In Oklahoma, several farmers, cowboys and a traveling salesman compete for the romantic favors of various local ladies.In Oklahoma, several farmers, cowboys and a traveling salesman compete for the romantic favors of various local ladies.In Oklahoma, several farmers, cowboys and a traveling salesman compete for the romantic favors of various local ladies.
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?".
- Apr 11, 2006