Fairytale: A True Story

A charming, watchable, but ultimately unsatisfying British feature (1997) about celebrated photographs of fairies made by two little girls in 1917. The gullible Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (played here by Peter O’Toole) fell hook, line, and sinker for this hoaxconfessed to much later by one of the perpetrators on her deathbed. But rather than set about explaining or describing the hoax (as science writer Martin Gardner has cogently done), this film, as the title coyly suggests, prefers to treat it as fact or metaphor or fable about real fairiesanything but the actual boondoggle it was. If you can’t swallow this malarkey, at least you can enjoy the special effects and Harvey Keitel as Harry Houdini. Directed by Charles Sturridge from a screenplay by Ernie Contreras; with Elizabeth Earl, Florence Hoath, Paul McGann, and Phoebe Nicholls. PG, 97 min. (JR)

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