Annie Oakley (1935)

“I never knowed any woman could shoot good enough to join this outfit.”

Synopsis:
When touring in the Wild West Show run by Buffalo Bill (Moroni Olson), backwoods sharpshooter Annie Oakley (Barbara Stanwyck) and her performance partner (Preston Foster) fall in love while maintaining a facade of friendly rivalry.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of director George Stevens’ romantic biopic by noting that “Barbara Stanwyck is fine as a good-hearted, unpretentious backwoods girl who joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show because of her love for Preston Foster, a rival sharpshooter”. He argues that the “most interesting and enlightening aspect of the film is that Foster, once full of conceit, is willing to accept that Stanwyck is the better shot”, and is ultimately “supportive of her rather than being jealous or competitive”; this slant to the storyline makes it more akin to A Star is Born than to the musical it directly inspired, Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun (which posits Oakley and her love interest as perpetually at rivalrous odds with one another). Peary points out that Annie Oakley “looks dated and suffers considerably from the overuse of studio sets that give it [a] phony and claustrophobic feel”, but I wasn’t all that bothered by this, especially since the Wild West Show itself was very much a “staged” production, and there’s a sense of authenticity to its re-creation here. While it’s not must-see viewing, this one will surely be of interest to fans of Stanwyck, and is worth a one-time look by all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Barbara Stanwyck as Annie Oakley
  • Preston Foster as Toby Walker
  • A fine recreation of the immensely popular Wild West Show

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for Stanwyck’s performance.

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One Response to “Annie Oakley (1935)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    I’m in agreement here with the assessment and some of the points Peary brings out.

    I do think this film is dated – but, then, films directed by George Stevens (overall) do seem more dated as time goes by, mainly due to his tendency toward dull pacing (which, in this case, makes us more aware that we are watching a rather old film). For example, five minutes into ‘Annie Oakley’, one can’t help but notice a lethargy placed over what soon turns into scene after scene. Perhaps in an attempt to encourage the cast to be ‘natural’, Stevens pretty much only succeeds in making them lackluster and a little over-studied.

    Luckily, Stevens has a good cast assembled here, so at least the performers are engaging, even if they still feel somewhat reined-in. Oddest of all, however…it’s a very restrained Stanwyck on exhibit here.

    As pointed out, it is a relief when Bill is not threatened by Annie’s upper-hand (literally) in her ability. That does make for a pleasant plot development.

    The film will most likely serve as a simple diversion if you happen upon it on a rainy afternoon but it doesn’t seem to cry out to be found.

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