Oklahoma! (1955)

oklahoma poster 1955 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking musical that gets dark at points

Feels drawn out at points

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Oklahoma!

Studio:  Magna Theatre Corporation

Genre(s):  Musical/Romance

Release Date(s):  October 11, 1955 (Premiere)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

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People in Oklahoma love a hoedown!

Oklahoma is on the verge of becoming a state, and its settlers are divided between cowboys and farmers.  A farmer’s daughter named Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones) is in love with cowboy Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae), but Curly’s inability to commit has left Laurey open for the advances of the dark and scary Jud Fry (Rod Steiger).  Meanwhile a traveling salesman Ali Haki (Eddie Albert) finds himself saddled with Ado Annie (Gloria Grahame) who wants to marry him much to the dismay of Will Parker (Gene Nelson).  Cury and Laurey grow closer, but Jud Fry wants Laurey and what Jud Fry wants, Jud Fry intends to get!

Directed by Fred Zinnemann, Oklahoma! is a musical adapting the popular Rogers & Hammerstein 1943 musical which in turn was an adaptation of 1931 play Green Grows the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs.  The movie won Academy Awards for Best Sound, and Best Musical Score with nominations for Best Cinematography—Color and Best Film Editing.  The movie was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2007.

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Hey, I’m actually a nice guy…why do dream of me surrounded by prostitutes?!?!

Oklahoma! is one of those musicals that you know a ton of numbers from even if you haven’t seen the movie.  That would be the case for me as well.  I never saw Oklahoma! growing up, but recognized a majority of the songs from the opening “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin” to “Oklahoma!”, the musical is one of the defining musicals of its period.

The story for Oklahoma! is pretty smart and dark, but it does feel rather drawn out.  While the Curly and Laurey’s romance is rather typical, the injection of Jud Fry does change the musical.  In a modern musical, Fry would have been the hero with his dark and brooding nature and the clean-cut smiling Curly would have been the villain.  Here, Fry is dark…he’s willing to stab out Curly’s eye in jealous and burn both Curly and Laurey to death when he doesn’t get his way.  Once again, in modern movies, Jud and his fate would be in more question…but here, you know Laurey and Curly are going to end up fine.

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I have a great idea…let’s move to Boothbay, Maine…and I’ll be an abusive husband and work the carousel!!!

Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones work well together as the loving couple.  They were later reteamed in Carousel when MacRae was brought in to replace Frank Sinatra.  I still particularly like Rod Steiger who doesn’t seem like a musical star as Fry.  The Gloria Grahame—Gene Nelson—Eddie Albert storyline is pretty strained (and I have no idea what type of accent Albert is doing in any scene he’s in).

Oklahoma! also looks pretty good.  The filmmakers opted to do some location shooting instead of just sets (like something like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), and the quality shows.  The movie couldn’t use Oklahoma for Oklahoma so most of the non-set scenes were shot in Arizona.

Oklahoma! is a great classic musical that isn’t afraid to at least touch darkness.  The movie’s core storyline is quite strong and the cast works well together.  All of this is wrapped in one of the best musical scores of all time.  You can’t finish Oklahoma! without humming “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin” at least in your head.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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