Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Fairy Tale: A True Story Photos

Movie Info

Two young girls who believe that fairies are real attempt to prove it to the world in this drama based on actual events. In 1917, there is little to be happy about in the Wright household in West Yorkshire, England. Polly (Phoebe Nicholls) and her 12-year-old daughter Elsie (Florence Hoath) are still grieving over the death of Elsie's younger brother, and Polly's niece Frances (Elizabeth Earl) has come to stay with them after her father was declared missing in action during World War I. Polly longs for some sort of proof that there is a life beyond our own, while the two girls ardently believe in fairies and enthusiastically study legend and lore. One day, Elsie and Frances produce photographs of fairies that they claim were playing in their garden; Polly believes that they are real, and soon the snapshots attract international attention. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O'Toole), author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and a confirmed spiritualist, declares the photos "as genuine as the King's beard," while illusionist Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel), who has devoted much time and energy to exposing phony mediums and psychics, takes a more skeptical view. While Fairy Tale: A True Story presents the appearance of the fairies as fact, analysis of the photographs proved them to be fakes (especially after the same fairies were discovered as illustrations in a children's book published before the photos were taken). The real-life Elsie Wright admitted late in life that the fairy photos were a hoax performed as a "little joke" and that she was always surprised that so many people believed them.

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Florence Hoath
as Elsie Wright
Elizabeth Earl
as Frances Griffiths
Phoebe Nicholls
as Polly Wright
Harvey Keitel
as Harry Houdini
Peter O'Toole
as Arthur Conan Doyle
Paul McGann
as Arthur Wright
Bill Nighy
as E.L. Gardner
Bob Peck
as Harry Briggs
Tim McInnerny
as John Ferret
Mel Gibson
as Frances' Father
Jason Salkey
as James Collins
Lara Morgan
as Jean Doyle
Adam Franks
as Adrian Doyle
Guy Witcher
as Denis Doyle
Joseph May
as Houdini's Assistant
John A. Bradley
as Portly Gentleman
Anna Chancellor
as Peter Pan
Leonard Kavanagh
as Stage Manager
Anton Lesser
as Wounded Corporal
Lynn Farleigh
as Mrs. Thornton
Tara Marie
as Judith
Peter Mullan
as Sergeant Farmer
Jim Wiggins
as Albert, the Postman
David Calder
as Harold Snelling
Anthony Calf
as Geoffrey Hodson
John Grillo
as Mr. West
Benjamin Whitrow
as Mr. Binley
Dick Brannick
as News Vendor
Barbara Hicks
as City Woman
Christopher Godwin
as City Businessman
Andrew Cryer
as First Soldier
Paul Popplewell
as Second Soldier
David Norman
as O'Neill
Anna Ramsey
as Charlotte
Peter Wight
as Newspaper Editor
Willie Ross
as Old Print Worker
Ina Clough
as Lady Calling to Fairies
Carol Noakes
as Station Photographer
Stephen Chapman
as Boy in Hospital
Bill Stewart
as Chess MC
Don Henderson
as Sydney Chalker
Stewart Howson
as Red-Faced Man
James Danaher
as Joseph Wright
Martin Gent
as Pushy Photographer
Anthony Collin
as Older Photographer
Tom Georgeson
as First Reporter
Angus Barnett
as Second Reporter
Anna Brecon
as Elabigathe
Sean Buckley
as Mr. Bandylegs
Norma Cohen
as Nanny Button Cap
Matt Costain
as Prince Malekin
Philip Fowler
as Fenoderee
William Lawrance
as Tom Cockle
Simon Penman
as Peerifool
Briony Plant
as Yarthkins
Isabel Rocamora
as Queen Mab
Mark Tate
as Habetrot
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Critic Reviews for Fairy Tale: A True Story

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (8)

Charming special effects and appealing heroines, and truly an ambitious meditation on the nature of fantasy and reality and growing up.

May 22, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
Top Critic

Flits, falters and falls flat.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2/4

The movie works as a fantasy, and as a story of little girls who fascinate two of the most famous men of the age -- Conan Doyle and the magician Harry Houdini, an outspoken debunker of all forms of spiritualism.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Charles Sturridge's fantasy is too slow and complicated for very young viewers, but others will enjoy its wholesome story and detailed depiction of the World War I era, not to mention the fairyland scenes, which are truly magical.

March 28, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

It's good, but it ought to be better and it isn't.

June 23, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

A film with no discernable point of view that's directed at no definable audience.

July 16, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Fairy Tale: A True Story


All that this pathetic and incredibly silly movie wants is to be cute, and so it shies away from the truth with a ridiculous justification that more important than reality is "magic" - even if coming from a deceiving fraud that supposedly brings comfort to people. Truth is, it is not.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

If you have faith, anything is possible. I saw this Movie long time ago. It is Amazing even Adults believe in Fairies, but we even believe in Angels why not Fairies. Very inspiring Movie. Even though they revelead that the Pictures the girls shot were fake, I still think Children see more than us Adults. It makes you believe in Magic so hardly.

Wahida K
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

Another film off the list from the 1997 Toronto International Film Festival, from the Galas. Again a Movie that I missed when it came out and the only reason I saw it was because of this list. This movie is not only for children or adults with children, anyone with a open mind should see this, or anyone one who enjoys a movie that is just not another movie. Set right after WWI, 2 young girls find and take a picture of a fairy, And the girls meet Harry Houdini, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ( The Lost World) who takes an interest in them. All and all a good clean Family movie, saw nothing that would make me not let children see it. 5 stars alone for that reason. 5 stars for the acting and overall story.

Bruce Bruce
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

Fairy Tale: A True Story Quotes

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