“You ain’t never gonna get rid of me — never.”
A young woman (Shirley Jones) living with her aunt (Charlotte Greenwood) debates whether to go to the local dance with her cowboy-boyfriend (Gordon MacRae) or the sinister hired hand (Rod Steiger) who’s offered to drive her there; meanwhile, a local flirt (Gloria Grahame) is unsure whether her father (James Whitmore) will force her to settle down with a cowboy (Gene Nelson) or a travelling salesman (Eddie Albert).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Eddie Albert Films
- Fred Zinneman Films
- Gloria Grahame Films
- James Whitmore Films
- Play Adaptation
- Rod Steiger Films
- Shirley Jones Films
This adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s enormously popular 1943 Broadway musical (their first collaboration) is notable for featuring Shirley Jones in her screen debut, for being filmed simultaneously in Todd-AO and CinemaScope, and for bringing the stage experience as directly as possible to the screen (i.e., all original songs were kept and no new ones added, though there were slight modifications to the timing and location of the songs). Speaking of the songs, all the musical numbers — including “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'”, “The Surrey With the Fringe On Top”, “Kansas City”, “The Farmer and the Cowman”, and “Oklahoma” — are beautifully staged and sung, with one exception: Grahame as Ado Annie squeaking out “I Cain’t Say No”. (Everything about Annie’s love triangle dilemma — including Eddie Albert’s demeaning portrayal of a Persian travelling salesman more interested in bedding than wedding women, and Gene Nelson’s impossibly stupid besotted cowboy — is simply silly.) Meanwhile, Rod Steiger’s performance as a dangerously sullen hired hand — as well as a nightmare dance sequence indicating that Jones is right to be wary of him — are completely out of place in this otherwise light-hearted musical; it’s painful watching MacRae singing a song to Steiger early on about how he’ll finally be remembered once he’s dead, so he might want to consider suicide (“Pore Jud is Daid”). This film remains worth a one-time look for the musical numbers, but otherwise hasn’t held up well.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Highly memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein songs
- Beautiful cinematography
- Fine dance numbers
- Charlotte Greenwood as Aunt Eller
No, but it’s worth a look for historical purposes, and certainly a one-time must-see for musical fans.