Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Fred Zinnemann, 1955 (7.4*)
This musical is so corny that it actually begins with Gordon McCrae as cowboy Curly riding beneath corn "as high as an elephant's eye" as he sings in the opening song 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning'. Though not a Rodgers and Hammerstein fan myself (too simplistic and childish for me), I'll have to admit that I found myself singing this song for days afterwards, as it's definitely one of their best. In fact, this musical, their first, is probably their best overall, and I'd include 'Surrey With the Fringe on Top' as another of their best songs. Apparently in this obviously 19th century time frame, this was the best transportation available for impressing a woman on a date.

The story here won't hold much examination as it features the odd competition for Shirley Jones' affections (her first role) between McRae and the burly but thick-headed Rod Steiger as farmhand Judd. For some reason, director Zinnemann chose nearly an entire cast of non-singing actors, such as the awful Gloria Grahame (her singing may cause severe spinal pain) and Edward Albert as a traveling Persian salesman - no kidding. An odd choice, given that McRae is perhaps the best musical singer ever - his talent makes the others fairly unendurable, but may give one goosebumps as he hits all the high notes as well.

The pacing is pretty uneven, especially the unending picnic lunch auction-social dance scene, which unnecessarily seems to take up a third of the entire film - a scene which also implies that you can buy a woman for good, given that McRae and Steiger each risk their entire life's fortune for a meal of Shirley's - this also seems to border on the idea of 'women for sale' to the highest bidder. The story would probably have been better if made less serious (such as the final confrontation) and more humorous, for those lighter moments are the outstanding memories of this pleasant if hokey and cornball entertainment. The mouth-watering color in the dvd restoration makes this a must-see for fans of musicals of either the Hollywood or Broadway variety. Winner of two Oscars®

Note: I actually gave this a slightly higher rating than the fans at IMDB, where it's rated 7.1, but by only just over 4,000 viewers. One viewer wrote "a must for fans of Western musicals" - puzzling since the only other one I can recall is the terrible Paint Your Wagon, though I guess one can include The Harvey Girls, and perhaps Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as 'westerns'. Still, it's the tiniest of sub-genres, so this one is clearly tops. "Oklahoma, OK!"


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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