Monday, June 28, 2010

The 100 Best Movies: #98

98. Oklahoma! (1955)

It may seem a strange choice for something like this but as I said in my introduction, Musicals will feature prominently on this list. I have loved Musical theatre for a very long time (possibly even in the womb). And this is the one that helped define American musical theatre as we know it today. In 1943, composer Richard Rodgers (Pal Joey, Babes In Arms) and lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (Show Boat, Carmen Jones) collaborated for the first time on a new musical to be produced on Broadway by the legendary Theatre Guild. With Oklahoma!, a partnership began that influenced a Golden Era of Broadway musicals throughout the 1940's and 1950's. The show was a massive Broadway hit 1943 and ran for 5 years, followed by several successful national tours.

When 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights to the successful stage property, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to show off some of the technical advancements made by Mike Todd. Mike Todd was a filmmaker and producer who revolutionized the size and scope of movies through widescreen technology. With Todd-AO (one of the first major widescreen advancements), 20th Century Fox convinced Rodgers and Hammerstein to produce the film version of their Broadway smash. The only drawback the new technology had (at the time) was that every shot, every scene and even every musical number had to be filmed twice because several theaters were not equipped to show the film in the new Todd-AO format.

Now that the background is out of the way, let me explain why I love this movie. First of all, it is a great adaptation of a landmark Broadway musical. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote some of the most memorable songs in Broadway history and this show has some of their best including "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey With a Fringe On Top" and, of course, the title tune. Second, the performances are quite delightful especially Shirley Jones (in her film debut) and Gordon MacRae as the leading lovebirds. Lastly, if you watch the DVD in widescreen, you truly get the scope of what 20th Century Fox and Mike Todd did with their new technology. And when you remember what year the film came out, you realize how revolutionary it really was. True, there were other films the same year and the following year that used (and even perfected) widescreen technology, but the fact this was the first is just amazing. It also happens to be one of the few "Westerns" on my list (that is if you count it as a Western).

Next Post: #97

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