Animator Ken Walker & Adriana Caselotti, voice of Snow White

Adriana Caselotti was born on May 6, 1916 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, into a family of opera singers. Her father Guido, an Italian immigrant, taught music in New York. His mother Maria, originally from Naples, sang at the Royal Opera. Her sister Louise was a renowned opera singer and voice teacher. Casting director Roy Scott calls Adriana’s father to explain that Walt Disney is looking for a voice to play Snow White in his first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in the hope that one of Guido’s students might fit the bill. Adriana, then 19, who is listening to the conversation on another handset, jumps in, shouting “Daddy, Daddy! How about me!”. She undergoes trials, impresses composer Frank Churchill with her ability to read the score, and is chosen for the role, which she records without any other actor present in 48 days for 970 dollars. She and Harry Stockwell, the voice of the Prince, weren’t even invited to the gala premiere, even though they had to sing before the show, but they managed to sneak into the hall anyway.

It was often printed that Walt Disney insisted on keeping the voices of his characters anonymous in order to preserve the illusion. The New York program, for instance,  In fact, no actor is credited in the credits, but if this was the intention, it is clear from the press of the time that they are often mentioned, and not only in the United States. Adriana naturally attracts a lot of attention, and it’s surprising that she’s mentioned more often in French-language newspapers than the character’s French voice.

What’s more, the supposed exclusivity to the Disney studio is no secret either. Adriana appeared on stage in costume as Snow White from at least April. After this film, she could be heard singing very briefly in The Wizard of Oz (which Le Figaro announced on November 19, 1938), and furtively in It’s a Wonderful Life. Her role in The Bride Wore Red, with Joan Crawford, was a little more consistent, at least she was clearly seen on screen, but this remained episodic. When she became aware of the animated film’s success, she took Walt Disney to court, as announced in Paris Soir on October 22, 1938, to obtain royalties on record sales, which she felt had not been provided for in the contract. She was unsuccessful. Her future appearances were mainly in the Disney universe, either in person at film promotions or on television, and even in three short films with Donald Duck. In fact, Snow White was for her the role of a lifetime, and her life remained marked by it: after her 4 marriages, she lived in a house where everything recalled the film, living, among other things, from the many paid autographs sent to her admirers.

For the film’s 50th anniversary, she wrote the foreword to a commemorative book, from which this excerpt reads:

Dickie Moore, Franchot Tone and Adriana Caselotti in The Bride Wore Red

Let us hope that the fine qualities of goodness and love exhibited through the character of Snow White, be an inspiration and reminder to all mankind that we can achieve happiness and great satisfaction by performing what should be the simplest task of all; that of working together with one another to achieve our personal and common goals.

Adriana Caselotti

She died of cancer on January 19, 1997 in Los Angeles at the age of 80.