It's the height of the Oklahoma land rush, and cowboy Curly McLain (Gordon McRae) is in a pickle. He's in love with headstrong farm belle Laurie Williams (Shirley Jones), but cowboys and farmers aren't supposed to mix in this old-fashioned town. Meanwhile, the box social is fast approaching, and Curly must choose to listen to his heart or his head. He foolishly goes with his head and decides not to ask Laurie after all, and when hired farmhand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger) asks Laurie instead, she spitefully agrees. Thus begins a love triangle where pride, love and territory are at stake.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
It's hard to believe it's been almost half a century since Oklahoma! - Rodgers and Hammerstein's first collaboration - hit the big screen. A pioneer of Hollywood's 1950s musical heyday, Oklahoma! dazzles audiences with sweeping cinematography, catchy show tunes and skirt-hitching dance sequences. You know, the kind where they break into song at a moments notice, where stars don't flinch when opera is blasted into their ears point blank, where they dance when they could easily walk, and where the cheery, gayly dressed townsfolk clasp hands like one big happy family and have ho-down. The Simpsons love this kind of stuff. It also introduced wide-eyed girl-next-door Shirley Jones, who'd go on to star in Carousel and The Music Man.
So what's the appeal of Oklahoma!? Well, one of the best things about DVD is that we can revisit these digitally remastered greats time and time again. And Oklahoma! is no exception. Perhaps the main feature on this fairly simple DVD package is the 1955 theatrical trailer. Unlike the wide-screen feature film, the trailer is presented in full-screen anamorphic transfer, which.somewhat loses the film's richness and depth of colour with its stretching effect of the full-screen trailer. Nonetheless, the rolling credits, sweeping wide shots, choreographed dance sequences and musical overtures are a pleasure to watch.
Overall, this is a satisfying musical presentation, although you can't help thinking Oklahoma! deserves more on a DVD, like a commentary or documentary with interviews. The succinct and informative Cast and Crew biographies are presented as still frames. Biographies include director Fred Zinnemann, composer Richard Rodgers, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger and Gloria Grahame. You can learn about the prolific collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein, which stars were WWII veterans and how Shirley Jones was really discovered. The Production Notes - disappointingly presented in still format too - explain the transition from play (titled Green Grow the Lilacs) to Broadway extravaganza to hit musical (originally titled Away We Go). It also gives a run-down of its many nominations and awards.
But do yourself a favour; put on your chaps, your ten-gallon hat and saddle up for one darn tootin' sing-a-long. You can even switch on the subtitles, karaoke style, if you don't know the words. With foot-stomping lyrics like "the corn is as high as an elephant's eye," they don't write 'em like that anymore. Oaklahoma! is indeed one of those old-world gay musicals that presents middle America as a wholesome land filled with perennially perky people and old-fashioned values. It's the way movies were made before blockbusters, multiplexes, and mega-stars. Yee-Haw!
Published April 24, 2003
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OKLAHOMA!: DVD (G) - 1955
CAST: Gordon MacRae, Gloria Grahame, Rod Steiger, Eddie Albert, Shirley Jones, Gene Nelson
PRODUCER: Fred Zinnemann
RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes
PRESENTATION: 2:20:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical trailer; Cast and Crew; Production Notes
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: April 23, 2003
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