Celebrated for the way Rodgers and Hammerstein (in 1943) integrated them into the dramatic narrative, ‘Oklahoma’s’ songs were already treasured standards when Zinnemann’s likeable, upbeat but hokey film was released in 1955. And it’s undoubtedly the consistency of the excellent musical numbers – from the opening ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’ to the stirring ‘Oklahoma’ finale – that sustains the interest as two trios of lovers bicker and dally over their consummation.The film takes its place in the history books, too, for being the most expensively produced musical to that date, and for being shot twice, both in CinemaScope (the most commonly viewed version, a new print of which is being presented at the NFT) and in the short-lived 70mm version. Robert Surtees’ cinematography is impressive but keeps to theatrical eye-level, while Zinnemann’s direction is a little uninspired, no doubt because R&H wanted to maintain as much as possible of Agnes de Mille’s original stage choreography and retained the services of Jay Blackton as musical conductor. Many argue that there’s too much method in the madness of Rod Steiger’s malevolent Jud Fry, but something was needed to counterbalance the film’s higher-than-elephant’s-eye level of corn. Gloria Grahame is two decades too old for ‘can’t say no’ Ado, but Shirley Jones’s ‘can’t say yes’ Laura looks like she’s ready for marriage. My favourite is the odd cast singing ‘The Farmer and the Cowman should be friends’, a sentiment I have long believed in.
|Release date:||Friday August 25 2006|
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Sonya Levien, William Ludwig|
Jay C Flippen