- Directed by Fred Zinnemann
- October 11, 1955 (Rivoli Theatre)
A young girl is courted by two very different rival suitors-a charming cowboy and a dangerous farmhand.
I haven’t seen Oklahoma! Since before I had a VCR or a color television. My memories of it from that time are hazy at best. And I never got to it until recently because I really a personal thing against musicals. I just couldn’t enjoy them. Why? Overblown song and dance numbers. The whole town showing up and singing a ditty and dancing to the tune takes me out of the story so I just avoided them rather than be choosey.
Have matured a little, I popped in Oklahoma! and gave it a watch. One thing that surprised me about this was Rod Steiger being in it as the dangerous farmhand Jud Fry. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but truth be told I had no idea he had been in anything like a musical. Just on an interesting discovery on my part.
Fry is a very serious part in what amounts to a lighter dramatic musical. Fry is attempting to win the heart of Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones) who has also drawn the attention of cowboy Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae). Curly is the clear favorite and Jud Fry plans on taking out his rival with a trick kaleidoscope. That is some weird and dark stuff right there.
Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie Carnes and Eddie Albert as womanizing Persian peddler Ali Hakim are involved in a romantic subplot. Theirs is the comic relief of the film. Albert and Grahame were both amazing talents. They infuse their moments with a little extra humor and play. Their chemistry is fantastic.
While watching it took forever for me to realize that it was Grahame on the screen. I knew she done a lot but it was a pleasant surprise to see her in Oklahoma! I have the image of her permanently in my brain as a blonde in a black and white film but here she’s a brunette and it is all in color.
The acting is fantastic and the dialogue gives way nicely to the songs. It is not an abrupt switch from one to the other. The transition is smooth.
I had totally forgotten that “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’” came from this. I hum what I know of the song regularly. The title is mostly as far as I get but this is clearly where I picked it up at. And that is probably one big reason this movie is considered a classic. Good music. The songs are entertaining and stick with you. They help to tell the story.
One standout of this film is the oft discussed extended dream sequence. It’s all music and no singing. It borders on the surreal and hints at Laurey’s subconscious informing her of how dangerous Jud is as he kills Curly in the dream.
The costuming is absolutely fantastic here. It’s nothing too elaborate but just the right amount to set the time period. The legendary Orry-Kelly was behind the clothing and worked his regular magic.
And some of the camera shots are just fantastic. One in particular that stands out to me is when a horse is running wild and starts crashing through things. The photography of the crashing is done in a first-person style in some of the brightest and best film I have ever seen. And overall the directing, from the spoken word to the musical numbers, is fantastic. This movie is an incredible pleasure to watch.
Oklahoma! is a cinematic classic that deserves it status. It’s fun and entertaining with great music and great photography and a great story. I say check it out!