When Walt Disney began work on his animated adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1951) he needed an Alice-sized actress as a reference for the drawn version. Kathryn Beaumont, age 10, was chosen. She also got to voice Alice. (Beaumont would go on to ‘play’ Wendy Darling in the following Disney animated feature film Peter Pan.)
Born in England, Beaumont’s first role was in the 1944 British film “It Happened One Sunday,” which caught the attention of MGM. “I wasn’t able to read yet, so I said the lines and I memorized them,” Beaumont said. “MGM was planning to have films with British characters and British-type stories. However, as ideas come and go, they must have shelved the idea because they brought me over and put me under contract, then nothing happened.”
That changed when word spread around Hollywood that Disney was looking for a British voice for Lewis Carroll’s plucky bookshelf heroine who goes down the rabbit hole. “Disney was a stickler for authenticity,” Beaumont said. “He was looking for a British voice but he also wanted one that Americans would be comfortable with. All kind of little girls were reading for the part and I also read. They called me back for another reading….
“It was a bare stage. It had a camera and lights and maybe a few boards around to give you perspective.”