-23 AD, when the Greek tale of Rhodopis—a slave who ends up marrying the king of Egypt—is said to have been first shared.
While the foot-maiming version envisioned by the Brothers Grimm remains a fairy tale mainstay for those who prefer their sweet served with a bit of spice, most of the more contemporary retellings hew most closely to French author Charles Perrault's "Cendrillon," first published in Paris as part of a story collection in 1697—hence the chateau that has fallen into disrepair and Cinderella being referred to as mademoiselle in the Disney version, which doesn't actually feature any French accents.
For a tale close to as old as time, the meat of the "Cinderella story" has had remarkable longevity, playing out for centuries onstage in plays, operas, ballets and, of course, in movies and on television.
The first Cinderella film based on Perrault's fairy tale was made in 1899, a six-minute production by French director Georges Méliès (the auteur played by Ben Kingsley in Martin Scorsese's Hugo) that was screened at music halls and fairgrounds. And that was only the beginning.
In honor of Lily James' birthday, take a look at 100 years of onscreen iterations of the ever-optimistic heroine who gets everything she ever dreamed of with the help of a little Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo:
And still, 120 years after Méliès ventured into multi-scene filmmaking for the first time with his Cinderella, there are more in the works right now.
While the fan-favorite Brandy-led film is now streaming on Disney+, Kay Cannon is directing a star-studded musical comedy version for the screen, with Camila Cabello as Cinderella and Billy Porter in talks to play Fairy Godmother.