“Rapunzel” is a German fairy tale in the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of Children’s and Household Tales. The Grimm Brothers’ story is an adaptation of the fairy tale Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698. Its plot has been used and parodied in various media and its best known line (“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair”) is an idiom of popular culture.

In the Aarne–Thompson classification system for folktales it is type 310, “The Maiden in The Tower”.

Andrew Lang included it in The Red Fairy Book. Other versions of the tale also appear in A Book of Witches by Ruth Manning-Sanders and in Paul O. Zelinsky’s 1998 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, Rapunzel.

Rapunzel’s story has striking similarities to the 10th century AD Persian tale of Rudaba, included in the epic poem Shahnameh by Ferdowsi. Rudaba offers to let down her hair from her tower so that her lover Zal can climb up to her. Some elements of the fairy tale might also have originally been based upon the tale of Saint Barbara, who was said to have been locked in a tower by her father.

Dame May Whitty, Mrs. Webster, DBE (19 June 1865 – 29 May 1948) was an English stage actress who appeared in numerous films in later life, achieving recognition in several character roles.

Born in Liverpool, Lancashire as Mary Louise Whitty, the daughter of William Alfred Whitty (c. 1837-1876) and Mary Louisa Ashton (c. 1837-1894), she made her first stage appearance in Liverpool in 1881, later moving to London to appear on the West End.

She married the actor-manager Ben Webster in 1892 in St Giles’ Parish Church, London and in 1895 they visited the United States where Whitty appeared on Broadway. Their first child, a son, died at birth. Their only surviving child, a daughter born in the USA in 1905, Margaret Webster, was a stage actress and held dual US/UK citizenship. Whitty’s stage career continued for the rest of her life. In March 1910, she made her transition to middle-aged and elderly character roles, playing Amelia Madras in Harley Granville-Barker’s four act comedy The Madras House.

In 1918 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in recognition of her charitable work during World War I. She is also the first film and stage actress to become a DBE. In fact, she and opera singer Nellie Melba were the first women entertainers to be awarded the honour in 1918.

She made her first major Hollywood film appearance, recreating her stage role in the film Night Must Fall (1937), which also starred Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell, and received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This led to several supporting roles in films including that of the ‘vanishing lady’, “Miss Froy”, in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). She moved permanently to the USA (although she never became a U.S. citizen) in 1939 and appeared both on stage and in Hollywood films where she usually played wealthy dowagers. It was one such part, as “Lady Beldon” in Mrs Miniver (1942), that brought her a second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.


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