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Since I'm a Newbie and go into detail on some the dance routines, I'm
stating that there may be spoilers here just to cover myself.
Being afflicted with little coordination or a reliable short-term memory, I've developed a great respect, if not admiration for anyone who is or aspires to be a dancer, since those qualities are essential.
I used to attend the Solid Gold shows and marveled at how those dancers were expected to pick up complicated steps on the first take, repeat the routine time and time again until the director was happy, and then show lots of first-take energy. One dancer told me they always had swollen and sometimes bloody feet after the show. But at least they were always properly credited. I have no doubt that it's the same for the stage and screen dancers except that in so many cases they are treated as a throwaway commodity when it comes time to the credits.
Although "Oklahoma" is one of my all-time favorites, it is a classic example of the latter. In earlier viewings, I had noticed/liked/wondered about that perky little blonde dancer who has a crush on Will (Gene Nelson) and her almost-prominent presence in all of the dance routines. Being laid up with a broken foot gave me time to scan IMDBs comments and message board quotes for this movie, which prompted me to take a detailed, and in some cases a frame-by-frame look at this dancer's performances.
Well, leisurely dissecting her work in freeze-frame and slo-mo, you suddenly discover what a talented little gem this girl is (apparently Jennie Workman, but how can we be sure? - Updated 07/24/06 - Nope, it turns out she's Lizanne Truex). She first appears, and immediately establishes a stand-out presence as an infatuated-with-Will teenager in "Everything's Up To Date In Kansas City". At one point in the "ragtime" routine, she kicks so high she knocks off Will's hat -- and he is not a short guy. I thought he used the old trick of snapping his head back, but no, that little gal kicks her foot up as high or higher than her head with a disciplined precision (how many takes for that one?). Her disapproving look at Will's horse (who nuzzled him) typifies a little girl pique. Check out her adoring looks at Will while dancing with him as compared to her partner, who seemed concentrating on the steps. When the girls race with Will to the train, her arm-swinging energy makes it look like the start of a 100-yard dash. Freeze-frame caught her extra little toe-heel-toe step just before she jumped on the train a nice professional flourish that I don't think was choreographed as her partner, who usually danced in unison, didn't perform.
Then there was her performance in "Many a New Day". First it was a how-can-I-fix-my-hair primping before a mirror followed by a hair-fluffing attention-getter and a dreamy head-in-arms swoon that personifies a young girl in love. At the end of the routine, when the dancers all fall to the floor around Laurey, she assumes a contorted position with such a fluid and graceful movement that you wonder if she has any bones.
In the early part of Laurey's (Shirley Jones) dream sequence, she shyly presents a bouquet of flowers to Dream Curly (James Mitchell) and when he accepts, she flashes such a winsome smile that it squeezes your heart. Dagnabbit, I'm in love -- and with a 50-year-old image at that! Follow her around in the "Farmers and Ranchers" bit and notice how she's not just acting, but having REAL fun -- by-God-enjoying every minute of it and probably thinking "And to think they're paying me to do this!"). There's a notably cute bit where she bounces up on Will's hip, seemingly light as a feather, and then rewards him with a very ladylike curtsy.
In "All er Nuthin" she and her partner come out and do some fancy high-stepping and strutting around Will and when he gives her girlfriend a peck on the lips, she does a great arms-akimbo pouting look of HMMMPH! This little lady consistently gives a great professional account of herself throughout the film both as an actress and a dancer. She has spot-on timing and always seems to kick a little higher and express a little more verve and elan than the others.
And for all this she gets a generic "Dancer" in the film credits!!! They could at least have said "Perky Little Blonde Teenager" or "Foxy Teenage Blonde Infatuated with Will". Heck, I'd even settle for "Young Girl No. 1". At least you would have been pointed in the right direction. Shame on whomever was responsible, for this little lady had lots of potential and in my opinion, her subsequent absence was a loss to the trade. Evidently this was her only film and biographical info on her is non-existent. All the other Internet movie references for her appear to be taken from IMDBs database. Perhaps she was so disgusted at the lack of recognition that she quit the business. Then again, I'd like to think some smart (as in lucky) guy married her soon after and by now she has lots of grandchildren.
In any event, I pass on a "Well Done and I wish I could have seen more of you" to her, wherever she is. It's the least I could do for someone who owns part of my heart. In keeping with IMDb's restriction on URLs, check out my tribute to her by clicking on nevkid12's name in the message board's reply to "Who are the 2 dancers?".
`Oklahoma' is the sexiest film of the 1950s. The film is all about sex,
(well, it's about romance, as well, but what does that lead to?). Curley
keeps finding different ways to woo Laurie. Jud, who lives in a dug-out
surrounded by pictures of naked women, has plans for her, too. Will and Ado
Annie have plans of their own, if they can ever stop both their wandering
eyes. Annie's father knows what they are up to and figures to use his shot
gun to set things right. Those spyglasses with the interesting pictures keep
showing up. Women dance around in their underwear and we visit a dance hall
where they are similarly dressed except for the colors. Finally there is
Laurie's skinny dipping sequence. I assume Shirley Jones had a flash-colored
bathing suit, but who knows? Deep Throat isn't any more about sex than this
film is. Yet it's Rogers and Hammerstein so it's shown constantly as a
family film. Well, I guess that's how families get made!
Other comments: I see nothing in the choreography that Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones couldn't have done, at least in the close-ups. We see Rod Steiger in the dream sequence and to see two other faces as Laurie and Curly kind of shatter the illusion.
While many sequences are clearly shot on a sound stage, the beautiful outdoors photography in Todd-AO adds so much to the spectacle. When I saw the recent tape of a British stage play of this, it had no where near the impact and this was one of the reasons.
Another was the casting, which was dead-on perfect. Gordon McRae is the picture of the singing cowboy, (which was not a Hollywood invention). He more than holds his own with Rod Steiger, a year after Steiger was holding his won with Brando. Shirley Jones is the image of Laurie. She has all the physical endowments of a Marilyn Monroe but with the added qualities of sweetness and intelligence that make her marvelously sexy and appealing. Steiger gives the piece dramatic weight. He also shows surprising singing ability, (this site says he had an operatic voice but no sense of key), Gloria Grahame is the ideal Ado Annie. I saw a clip of Celeste Holm, of whom I am a big fan, doing `I Can't Say No' on the Ed Sullivan show. She doesn't hold a candle to Grahame, who underplays the lines but has the sex coming out of her eyes, right along with the innocence. Gene Nelson is a wonderfully easy going dancing cowpoke and his songs with Ado Annie have unending charm. Charlotte Greenwood is a wonder as Aunt Eller, all arms and legs and home spun philosophy. James Whitmore makes a meal of shotgun toting Dad. Eddie Albert has one of his best roles as Ali Hakim. It's hard to imagine anyone being better in these roles.
Of course, Roger's and Hammerstein's music and lyrics are timeless. The title tune, `Oh What Beautiful Morning `, `Surrey With the Fringe on Top', `People Will Say We're in Love', `Everything's Up-to-Date in Kansas City', `I can't Say No', and the others keep playing in your memory long after you've heard them.
But that story, (you can't really call it a plot). Have you ever seen a musical like it?
Back in 1957 I saw this film when it was re-released and playing as a
double feature with Carousel. Talk about musical entertainment, you
can't do much better than that.
With a few numbers cut, this film version of the legendary Broadway musical is a faithful adaption of the show that premiered in 1943 and set a record of 2212 performances in a five year Broadway run at the St. James Theater. Oklahoma set a host of firsts on Broadway, the first musical to have an original cast album, the first also in the partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II.
Oklahoma on stage was also daring in that it had an extensive use of ballet, something unheard of for Broadway. Well, not quite because Richard Rodgers when he was writing with Lorenz Hart had Georges Balanchine do the famous Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet for On Your Toes.
But that was not as long as the dream ballet of Laurie that Agnes DeMille choreographed for Oklahoma. Agnes had previously choreographed Aaron Copland's composition Rodeo for a ballet and was a perfect choice for the musical with the western setting.
Would you believe that Oklahoma's origins came from a flop play by Lynn Riggs called Green Grow the Lilacs? The first person to play Curly was not Alfred Drake on stage or Gordon MacRae on film, but Franchot Tone. It's the closest the urbane Mr. Tone ever got to a western in his career. June Walker played the Laurie part in Green Grow the Lilacs that Joan Roberts did on stage and Shirley Jones did in this film. Green Grow the Lilacs ran a total of 64 performances back in 1931. But Dick Rodgers saw the musical possibilities in it.
MacRae was a proved commodity, but this was Shirley Jones's big screen debut. She followed it up with Carousel again co-starring with MacRae, just as the era of big screen musicals were ending. To some of us she's better known for singing those Rodgers&Hammerstein songs than for being the mother of the Partridge Family.
The secondary characters in the show are nicely cast with the secondary romantic triangle of Gene Nelson, Gloria Grahame, and Eddie Albert. One of the songs cut is a number called, It's a Scandal, It's an Outrage that Albert's character, peddler Ali Hakim sings. Albert did sing on stage and screen occasionally, I wish his number had stayed in. All he got out of the film as we well know is a three day bellyache.
The songs of Oklahoma are part of our national musical treasure from the opening of Oh, What a Beautiful Morning to the rousing title song almost at the very end. On stage, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning is sung off stage with a farm house setting and the Aunt Eller character, Charlotte Greenwood, sitting and churning butter. On stage MacRae is on horseback, riding through a cornfield where you can really see the corn is as high as an elephant's eye.
Rodgers&Hammerstein also gave one state in the union probably the best state song ever written at least in my humble opinion. The infectious and optimistic Oklahoma is in fact now the state song of the Sooner state. You can't sit quietly and listen and watch that number when its on, I defy anyone to.
Another big hit is People Will Say We're in Love that MacRae and Jones sing trying terribly hard to convince each other they're not crushing out. A favorite of mine has always been the ballad that Jones sings, Many A New Day to cheer herself up when MacRae hasn't asked her to the dance.
The plot of Oklahoma is slight, a couple of wholesome young people playing courting games about a dance. The problem is that the brooding hired hand of Jones and Greenwood's farm is used to make MacRae jealous. That would be Jud Fry, played with appropriate menace by Rod Steiger. The method acting Mr. Steiger stands out in this cast, but he's supposed to, because he's not really part of the community of farmers and cowmen. Among all these musical performers, Mr. Steiger proves to actually have a few nice notes in his voice as he joins MacRae singing Poor Jud is dead.
It took over ten years for Oklahoma to finally make it to the big screen. It took home Oscars for sound and musical scoring. It was well worth the wait.
In the great land of Oklahoma there is no better romance blossoming than that between Curly (Gordon McRae) and Laurie (Shirley Jones). Just these two people alone would make the movie a perfect 10. But then you add Eddie Albert, and the characters Will and Ado Annie, and you have a 100! The music is delightful, so delightful, in fact, that you'll probably want to go and buy the soundtrack the minute after you hear the first song. Some really drop-dead-funny parts (Persian good-byes and Oklahoma hellos, Poor Jud is Dead) and some real romance. Excellent. I highly suggest it for people who like wester musical romances.
I've just hopped, skipped and jumped through seven pages of
back-to-back kudos and other favorable comments on this great movie,
and can do little but add mine to the chorus. Therefore, I'd like to
focus on some minutiae.
The outstanding actress, among the many, is Gloria Grahame. In my humble opinion, she LIVED the part of Ada Annie. Watch her facial expressions during "I caint say no" and "All or Nuthin' ". The woman radiates sensuality with every line.
In the version shown recently on TV (04/03/06), it appears some lines were cut from "I caint". Unless I'm hallucinating, I remember her singing the following lyrics:
"Cain't seem to say it at all - I hate to disserpoint a beau When he is payin' a call! - Fer a while I ack refined and cool, - A settin on the velveteen setee - Nen I think of thet ol' golden rule, - And do fer him what he would do fer me!"
and at that point she starts idling her hips and flashes a grin of triumph that just REEKS sensuality. Anybody else remember this?
Another subplot(?) rarely mentioned is those two young girls who have a crush on Will and show up in every dance routine. I was enchanted by that little blonde pixie and have been going nuts trying to find out who she was. I suspect she is "Jennie Workman", the first credited dancer (she had one line in "Kansas City"). If so, sadly, she has only this one movie to her credit. If anyone has info on this little charmer, please email me.
I saw this movie soon after it's release in 1955, and was floored by the brilliance of the lyrics, actors in out-of-part roles doing a fantastic job, and the innovative dance routines, including the surreal barroom scene - it IS a dream after all. Fifty years later I still get the same WOW! reaction despite viewing this movie on an almost weekly basis this past month (that darned pixie has got me hooked!).
I wish some local theaters, facing declining audiences and the "home theater" threat, would feature a weekly "Classics Night" and show films like this again. Even a 52" HDTV pales in comparison to the Big Screen impact of some of these old movies, and this one would knock the socks off not only the current generation, but old geezers like myself who remembers when GOOD movies were the norm.
After seeing OKLAHOMA! on the screen in Todd-AO for the first time 44
ago, it immediately became my all-time favorite film. Today, it still
that lofty ranking.
The beautiful Rodgers & Hammerstein score includes some of the greatest music ever written. The two collaborated on nine broadway musicals, many of which were adapted to the screen, notably CAROUSEL, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE KING AND I, and THE SOUND OF MUSIC, but OKLAHOMA! tops them all.
Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones are perfectly cast as the young couple experiencing the magic of first love, and their singing of some of the show's classic tunes, such as "Surry With the Fringe On Top" and "People Will Say We're In Love" is a pleasure to listen to.
Miss Jones, making her screen debut as Laurie Williams, instantly establishes her image of the "girl next door"--did I grow up in the wrong neighborhood? She is captivatingly charming as she tries to make Curly (MacRae) jealous by accepting a date to the box social with her Aunt Eller's hired farmhand, Jud Fry, played menacingly by Rod Steiger.
It is the supporting cast of characters that really bring this musical to life--particularly Aunt Eller, played by Charlotte Greenwood. Doesn't everyone have an Aunt Eller in their life? Then there's Ado Annie Carnes (Gloria Grahame) and her longsuffering boyfriend Will Parker (Gene Nelson), who lights up the screen with a great dance number. Throw in a travelling salesman, Ali Hakim (Eddie Albert); Gertie Cummings (Barbara Lawrence), who tries to steal Curly away from Laurie; and Mr. Carnes (James Whitmore), who insists on a shotgun wedding for his daughter, Ado Annie, rather than see her marry Will; and you have some unforgettable characters indeed.
The film's one dissenting note was the class distinction warfare between the handsome, clean-cut Curly, who everyone knows "Laurie has her cap set fer" and the rough and dirty, working-class Jud. Jud meets his untimely end, but, after all, he is the villain.
Not to fear, it's a happy ending for all. Curly gets Laurie, Will gets Ado Annie, and Ali Hakim gets....Gertie? When Ado Annie and Gertie get into a jealous fight which Will attempts to break up, explaining "I'm trying to keep Ado Annie from killing your wife", Ali Hakim responds, "Why don't you mind your own business?" In the end, the farmer and the cowman do learn to get along and become friends, the new schoolhouse gets built, and the Oklahoma territory is about to become a state.
OKLAHOMA! won two Oscars, for Best Sound Recording and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. How could they go wrong with great orchestral direction by Robert Russell Bennett and the musical score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II? The American theatre will never see their equal again.
I just acquired the set of Rogers and Hammerstein's musicals on DVD, and am enjoying them immensely; the picture clarity and sound are outstanding and the music and story good to boot!! I believe this was Shirley Jones' debut in a movie, and she portrays Laurie to a tee, and has ample support from all of the other actors, with fine comedy support from Gloria Grahame and Charlotte Greenwood; have enjoyed Ms Greenwood in earlier films she did at Fox, and am wondering if she played Aunt Eller on Broadway.... The ballet sequence is exquisitely handled by Agnes DeMille, and the dancing in all scenes superb; if there was any complaint it would only be that the scenes with Jud seem a little prolonged and drawn out, but overall, an excellent film...
I really liked the first part of this movie, with all the famous songs
and great color that looks even better on DVD....and just a great feel
of old-fashioned wholesomeness.
The rest of the film doesn't live up to that first part as the songs aren't as good and the thin storyline is stretched out too long. They didn't need to make this 145 minutes. Two hours would have been plenty.
The story is just about two romances: the main "contest:" Gordon McCrae and Rod Steiger both vying for Shirley Jones, and the minor one with Gloria Grahame and two suitors. Grahame, with her humor as "Ado Annie Carnes" is the best character in the film, at least to me. Eddie Albert also chips in with some humor as the "peddler" and Charlotte Greenwood was good as "Aunt Eller."
Jones and McCrae are about as "All-American" as you can get and Steiger is the lone "villain" of the film. The most colorful segment of the movie was the dream scene that featured a great set. The dancing didn't do much for me, but the bright colors sure did.
Overall, a refreshing nice old-fashioned musical and a visual treat as well. If it's a little long, well, so be it.
I emphasize 60 because the musical debuted on Broadway in 1943, even though
the film version was released 12 years later.
An unforgettable score. Perfect singer-actors. Tantalizing cinematography. It does not seem to get much better than this.
The main thing I admire about Oklahoma is that like the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptations that would follow it (Carousel, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, and, of course, The Sound of Music), the movie was fronted by legitimate musical talent, unlike in My Fair Lady and West Side Story. Further, it was a movie that did not rely on major stars, Rod Steiger notwithstanding, to make it an enjoyable picture. (Lest you forget this movie 'introduced' Shirley Jones as Laurey. Lest you would also like to know, the stage musical Oklahoma debuted on March 31, 1943, which coincidentally was a birthday of Miss Jones (I won't say which one). Prophetic? Maybe.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I give the movie 6 out of 10 simply for the music. The music is classic
and exceptional. Some of the songs however, are terrible. The song, "I
can't say no" is so bad that it is good, and was sung by Polly in a
Fawlty Towers episode.
The acting, the characters and the plot made my stomach turn. The people we are meant to like in the film are cocky, arrogant, over-the-top and superficial. The women in the movie are mean-spirited and shallow. The guys have plastic smiles that scream of insincerity.
The only character with any personality and depth is Jud - the one who is vilified as a loser, and we are meant to hate and despise him. Yet watching the movie makes you feel sympathy for him - especially the scene where one of the cocky cowboys pays him an unwanted visit and sings about how Jud's life is doomed, and finds a knife in his shed,and says to him encouragingly, "You could kill yourself with this." What are Jud's main crimes? He is poor and gruff-looking. He is not wealthy and lives in a small shed as a farm labourer. One of the girls has a bad dream with him in it (all he does in the dream is hold out his hand towards her). He causes headaches for everyone at an auction by offering a few cents more in money than the other bidders. This is after the girl has left him stranded many miles away from the auction and offers him no apology.
The movie reaches it grand climax when the enraged Jud reaches his breaking point tries to burn them down. The cowboy jumps on him forcing him to stab himself and he dies. Everyone is comical and happy that Jud is gone and we are meant to laugh when the cowboy is cleared of charges.
In a nutshell, the heroes repulsed me, the villain gained my sympathy, and the movie was way to long, and there is nothing to like about a single character in the film.
Kudos for Richard Rogers for the great music, nothing can be said for anything else in the film
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