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USA 1955
Directed by
Fred Zinneman
145 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


For their first film musical since State Fair (1945), Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted their 1943 Broadway hit, (itself adapted from a play by Lynn Riggs called Green Grow The Lilacs) whose corn-fed celebration of the American West had moved a wartime audience. Twelve years later in the hands of Fred Zinneman it is an oddly uneven affair, largely due to the cavalier treatment of the down-home plot and the over-emphasis of  the darkness of the character of Jud, played with inappropriately convincing menace by the oddly-cast Rod Steiger.

The essential plot about the courtin’ of Laurey (Shirley Jones) by Curley (Gordon MacRae) as they prepare for the “box social” is as light as afeather and captured well in the opening numbers “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and “Surrey With The Fringe On Top’ and then in a comedic song and dance number by Gene Nelson, “Kansas City”. Fortunately, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other classic songs from the production, “People Will Say We’re In Love”, and the title number are also well represented.

The outdoor settings, shot in the Todd-AO Cinemascope process was a distinctive change of style for the Hollywood musical which up to their point had been very much a studio-bound affair but although looking fabulous, there is an argument for saying that the result overwhelms the essentially staged character of the musical. The real incongruity however comes with Steiger’s Jud, a snarling sociopath completely out-of-sync with the production, as is made evident in a striking dream sequence set in a stylized bordello. One might also question the casting of Gloria Grahame, better known for her 40s B-grade crime films as the flirtatious Annie whilst the film's denouement is a hurried and anti-climactic affair that fails to chime with the film's sunny opening.




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